Butler breaks Bridge resistance

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The Independent Online

A little over a decade ago they were playing on the local parks of Preston, but yesterday Bamber Bridge came close to earning a chance to line up against Premiership opposition.

A little over a decade ago they were playing on the local parks of Preston, but yesterday Bamber Bridge came close to earning a chance to line up against Premiership opposition.

Despite failing to win in their previous four Unibond League matches the part-timers matched their Second Division opponents for three-quarters of a bruising encounter. Martin Butler eventually broke Bridge's resistance with a coolly taken spot-kick after 71 minutes, but his match-winner earned stuttering Cambridge a win they barely deserved after a below-par performance. Although Bridge kept the home defence busy in the final minutes they were unable to grab the goal that would have forced their opponents into a tricky midweek trip to Lancashire.

Their frustrations boiled over in the final minute, when both sides clashed in a free-for-all that echoed the incident in Bridge's first-round clash at St Albans.

Cambridge were forced into a last-minute change before kick-off when the goalkeeper Shaun Marshall was involved in a car crash on his way to the match. Although unhurt, the shaken Marshall was replaced by Arjan Van Heusden, who was by far the busiest of the two goalkeepers in the opening half as Bridge refused to be overawed by their first appearance in the FA Cup second round proper. The Bamber winger Peter Smith missed a gilt-edged chance in the seventh minute when he screwed wide from 15 yards after being set up by Dave Carroll. The striker Andy Whittaker had the ball in the net 10 minutes later after he charged down Van Heusden's clearance, but his effort was ruled out for deliberate handball.

Although Cambridge selected their familiar three-pronged front line of Butler, Trevor Benjamin and Michael Kyd, they were constantly frustrated by a committed Bridge defence. The captain, Paul Wanless, had Cambridge's best chance midway through the first half, but his curled 20-yard effort flew past the post after good work by the winger Neil Mackenzie.

A game that was hampered by scrappy passing and bruising challenges sparked into life in the 33rd minute when Whittaker intercepted Martin McNeil's dreadful back-pass, but Marc Joseph cleared on the edge of his own six-yard box.

It took Cambridge until two minutes before the interval to force a save from Craig Dootson, but he was equal to the test from Kyd's flying header.

After the break Cambridge continued to look hesitant before finally breaking the deadlock. The resolute Bridge defence was pierced in the 71st minute when the centre-half Jeff Baldwin tugged at Benjamin's shirt in the area, leaving the referee Bill Burns no option but to award the spot-kick. Leading scorer Butler calmly tucked away his 14th of the season, outwitting Dootson to calm Cambridge's nerves.

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