Cambridge United 0 Fleetwood Town 1
Fleetwood head into their play-off semi-final against AFC Wimbledon buoyed by seven victories in their final eight games of their maiden Blue Square Bet Premier campaign.
On-loan midfielder Alex-Ray Harvey crowned a polished performance with his first goal for the club 13 minutes from time.
With fifth place and a two-legged clash with Wimbledon already assured, manager Micky Mellon made wholesale changes for the visit to Abbey Stadium and rewarded squad players with a run-out. Indeed, Peter Cavanagh and Magno Vieira were the only Town players on the field at kick-off who had started against Barrow last Monday.
The opening exchange had an end-of-season feel, with both teams only managing to create half-chances.
One of the better ones fell to the hosts, but Josh Coulson headed wide when well placed from an Adam Marriott cross after ten minutes.
As the confidence of Town’s new- look back four grew, veteran heads Alan Wright and Lee Thorpe encouraged debutant Joe Camozzi to get forward as often as possible from right-back. The young full-back carved out Town’s first chance, cutting in from the right to release Keigan Parker, whose angled volley flew just beyond the far post.
As the home crowd raised the volume, some positive play on the left saw Conal Platt win successive corners for Cambridge, which Marriott fired in dangerously, but keeper Scott Davies was on his toes to hold on to both.
Despite the home side having more possession, it was Town who had the best chance of breaking the deadlock in the first half.
Town’s XI included five who would normally play up front, so it was something of a surprise that Cavanagh had the best of the opportunities on 34 minutes.
Parker made a strong run out wide and cut the ball back to the onrushing Cavanagh, whose shot was turned against the crossbar from United keeper Danny Naisbitt.
The final opening of the half fell to Cambridge, though Coulson couldn’t quite connect with Marriott’s delivery with the goal at his mercy. That was the last action of note for the first half, with both sides playing in a fairly relaxed manner having their final league position settled prior to kick off.
Top scorer Vieira was replaced at half-time, and the introduction of winger Sean Clancy appeared to give Town a boost. Harvey received the ball 20 yards from goal, only to see his effort well saved by Naisbitt.
At the other end, the dangerous Platt had a shot cleared off the line by Thorpe, following another expert delivery from a very busy Marriott.
The accurate Marriott also posed problems from set-pieces, and unmarked captain Brian Saah should have hit the target with a header on the hour following a corner from the right.
This let-off seemed to reinvigorate Town, particularly tireless striker George Donnelly, who came close twice in quick succession on his return after suspension.
After the striker’s goal-bound shot was blocked by a sliding Kevin Roberts, Donnelly saw his follow-up effort well saved by Naisbitt.
Then came the breakthrough on 77 minutes. Following some tidy football in midfield, Cavanagh managed to thread a pinpoint through ball to Harvey.
As the keeper hesitated, the youngster slotted home neatly, showing excellent composure to send the 100 travelling supporters into raptures.
The goal rounded off a great performance from Harvey on his first full start for the club.
United then began a mini onslaught on the visitors’ goal in search of an equaliser.
However, keeper Davies stood tall to secure a deserved clean sheet with some assured handling. The final chance of the game fell to Saah, who shot wide following a goalmouth scramble.
It summed up a frustrating afternoon for the former Football League club, but at least their place at non-league’s top table remains secure, unlike Town’s old rivals Southport, who were relegated by two late goals at Kettering. In contrast, Town go into Friday’s first leg against Wimbledon, who also won on Saturday, full of confidence.
Cambridge: Naisbitt, Roberts, Coulson, Saah, Coakley, Patrick (Eades 83), McAuley, Sinclair (Ives 60), Platt, Wright (Hughes 74), Marriott; not used: Brown, Hudson.
Fleetwood: Davies, Wright, Thorpe, Linwood, Camozzi, Cavanagh, Harvey, Vieira (Clancy 46), Parker, Donnelly, Rowe; not used: Hurst, Mulla, McGuire, Seddon
Ref: M Bull (Essex); Att: 2,745