Cambridge United boss Mark Bonner insists narrow defeat to Cheltenham Town will not be psychologically damaging
Mark Bonner felt a point would have been a fairer outcome of last night's 1-0 home loss to Cheltenham Town but feels it will not be psychologically damaging to his Cambridge United side.
In not taking any points the U's remain one point ahead of second-placed Forest Green Rovers in the Sky Bet League Two table ahead of the latter playing one of their three games in hand later when they host basement side Southend United (6pm).
The amber and blacks went into the break at the Abbey Stadium last night goalless, having seen Liam O'Neil's header come back off the goalframe and Jack Iredale's shot cleared off the line with goalkeeper Joshua Griffiths caught out of the area.
But the third-placed Robins, whose away record was only second behind Forest Green going into the match, built the pressure on the home goal as the second half progressed and broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute. Sean Long was able to steer his header back across goal from a deep Alfie May cross.
"I'm disappointed to be on the wrong side of the result," said Cambridge head coach Bonner.
"I think there has been very little to separate the two teams in the two games we've played against them and I wouldn't have bet against us in the end getting the equaliser late on, a bit like we did at their place (1-1 draw, November 24).
"They're a good side and caused us some problems.
"We knew that playing the shape we were today we were in danger of being outnumbered in the midfield. They played in a way that made it hard for us but that would give us opportunities. We wanted to keep a front two on the pitch and we had to suffer some periods without the ball.
"We haven't created a lot of chances but there are three we should do better with and the one right towards the end (Harvey Knibbs header) is a really good chance."
It followed back-to-back clean sheets which had seen United respond to a disappointing 4-1 defeat at promotion rival Salford City with a goalless draw at home to Southend before Saturday's pleasing 3-0 victory at an in-form Mansfield Town.
But Bonner felt a point would have been a fairer reflection of last night's game.
"It was a missed opportunity because of the chances that we created," he said.
"We definitely didn't deserve to win the game but I think a fair result would have probably been a point but fair play to them, once they got ahead they made it hard for us."
Asked if it he would have to hope, having come in a pivotal game, that it wouldn't be too psychologically damaging, he replied: "It won't be damaging at all. I don't see games as pivotal. We've got loads of games left (15).
"It is a massive battle to get in the top seven, there is about 10 teams that can do it and it's just about in what order and who gets in it.
"It is wide open so I don't see games as pivotal at all.
"We won't stay top, probably, after tomorrow night so that's fine, don't stress about it; there are going to be changes in positions and we're going to go up and down.
"We've got to win as many games as we can between now and the end of the season. We've got to respond from a bad result as quickly as possible and I think everybody is signed up and knows that is the situation.
"Games are going to be close because there are lots of good teams. The level in the league is very, very balanced.
"There is lots of teams capable of beating each other, so there is no surprise games are going to swing each way and it makes for quite a fun. exciting end to the season with the number of games we've got against those sides."
One positive from last night was the surprise return to action of midfielder Hiram Boateng, who was part of a 75th minute triple substitution.
Bonner said: "Hopefully we can just build him up over the next few weeks because it will take him a little bit of time to get to the level he was at when he came off after 20 minutes running the game against Mansfield here. But we know what a good player he can be and how he can give us an extra pass in midfield and link the game for us, which is great.
"We rolled the dice a little bit with Liam (O'Neil) tonight in putting him out there again and he got to another 60 minutes which is really, really encouraging and Hiram to come on and play his part as well is another good one.
"We know that will benefit us in the long term and really good to see him out there as we know how good a player he can be for us."
The U's will look to bounce back at a Port Vale side on Saturday (3pm) who moved up to 18th in the table following last night's 0-0 draw at home to fellow strugglers Stevenage. It was a first home game in charge for newly-appointed former Walsall boss Darrell Clarke.
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