A late Ricky Miller goal earned non-league Dover Athletic an FA Cup replay with Cambridge United on my first ever visit to the Abbey Stadium.
The first weekend of November is one of the most exciting in the calendar for many football fans. This is because it is the first round of the FA Cup where 32 hopeful non-league qualifiers join the sides from League 1 and 2 to create some unique and exciting match-ups.
For us, part one of an FA Cup double-header weekend took us to the Abbey Stadium, home of League 2 club Cambridge United since 1932, to watch them take on National League side Dover Athletic in a match-up that showed clear potential for an upset.
The U’s sat 22nd in the table with just four wins from 15 league outings, while their non-league opponents were only two places outside the play-offs and had won four of their last six matches in all competitions – including a 5-0 victory away to step seven Burgess Hill Town in the final qualifying round to set up today’s first round contest in Cambridgeshire.
A total of 2,620 supporters, including an admirable following from Dover for the 240-mile round trip, were in attendance for the first ever meeting between the two sides and after an even start it was Cambridge who really should have opened the scoring when Uche Ikpeazu, playing for his fifth club in three years, rattled the crossbar from close range when it looked easier to find the net.
The league outfit only had to wait another seven minutes before breaking the deadlock, however, albeit in scruffy fashion. Goalkeeper Mitch Walker will have been disappointed to spill a relatively tame effort from Luke Berry into the path of Piero Mingoia, who tapped the ball into the empty net to make it 1-0.
Dover pressured for an equaliser in the second half – Miller forcing an excellent low save from the U’s ‘keeper.
But Ikpeazu really should have wrapped the tie up for Cambridge with the final ten minutes fast approaching as he was played through on goal, only to fall off-balance and fire his strike high and wide into the stand.
And with eight minutes to go, the hosts were made to pay when they failed to deal with a throw in into the box that ultimately fell to Miller, who poked the ball between the legs of the goalkeeper to score his 16th goal of the season and delight the noisy travelling supporters behind the goal.
The result means Cambridge, who held Manchester United to a draw at home in the same competition just two seasons ago, will now be forced to travel to the Crabble in Kent for a replay to decide who will be playing in the second round.
Cambridge United 1–1 Dover Athletic
Piero Mingoia ’38, Ricky Miller ’82