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Cambridge United see gap to Sky Bet League One relegation zone cut to five points after late single-goal defeat at Bristol Rovers

Cambridge United suffered a late 1-0 defeat on the road at Bristol Rovers this evening.

A victory tonight – coupled with results elsewhere going in their favour – would have sealed United’s place in the third tier of English football for another season.

Yet there is still some work to be done in the final three Sky Bet League One fixtures of the season after the single-goal loss at the Memorial Stadium saw the gap to the relegation zone cut to five points.

Cambridge United head coach Garry Monk. Picture: Simon Lankester
Cambridge United head coach Garry Monk. Picture: Simon Lankester

Much of the first half was played in the Cambridge half as hosting Rovers dominated the possession and sustained attacks against a visiting outfit that found it tough to build any momentum with the ball.

The home side fired a warning shot as early as the third minute when Luke Thomas’ cut back from wide on the right picked out Anthony Evans on the edge of the box, from where the attack-minded midfielder dragged his effort wide of the near post.

Thomas also fired a shot off target and Evans was denied by U’s goalkeeper Will Mannion from a narrow angle before Rovers had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute.

Young United defender Mamadou Jobe was caught in possession on the edge of his own area and the ball broke kindly for Scott Sinclair, who was duly fouled by Paul Digby as the former Manchester City and Chelsea winger looked to pull the trigger. Chris Martin stepped up to take the resultant spot kick, but Mannion guessed correctly to make his second penalty save in recent weeks.

As for United, the only threat that they posed came from corners. An unmarked Digby headed straight at Jed Ward from close range in the eighth minute, while Macauley Bonne headed over from Danny Andrew’s inswinging 26th-minute delivery.

United continued to cause problems from set pieces in the second half – most notably on the hour mark when Andrew’s free kick from wide on the right skidded through a host of bodies before finding Jobe at the back post, but he could only turn the ball against the woodwork from six yards out.

For a long while that was the only chance of note at either end, but that changed two minutes from time when Rovers livewire Thomas got in on the blindside of James Brophy and then crossed for Martin, who on this occasion made no mistake to earn his side all three points.

Bristol Rovers: Ward, Hoole, Taylor, Baggott (Connolly 64’), Vale, Rossiter (Conteh 50’), Evans, Thomas, Sinclair (Vaughan 64’), Aguilera (Brown 73’), Martin

Cambridge United: Mannion, Jobe, Ibsen Rossi, Andrew, L Bennett, Brophy, May (Hoddle 81’), Digby, Kachunga, Kaikai (Lankester 75’), Bonne (Ahadme 63’)

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