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Cambridge United celebrate purchase of Abbey Stadium in style with Joe Ironside double in League One victory over Lincoln City





September 4, 2004 – 19 years ago tomorrow – and Cambridge United's players are trudging off the pitch after a late goal had condemned them to a 2-1 defeat away at a Boston United side that contained Paul Gascoigne.

It continued a miserable start to the 2004/05 campaign for the U's, who had won just one of their opening seven League Two matches and sat 21st in the table. And they would never recover, winning only eight times all season before dropping out of the Football League.

Off the pitch the situation was even bleaker. That December the club was forced to sell the Abbey Stadium to survive and in April 2005 filed for administration. No depth was left unplumbed as United spent nine seasons in the National League amid talk of a ground move. At one point there was even speculation of a merger with Cambridge City. AFC Cambridge, anyone?!

Joe Ironside and his Cambridge United team-mates celebrate the opening goal against Lincoln City. Picture: Simon Lankester
Joe Ironside and his Cambridge United team-mates celebrate the opening goal against Lincoln City. Picture: Simon Lankester

But fast forward to this afternoon and a day many supporters had reluctantly accepted would never come to fruition – United, winning for a fourth straight home League One fixture, are once again the owners of the Abbey. News broke at 5pm yesterday that the agreement for the club to regain control of the freehold had been signed, sealed and delivered. In his statement majority owner Paul Barry had called for fans to make the clash with Lincoln City a celebration, and with the help of a decent display out on the pitch, they obliged.

The travelling Imps came to try and be party poopers, but this was an afternoon that belonged to everyone connected with United, and in particular those that had experienced the dark days first hand.

"We've got our Abbey back" a jubilant Newmarket Road End chanted as Bonner's men ran out 2-0 winners thanks to a Joe Ironside double to move up to fifth and above Peterborough United.

Harvey Knibbs cuts the ball back for Joe Ironside to score Cambridge United's second goal against Lincoln City. Picture: Simon Lankester
Harvey Knibbs cuts the ball back for Joe Ironside to score Cambridge United's second goal against Lincoln City. Picture: Simon Lankester

And yet it was the visitors who raced out of the traps, although not before United forward Joe Ironside and Lincoln midfielder Lesse Sorensen both required some lengthy treatment following a clash of heads.

In the eighth minute Teddy Bishop – with five goals to his name already this season – jinked inside from the left and forced Dimi Mitov in the home goal into action with a shot that bounced awkwardly in front of the Bulgarian.

Cambridge-born Bishop had an even better chance within 60 seconds when United centre-back Jubril Okedina was robbed off possession inside his own half, but his effort from the edge of the box was tame.

Up the other end the home side were also starting to make some inroads with Shilow Tracey's low cross in the 10th minute somehow evading both Ironside and Harvey Knibbs before the winger went for goal himself in the 17th minute with a shot that flew into the side netting.

Harvey Knibbs in action for Cambridge United against Lincoln City. Picture: Simon Lankester
Harvey Knibbs in action for Cambridge United against Lincoln City. Picture: Simon Lankester

Momentum was building for United and it eventually told in the 24th minute. Sam Smith kept Harrison Dunk's deep cross from the left byline alive, picking out Paul Digby with an intelligent header. The captain's shot was blocked, yet while many inside the Abbey appealed for handball, an alert and bandaged up Ironside swivelled with his back to goal and drove home from 10 yards out.

Just three minutes later the lead was doubled as Knibbs timed his run to perfection to latch on to Sam Smith's slide rule pass and after drawing Carl Rushworth off his line the forward squared for Ironside for the simplest of finishes.

United remained largely in control for the remainder of the half and it meant Lincoln needed a prompt reaction after the restart – something they almost got in the 52nd minute but skipper Tom Hopper could only head straight at Mitov from six yards out from Regan Poole's right-wing cross.

However, rather than act as a springboard to a bright second-half fight back it was the only real opening of note the away side carved out aside from substitute Charles Vernan's attempt through a crowded box in the dying embers.

The Cambridge defence – marshalled expertly by Lloyd Jones – kept Lincoln's forward-thinking players at arm's length, ensuring in the process that there was a second clean sheet of the campaign for Mitov.

Meanwhile, Ironside had a couple of late headed chances to replicate Smith's hat-trick heroics of seven days ago but on both occasions he was off target.

Cambridge: Mitov, Williams, Okedina, Jones, Dunk, Digby (Taylor 88'), May (O'Neil 66'), Knibbs (Lankester 75'), Smith (Janneh 88'), Tracey (Brophy 66'), Ironside

Lincoln: Rushworth, Poole, Oakley-Boothe, Hopper, Bishop (Vernan 64'), O'Connor, House, Sorensen (Walsh 46'), Eyoma (Virtue 46'), Roughan, Diamond

Attendance: 5,677 (1,014 away fans)



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