Cambridge United 0 Northwich Victoria 1

The miserable weather was not the only reminder of autumn at the Abbey Stadium as Cambridge United crashed to 1-0 defeat in their opening match against Northwich Victoria.

Hopes and enthusiasm could hardly have been higher among the supporters after ex-Norwich City player Lee Power came in as the new Chairman with a pledge to revitalise the club. He received a huge cheer from the fans before the kick-off but the atmosphere soon dissolved throughout an afternoon of damp squibs.

As far as Norwich Victoria were concerned, however, it was a completely different matter as they got off to a dream start in the Conference after their runaway promotion season.

Crucially they bolstered their promotion side by bringing in four players with league experience and it was one of them who got the only goal of the game three minutes into the second half.

The visitors had looked the most effective side during the first 45 minutes and were rewarded for their sharpness after the interval when winger Chris Williams hit a low cross into the box from the right and Kevin Townson, showing all of his ex-league experience and his famous nose for a goal, ghosted in to flick the ball inside the far post from close range.

Cambridge, looking sluggish and uninspired in attack, could never match that sort of play and might well have finished on the wrong end of a bigger defeat.

Northwich's John Allan slammed a shot against the crossbar in the 10th minute, and after several more near-misses throughout the match, Williams should have added to the score when he broke completely clear but fired straight at the keeper four minutes from time.

Cambridge, so difficult to beat at home last season, did not seem to have that kind of steel in the side, and although they created some half chances, they did not have the men up front to put them away.

Courtney Pitt had a good opportunity to settle the home side's nerves and get them off to a good start when he ran on to a John Brady cross in the 11th minute, but somehow he blazed over the crossbar from only eight yards.

In the second half he did manage to hit the target with a fierce 20-yarder in the 53rd minute but was foiled by a full-length diving save from goal keeper Phil Senior.

A couple of minutes later it was Robbie Simpson's turn to have a chance in front of goal and he probably should have done a lot better than head the ball over the crossbar from close range at the far post.

But it was Northwich who had much more of the general play. They were quick to close Cambridge down in midfield and hassled them into playing a longer ball game than they would have wanted on a blustery day.
In Williams, Allen, Townson and Michael Carr, they had lively forwards who were able to spread the play and forced Cambridge to do the majority of the defending.

The best period for the fans was the opening half an hour when play switched from end to end and both sides had opportunities in front of goal.

Allen was unlucky with his shot which hit the woodwork because the ball bounced down on to the goal line but spun back into play rather than the other way, and when Townson tried to follow up he sliced the ball wide of the post.

The game slumped into a stalemate in the quarter of an hour before the break, but it was transformed by the goal three minutes after the restart.

Northwich, with Gareth Griffiths leading a strong defence, were able to dictate long spells of play and the visiting forwards began to get more space as Cambridge threw people forward in an increasingly desperate surge for the equalizer which never really looked like happening.