Early sub makes the difference for Derry
SHAUN Derry agreed an early tactical change paid dividends as his Cambridge side beat Crawley Town to take their play-off bid to the final day of the season.
The U’s initially struggled to break down the visitors, prompting Derry to introduce muscular striker Gerry McDonagh in the 27th minute.
His presence in attack gave United a focal point, and goals from Scott Wharton and Luke Berry mean the U’s are just one point outside the top seven with a game to play.
“We had a problem in midfield, and I just felt pushing an extra body forward would give them more to deal with at the back,” said Derry afterwards.
“We looked like a different team after that, and the change worked out for the best.”
The U’s lost their first eight games of the campaign, but could still see their season end in promotion.
“It’s been an unbelievable effort from the boys after the start we had,” Derry added. “We know we’ve got to win our last game now and hope for a few ‘snookers’ elsewhere, but the last day often throws up one or two surprises.”
In truth the match was a fairly moribund affair, and sprung into life when Crawley went close twice in four firsthalf minutes.
Kaby Djalo saw a halfvolley from the edge of the area rebound off the inside of the post, then Cambridge keeper Will Norris made a flying save to stop a powerful effort from Jimmy Smith.
The breakthrough came in the 35th minute, when the dangerous Piero Mingoia delivered an in-swinging corner that was guided in by Wharton.
Crawley were forced to substitute injured keeper Glenn Morris at half-time, and his replacement Yusuf Mersin had little to do until he was beaten from the penalty spot by Berry in stoppage time.
The spotkick was awarded for a clumsy tackle by Josh Payne on McDonagh, which earned the Crawley midfielder a red card, although Reds boss Dermot Drummy had no complaints about the decision.
He said: “I thought we kept a good side at bay well, and created some chances in the first half, but we didn’t defend a corner properly and found ourselves 1-0 down.
“If the one that hit the post had gone in it would have given us confidence, but after that the crowd got behind them and drove them on.
“We still took the game to Cambridge, but we lacked quality in the final third.”
STAR MAN PIERO MINGOIA Cambridge