Cambridge United F.C
Luke Norris 63
Party well and truly pooped as Stevenage deny Cambridge promotion for now
- Credit: ZAC GOODWIN/PA
Cambridge United have not earned promotion from League Two just yet - after Stevenage spoiled the party with a 1-0 win.
Fans may not have been allowed inside the ground officially - although plenty did find their way in - but there were a good number wandering down Newmarket Road in the direction of the Abbey Stadium well before kick-off, all in anticipation of a big party come 5pm.
Win and they were up - no ifs, buts, maybes or extravagant calculations needed.
It was 20 years since they tasted the heady air of England's third tier and seven years since they ended a seven-year exile in the non-league ranks with a play-off win over Gateshead.
Bright sunshine simply added to the expectant mood but the plans all reckoned without the input of Alex Revell's men.
The term party pooper comes with the definition of "a person who throws gloom over social enjoyment".
Luke Norris did that with his goal on 63 minutes and it was a deserved victory too as Stevenage out-worked and out-battled their hosts.
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Cambridge will get promotion in the next two games but this was not the way the script was meant to go.
Mind you, the hosts looked up for it from the kick-off, as you would have expected, and had a couple of chances to take the lead in the first 20 minutes.
Joe Ironside wriggled clear of three players but couldn't find the killer ball and when Cambridge did deliver a cross into the box, Luke Hannant fired over from an unmarked position 14 yards out.
Hiram Boateng then tested Jamie Cumming with a curling shot and the keeper would have been happy to see Wes Hoolahan's run forward end in a tame shot that was straight at him.
But from then the pattern of the game changed and whether it was nerves from Cambridge or an increase in tempo for the visitors, Boro started to create their own chances.
Jack Smith got in down the right but from a narrow angle he found home keeper Callum Burton in the perfect position to repel the shot at his near post.
Elliott List was one who was finding room but one run into the box ended with him losing his balance and when he did get a good sight of the net, he didn't connect properly.
The forward also chipped one too far across the box and when Cambridge made a hash of clearing it, Paul Digby bailed his team-mates out by getting in front of Boro's top scorer just as he was about to turn and score.
It was more of the same in the early exchanges of the second period with a high press pushing Cambridge into errors.
It didn't bring many chances though, and the game had settled into a midfield battle and petty fouls and there was an hour on the clock before either keeper had to dirty his gloves, Burton palming down a Smith thump from out wide on the right.
But if anyone was going to score it was going to be the visitors, even if it was a pinball wizard of a goal.
A corner from the right was swung by Ben Coker and thumped off the crossbar in the first instance, List in among it. The second effort was fantastically clawed off the line by Burton but the next rebound was prodded home by Norris.
The striker brought another good save out of the keeper as the game entered the final 10 minutes but there was still the expectation that Cambridge would launch a sustained spell of pressure.
A triple substitution raised the hopes of all those inside the ground dressed in black and amber, and the ones gathered outside who finally broke into song.
But nothing really came bar one moment inside the four added minutes.
Romain Vincelot was actually the closest with a shot from outside of the box that went wide.
The final whistle saw smoke bombs set off outside but this was Boro's day.
Stevenage: Cumming, James-Wildin, Coker, Prosser. Vancooten, List, Smith (Vincelot 86), Pett, Aitchison (Osborne 81), Norris (Stevens 86), Lines.
Subs (not used): Johnson, Cuthbert, Hutton, Martin.
Goals: Norris 63
Cambridge United: Burton, Knoyle, Iredale (May 83), Digby (Dunk 83), Taylor, Dysdale, Hannant (Tracey 75), Mullin, Hoolahan, Ironside, Boateng (O'Neil 83).
Subs (not used): McKenzie-Lyle, Okedina, Alese.
Booked: Knoyle 71
HT: Cambridge United 0 Stevenage 0
Referee: Ross Joyce (Eston, Middlesbrough)