Dramatic Cullen leveller earns Hatters point
A 90th-minute equaliser from substitute Mark Cullen ensured the Hatters maintained their 15-point at the top of the Skrill Premier in a dramatic finale at the Abbey Stadium.
Trailing to Tom Elliott header midway through the second half the Town striker sent 2,300 away supporters into raptures to stretch the unbeaten run in the Skrill Premier in a game that looked lost against their only opposition for the title.
The Town started unchanged following Saturday’s goalless draw at Salisbury but it was the home side that began the top-of-the-table clash the better. In truth the U’s bossed the first 45 minutes and the Hatters were unlucky not to be behind.
However, it was Town top scorer Andre Gray that actually had the first shot on seven minutes, a flying effort way over the top and that was swiftly followed by a similar effort from the hosts’ Ryan Donaldson.
Cambridge were beginning to get on top and the Town needed to be alert on 16 minutes when Luke Berry ghosted into the six-yard box but Fraser Franks’ fine block thwarted the midfielder.
It was a crucial block and the Hatters were then indebted to a fine stop from Mark Tyler two minutes later when Ryan Bird’s thumping left-foot drive was kept out acrobatically by the Town number one.
Cambridge continued to push forward in search of breaking the deadlock. Tom Champion’s goal-bound header was blocked behind for a corner by Ronnie Henry.
The Hatters were struggling to create any concrete chances with a wayward Alex Lawless header from a teasing Jake Howells cross on 33 minutes all the Town could muster.
An error from Steve McNulty, however, almost handed Cambridge a great chance to take the lead on 38 minutes when he decided to leave a long ball over the top. Bird was on it and almost clear on goal only for an inch-perfect sliding tackle from Scott Griffiths to snuff out the chance.
The Town started brighter after the break, winning a succession of corners, one of which came via a deflected 20-yard effort from Howells.
The U’s though were still enjoying the better of the ball and the home side deservedly took the lead on 62 minutes. Captain Kevin Roberts’ right-wing cross was nodded home by Elliott’s bullet header from six yards, despite the best efforts of Tyler to keep it out. It was the first time the Town had conceded a goal in 564 minutes.
It was also the first time the Town had been behind in a game in the Skrill Premier since the 4-3 win at Tamworth on 19th October. With that in mind, John Still made his first change on 71 minutes, replacing Howells with Matt Robinson. Robinson volleyed a shot wildly wide with his first touch.
Half chances came and went. The Town upped the ante in search of an equaliser, winning a series of corners but which failed to bear fruit. Still also introduced Mark Cullen and Andy Parry from the bench in a bid to find that leveller.
The Hatters continued to push for late equaliser. McNulty headed an effort inches over following Lawless’ right-wing corner on 86 minutes and at that point it seemed that was it.
However, in the final minute, Henry’s lofted ball in the box was headed on by Cameron McGeehan and Cullen was unmarked in the six-yard box to volley acrobatically past Norris with what was the Town’s only real shot on target of the match.
Cue pandemonium in the away end. The Town sensed a dramatic later winner as they pushed forward but in the end they had a point to celebrate come the final whistle.
Town: Tyler; Henry, Griffiths, McNulty, Franks; Ruddock (sub Parry 80), McGeehan, Lawless; Howells (sub Robinson 71), Benson, Gray (sub Cullen 78). Subs not used: Shaw, Justham.
ATTENDANCE: 6,050, including 2,286