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.
After the disappointment of being knocked out of the FA Cup at the 4th Qualifying Round at Chelmsford more was to come the following Wednesday in the final of the Hunts Premier Cup when United lost 2-1 to Peterborough United. Only 1,703 turned up at the Abbey to see George Harris score for the U’s, while the visitors who included an 18 year old at centre back by the name of Chris Turner, converted two of their three opportunities and won it in the 115th minute. Interestingly manager Bill Leivers continued with his policy of playing full strength teams in these minor competitions. The club started entertaining directors from Football League clubs in the hope that they would be impressed with the facilities and also included the Football League Review in the match day programme. Proof that United were working hard both on and off the field to gain election the League.
On Saturday 15th November United returned to Southern League action with a workman like 2-1 victory at Poole Town, in the stadium that is now home to Poole Pirates speedway team, John Gregson and George Harris the U’s scorers. Harris had now scored six goals in his first four matches since his transfer from Reading. The following week Kettering Town, who included ex England international Ray Crawford, were the visitors to the Abbey. Both defences dominated the first half, with United paying extra attention to Crawford by having two defenders watching him. Early in the second half Kettering broke the deadlock with two goals from Goodall and Daldy. The game finished 2-0 to Kettering with United defenders, no doubt still watching Crawford!
United were now in 5th place in the Southern League Premier Division on 18 points only one point behind leaders Hillingdon Borough but having played two more matches.
By now the afore mentioned Chris Turner had been United manager for four years and despite just missing out on the play-off last season the U’s were now languishing in midfield. Friday 24th November saw United travel to 17th placed Southend for a Football League Division 4 fixture. For a number of years Southend, along with a handful of other clubs traditionally played their home matches on a Friday evening. In an intriguing encounter between the top of the table team and the top of the form table team United started brightly but Southend came back strongly as the game went on. Former U’s striker David Crown twice having good efforts thwarted by John Vaughan in the United goal. An entertaining match surprisingly ends 0-0.
Interest in the Football League Associate Members Cup (now named the EFL Trophy) sponsored by Leyland Daf was ended by a 2-0 loss at Gillingham and a 3-3 draw at home with Southend. Leadbitter, Cheetham and Daish the U’s scorers in front of a crowd of 993. Next up was a Division 4 match at the Abbey against Rochdale. Rochdale’s Steve O’Shaughnessy is barracked by the home crowd when he takes a corner but still manages to score from the impossible angle. In a very shoddy performance United concede two more in the second half and lose 3-0. Having won one of the last four matches and failing to score in the last three the tables were beginning to turn on United’s good form of the previous month and the pressure is on manager Turner.Next up is a local derby against the old enemy from the north of the county.
FOOTBALL IN NOVEMBER 1989 Nigel Martyn becomes England’s most expensive goalkeeper when he leaves Bristol Rovers to go to Crystal Palace for £1m. Oldham Athletic beat Arsenal 3-1 in the League Cup on their artificial pitch at Boundary Park where they have been undefeated for 23 matches. The Football Spectators Bill which includes the need for id cards receives the Royal Assent in house of parliament.