This season marks the 50th anniversary of Cambridge United’s last season in the Southern League which concluded in being elected into the Football League. Week by week we will look back on events of that memorable season and also 30 years ago, a season which saw the U’s win the first ever play off final at Wembley.
1969/70 In most seasons in the sixties the question of Cambridge United and Cambridge City cropped up and 1969/70 was no exception. This time it was the Cambridge Evening News who organised a question and answer session between the two managers, Tommy Bickerstaff of City and Bill Leivers of United, both stating that the city of Cambridge is fine with both clubs and they both have long histories and are proud of their own identities. Tongue in cheek Leivers stated he would be in favour of one team in Cambridge as long as it was United!
Next match for the U’s was a trip to Weymouth for a Southern League match. The Cambridge News Light Blue reported there was hardly a blade of grass on the pitch and where the mud was not packed down hard there were ruts and soft sanded areas more in keeping with the nearby beach than a football pitch. An even first half finished 1-1 with Malcolm Lindsey getting the U’s goal. The second half saw United fall apart to lose 4-1 with former United man David Bennett grabbing a hat-trick. The good news was that both Hereford and Yeovil also lost while Hillingdon and Wimbledon drew with each other. This left United in seventh place with 34 points from 26 games but with 3 matches in hand.
After a two week big freeze United returned to action on the 16th March at Telford United with a very professional 2-0 win. Stout defending in the first half was followed by lethal finishing from Cassidy and Lindsey, who were quickly developing a good understanding in front of goal.
1989/90 Interesting to note that after 5 League and 5 Cup matches John Beck’s Cambridge United were unbeaten, having won 6 and drawn 4. Gillingham away on 3rd March proved to be a step too far and Beck’s unbeaten run came to an end with a 1-0 defeat. The Gills goal scored by Gavin was made by two future U’s Lee Palmer and Billy Manuel. Three days later United were back on home soil for a league match against Maidstone United. Still below par the U’s were rescued by John Taylor who twice robbed Stone’s defenders to set up Dion Dublin in a 2-0 win.
Next match was the first time Cambridge United appeared in the FA Cup quarter final. Crystal Palace 15th in the First Division were the visitors to the Abbey. United did have chances to take the lead, but the occasion goy to them and Palace score the only goal through Geoff Thomas in the 79th minute in front of 10,084.
With the distraction of the FA Cup out of the way United returned to league action at home to York City six days later. After taking a 14th minute lead through John Taylor but go level at the break after Gary Howlett equalised. Worse was to follow when Wayne Hall put York ahead one minute after the break. Chris Leadbitter scored a 63minute leveller. United are now nine points behind second place Southend but with four matches in hand.
Four days later at Torquay United the U’s came down to earth with a bang, loosing 3-0. The punishing run in looks like it might be too much for United.