Mark Bonner laments Cambridge United defending in nine-goal thriller as promotion push falters with Harrogate Town defeat
Mark Bonner described a ‘ridiculous game’ after Cambridge United’s promotion push was paused after a 5-4 defeat at Harrogate Town in Sky Bet League Two.
In one of the craziest matches of the season, United were 3-0 down inside the first 20 minutes, and trailed 4-2 at half time.
They got it back to 4-4, but conceded a goal in the 84th minute to Kevin Lokko as the hosts wrapped up victory to leave the U’s still needing a draw to clinch promotion.
United head coach Bonner did not know where to start when assessing the performance.
“[It was] a ridiculous game,” he said. “With the stage of the season we’re at and the consequences on the game, I’m really surprised the game looked like that.
“Obviously they made a lot of changes to their team and played a really open game. For us, it was just way too open.
“We got counter-attacked on way too easily in the first half. We’ve had 21 attempts at goal, even though we’re 3-0 down after 20 minutes.
“It felt a bit like Oldham [when United recovered from 2-0 down to win 4-2] and that we were going to go at half time level or ahead when we got the two goals. The fourth goal is a bit of a sucker punch.
“We came out in the second half and got back to 4-4, and at that point we were in good control of the game and looked a real threat, and could have gone on to win it. But we obviously conceded the set play.
“When you defend as badly as we have tonight and you concede five goals, you don’t deserve to win.
“You can talk about all the chances we’ve created, but we’ve lost the game because we haven’t defended properly.”
Harrogate have the FA Trophy final from 2020 on Monday, so made eight changes to their starting line-up, but that did not seem to impact them at all.
Brendan Kiernan was a menace all game, scoring a first-half hat-trick, and Mark Beck was also a dominant figure.
However, Luke Hannant had the first chance of the game for the U's and Joe Ironside hit the post before Harrogate got their first in the ninth minute.
“We just don’t defend against Beck - the big striker - well, we don’t defend against Kiernan’s pace well, we don’t defend a direct ball,” said Bonner.
“We got broken on too easily. We don’t defend one-v-one situations well, the goals are really poor from our perspective.
“But we managed to get ourselves back in it. At 3-2, the fourth goal is the one that really makes it hard for us.
“In the second half, we looked a lot more controlled for a lot of it, and dominant and chased it but we still got countered on too easily.
“It sounds ridiculous but we might have scored seven or eight, but so might they because in the first half it just looked like whoever was attacking was going to score.
“Defensively a really poor game from both sides I would suggest, but both sides carried threats with the ball. But in the end, if you score four and you don’t win, there’s a big problem there.”
He added: “We’ve played a good game with the ball, and a bad game without it, and you’ve got to do both to win games, that’s what we’ve done most of the season.”