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Cambridge United boss Mark Bonner delighted with opening day display against Oxford United with special praise for Saikou Janneh and Gassan Ahadme





Cambridge United manager Mark Bonner could not have been happier with his side’s performance across both ends of the pitch as they treated a packed out Abbey Stadium to a 2-0 opening day victory against Oxford United.

First-half goals from Jack Lankester, a follow-up effort in the 15th minute, and a bullet header from Ipswich Town loanee Gassan Ahadme ahead of the half-hour mark, had the U’s in dreamland at the interval.

But in the incessant driving rain, they had to ride out a storm of a different kind from their opponents thereafter, particularly in the second half, but did so in a manner which left their head coach beaming.

Cambridge United head coach Mark Bonner very much enjoyed watching his side’s opening day display Picture: Simon Lankester
Cambridge United head coach Mark Bonner very much enjoyed watching his side’s opening day display Picture: Simon Lankester

“I thought we were excellent, really good value for the result and I thought the performance was very strong,” he said in his post-match pitchside press conference after taking the opening day three points against a side fancied for the play-off spots in Sky Bet League One.

“There were different sections within the game but the first 30 minutes was the absolute blueprint for us, I thought we were outstanding.

“In the second half we struggled to get out of our half a bit but never felt under huge pressure.

Ipswich Town loanee Gassan Ahadme celebrates opening his United account with their second goal against Oxford United in front of a packed out home support Picture: Keith Heppell
Ipswich Town loanee Gassan Ahadme celebrates opening his United account with their second goal against Oxford United in front of a packed out home support Picture: Keith Heppell

“We did have to defend the goal a couple of times, Liam Bennett did very well on a couple of occasions.

“The subs made us better and we did exactly what we needed to do in that period and shifted the game.

“It’s a really good result and a really good start.

“Obviously a clean sheet and three points is really important to us but the performance level as well I think is really important and there werew some really good performances out there today, so it was a good day for us.”

Ryan Bennett makes an intervention on an afternoon which saw Cambridge United begin the campaign with a clean sheet Picture: Keith Heppell
Ryan Bennett makes an intervention on an afternoon which saw Cambridge United begin the campaign with a clean sheet Picture: Keith Heppell

Asked about a poacher’s effort from Lankester, the former Ipswich Town player who has been handed the number 10 shirt this season, following the lively Saikou Janneh’s initial effort being pushed out, he said: “Yes, it was really good play.

“I thought we started the game really well. We played with some good intent with the ball. We played forward but not rushed and had good control in certain moments of the game. Not only in counter-attacking phases but just in some of our build phases to get a bit more control in the game.

“You know you have to spend some time without the ball against these, they’re brilliant at progressing the game and building their play, but I thought we defended against that very well.

Jack Lankester opened the scoring for Cambridge United in a hard-working display from the whole team that frustrated their opponents Oxford Picture: Keith Heppell
Jack Lankester opened the scoring for Cambridge United in a hard-working display from the whole team that frustrated their opponents Oxford Picture: Keith Heppell

“And then the first goal was excellent from Saikou, excellent from Jack following in, that’s exactly what we need. He’d had one fairly wayward, let’s say shot, just before that, but his follow up and finish was very good.”

If the Gambian Saikou hand a good hand in the first goal, his contribution to the second was even more eye-catching, as he turned on the after-burners down the left wing after picking up a deft back-heel from Lankester and stood up a perfect cross for Ahadme to get his head on in the six-yard box.

“He’ll enjoy that one more than his last one, for sure,” said Bonner of what was only Janneh’s second league start, having joined the club from Bristol City, following a string of loan spells at Ashton Gate, in the summer of 2020.

“I thought he was brilliant, really good. He’s really built up over pre-season, exactly what we want in a wide player. He showed himself to be more reliable and direct in his attacking moments and he’s getting better and better without the ball.

“I was really pleased with him and I thought he was very good today.

“We want wide players that can excite people and bring tempo to the attacks and he can certainly do it. So it was a really solid start to the season for him and a really good performance.”

Ipswich Town’s former Burton Albion striker Ahadme also drew special praise for his performance through the middle of the attack.

Asked if his involvement for his goal, peeling off his marker and provding a towering headed finish, was the blueprint for how he wants him to play in his side, Bonner said: “I think so, yes.

“One, with Sakes being as direct as he is, he can play off both feet, he can cross and shoot, and I think the build up play to our second goal was absolutely brilliant and Gassan’s had a really good game today.

“I thought he gave two centre-backs a real, real test. Not only in the physical duel but I thought he was very clean and tidy in his link-up play.

“You could play into him, he was reliable and helped us build off his attacks.

“I thought the forward players were excellent. I thought the defensive structure of the team was very good.

“It’s everything you hope it can be on day one and it certainly turned out to be that for us so we’re really pleased with the start that we’ve made.”

United’s players have little time to savour the victory before preparing for a trip to Sutton United on Tuesday for their Carabo Cup first round tie.

That is followed by a first league away match up on the Fylde coast at Fleetwood Town in Lancashire next Saturday.



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