Leon Davies return to action among highlights from Cambridge United’s win over Spurs under-21s
Mark Bonner assessed the valuable playing time afforded to Cambridge United’s squad as one of the positives from their 1-0 win over Spurs under-21s in the Papa John’s Trophy.
In a much-changed line-up from the 2-1 victory over Portsmouth in Sky Bet League One last Saturday, it was a roll call of players that will have been boosted by the run-out in the league trophy.
George Williams, Lloyd Jones and Adam May were the only three that retained their places, which meant that the likes of Jubril Okedina, Jack Lankester and Ben Worman had the chance to impress from the start.
“I think they needed the game, really,” said United head coach Bonner. “It’s been a few weeks since they played so I think it was important for them to get 90 minutes as much as we could.
“It was Jack Lankester’s first 90 minutes, Knibbsy and Sam (Smith) needed that longer game time on the pitch, Jensen (Weir) needs that, Ben Worman was good wide and then central as well, Harrison Dunk needs that.
“Jubril (Okedina) getting 90 as well was important as he has been out for a while.
“I thought Kai McKenzie-Lyle (the U’s keeper) played well. His distribution was good for the most part and he made some really important saves at times as well so I was pleased with him.
“I’m pleased with the senior ones that go in and play off the back of Saturday when they see most of their mates getting a bit of a break or a night off.
“But the character and attitude of the ones that played is bang on and exactly what you would expect and want.”
There was also a long-awaited return for Leon Davies.
The 21-year-old came on in the second half for the last 30 minutes to mark his comeback from a hip operation. It was Davies’ first involvement in the first-team match-day squad since March.
“I was really pleased to see Leon (Davies) back on the pitch,” said Bonner. “It’s been a long time and a tough ride with his injury and operation so that was good.
“I think when you are out for such a long time, you always have it in your mind how quickly you can get back on the pitch as you know it’s a long way off.
“Sometimes, at the beginning, it feels like it’s a mile away and you worry whether you can get back on, but the last few weeks have been good for him.
“He has trained well, and I think it just gives a nice positivity.
“The medical guys have looked after him brilliantly. Mikey (Burroughs) and Matt (Walker) have got him back to a good level and he is back in competitive action which is important.
“When you have missed a lot and you’re behind, it’s just about building up fitness now. Really, he is not that far away from being able to start games so he is plodding along quite nicely at the moment.”
There was also another first-team outing for Kai Yearn.
He made his first-team debut in the Papa John’s Trophy match against Oxford last month, becoming the youngest scorer in the club’s history.
The 16-year-old got a 30-minute run-out against Spurs, which included testing their keeper with a rasping 25-yard drive.
“It was important for Kai Yearn to get another 30 minutes on the pitch with us, and he is making really good progress too,” said Bonner.
“I think the good thing is he has got a personality which we talk about with our young players. There are a few others that train with us at the minute, and you saw two in the last round - Liam Bennett and Mamadou (Jobe).
“Glen McConnell is a young boy who is in the youth team at the moment and training with us a bit. His aim is to get in the squad for the Stevenage game in a few weeks.
“When they come and train with us or play with us, we want them to want the ball, not go in their shell, be humble and hard working but play in a way that says ‘I should be here’ rather than ‘I’m just visiting’.
“I think that’s quite important. Kai does that, he just wants the ball, takes the ball and can handle it.
“He is a good player, he is doing well for us at a really young age and to have played two blocks now in the team, his aim is to see how good he can be in the next month and see if he can get in the starting team against Stevenage.”