A dominant second half display earned Tranmere Rovers their ninth win of the season thanks to James Norwood’s 77th minute tap in.
Jonny Smith was the standout performer, creating multiple opportunities for the hosts and having a large hand in the goal.
Smith looked to pick up where he left off following last week’s draw with Southport, having come off the bench to score, and was a constant threat down the right-hand side throughout.
Within six minutes the Bristol City loanee almost opened the scoring, as he raced to get onto the end of a loose ball following Cambridge United goalkeeper David Forde palming away Norwood’s initial first time effort, however United got bodies on the line to block Smiths rebound.
Despite this bright start, it was the visitors who created the best chances of the first half. U’s winger Paul Lewis overlapped well on the right and found space in doing so before pulling the ball back to the penalty spot for George Maris to strike first time, though Scott Davies did well, diving low to block it.
Nineteen minutes in, Cambridge’s Maris tried his luck from 25 yards out, and the ball swerved menacingly away from Davies who was rooted to his spot, only to watch the ball strike the outside of his left post.
Patient build up play from the visitors opened up two goal scoring opportunities for Lewis within a matter of minutes, however the winger lacked composure, lashing an effort over when played in on the right of the box before heading horribly wide when found unmarked from a Harrison dunk cross in the games very next attack.
Rovers were a different side after halftime, playing with determination to find the breakthrough and almost did five minutes after the restart when Norwood raced through the middle of the U’s defence to collect a long ball, although he couldn’t quite get it under control and was eventually outnumbered.
Manny Monthe creating an opening for himself just after the hour as the centre back controlled Liam Ridehalgh’s freekick on his chest before he touched it into some space, swivelled to face the goal but took his shot unbalanced and fired over as he fell.
Smith continued his excellent form as he was quickest to react to a poor pass on the edge of the box and cut back onto his left foot allowing his to pass across to Jennings. The Rovers number 11 had his back to goal and simply laid the ball off for Norwood, who had to react quickly and seemed to get enough on it as Forde spilled the ball as he tried to block it, however left back Jake Carroll made an excellent goal line clearance to spare Forde’s blushes.
Carl Stockton almost got his head to a cross from that man Smith, which wickedly looped up off a Cambridge leg but the striker’s bravery to get in between two defenders challenging for the ball came to nothing as he failed to get enough contact on the ball.
Rovers maintained their dominance and looked to play the ball to Smith whenever they could. Paul Mullin was introduced in the 76th minute to freshen up the attacking options and within a minute he came up with an assist.
Jennings quickly found Smith in space on the right where he cut onto his left foot and curled an effort towards the far corner. The shot gained a nick on the way taking it further into the corner but Forde somehow got a hand to it, diving to his right. He was unable to stop Mullin getting to the second ball as the substitute headed it across the line where Norwood stood unmarked, to pass it into the empty net, taking his goal tally to 15 for the season.
There was time for the superb Smith to earn a well-deserved standing ovation as he was replaced in the final few minutes.
Rovers showed maturity to slow the game down following the goal and hold on to the victory, moving us up one place into the playoffs.
Davies, Buxton, McNulty (Capt.), Monthe, Ridehalgh, Smith (85 Caprice), Harris, MCCullough, Jennings, Stockton (76 Mullin), Norwood. Subs not used: George, Sutton, Tollitt, Akammadu, Bakayogo.
Report by Jake Mathot
Attendance: 5016 (153)