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Mark Bonner hails Cambridge’s outstanding season following draw with Cheltenham

Mark Bonner’s Cambridge drew on the last day of the season (Barrington Coombs/PA)
Mark Bonner’s Cambridge drew on the last day of the season (Barrington Coombs/PA)

Mark Bonner reflected on Cambridge’s outstanding season following their final-day League One draw with 10-man Cheltenham.

Sam Smith and Alfie May both scored twice as they finished the campaign as their respective club’s top goalscorer as the game ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw.

May struck at the death despite Cheltenham ending with 10 men following Will Boyle’s dismissal for two yellow cards.

It came after Cambridge withdrew Wes Hoolahan to a rapturous ovation, 20 days short of his 40th birthday, who was replaced by academy graduate Kai Yearn, three weeks away from turning 17.

The U’s end the season 14th – their highest final position since 1994 – while Cheltenham’s 15th-placed finish represents their highest ever EFL finish.

“It doesn’t spoil the season but it does spoil the afternoon a bit,” reflected Bonner. “We should have been the winning team.

“We said at half-time, ‘kill the beast or it’ll come back and bite you’, and it came back and bit us right at the end in a goal we didn’t deserve to concede from an error.

“It’s an excellent continuation of what we’ve been this year. For a number of weeks we’ve been safe and people say ‘there’s not a lot to play for’, but we’ve always played like there is. I like that mentality about us.

“Everybody in the world knew that staying in the division was the main thing and after that, anything you can do was a bonus.

“The fact that we’ve never been in the bottom six or been under threat of the drop is a fantastic achievement and we shouldn’t underestimate how good a season these boys have had.

“The fact we’re sitting around the middle of the table is unbelievable really.”

Cheltenham boss Michael Duff was happy to take the point despite his side not performing at their best.

“I wasn’t particularly pleased with the performance but I was pleased with the result,” Duff said.

“I don’t think we deserved to go out losing three games in a row. We were actually better with 10 men; we went down to 10 men and we started passing the ball properly – which is the weirdness of football.

“I thought they were better than us, box to box. On actual chances, Scott (Flinders) has made a couple of saves but Alfie has missed a sitter, he can’t believe he’s missed it.

“It was a bit of a weird feeling really. It was an end-of-season game. Nice weather, two mid-table teams. It was a fun, entertaining game but I’m not sure how much quality there was in it.

“Luckily we are safe because of some of the decisions that go against us. Thankfully we’re safe and it’s not costing us a place in the league.”