Smiles all round as U's get all three points
The U’s made four changes to their starting eleven for the match against the Saddlers. There were two debuts – Sam Walker and David Wright – whilst Jabo Ibehre and John White also came into the side.
And you could sense the relief on the final whistle as they pulled together with their fans to grab that win.
The win lifted the U's out of the bottom four and within reach of other teams above them as their quest to pull away from trouble got underway.
They had worked hard in the first half to give themselves a foundation to work from after the interval and, having got two crucial goals, they picked up a hugely important three points.
The U's rediscovered that winning feeling with a fine second half display against Walsall on Saturday.
It was a lively start to the game with both teams trying to pass expansively despite the heavy surface.
There was little in the way of clear cut chances in that first ten minutes though, although a cross to the far post towards Grigg was blocked by Thompson and into the grateful arms of Walker in the U’s goal.
At the other end, some good work down the right saw Massey send in a low cross to the near post, but McLoughlin fielded it well.
The Saddlers were tidy on the ball, and grew into the game as the midway point of the half arrived. Mantam came closest with a drive from distance that just flicked off Okuonghae’s head and curled wide of the far post.
The referee gave the Saddlers a free kick for a handball not far from the edge of the box and Clifford was then booked for encroaching at the set piece.
Wright then wriggled in between two defenders to get a shot off, which was easily blocked by the visiting back line.
Then, at the other end of some Saddlers pressure, the U’s went close again. White launched one forward which saw Ibehre, Drey Wright and visiting keeper McLoughlin converge. Ibehre was brave to get up and win the header, but it was cleared just inside the six yard box.
Clifford was next to go close for the U’s, making some space on the edge of the box to fire in a shot that went over McLoughlin’s crossbar.
The U’s had a let off just before the break when, from a home corner, the Saddlers broke and it looked like Baxendale would slot home but he dragged his shot wide of goal.
Wilson was set up by a powerful Ibehre run, checking back inside to fire in a left footed shot that McLoughlin held well.
It was goalless at the break, but it was the visitors who started the brighter after the interval.
There was little in the way of clearcut chances for either side in the next quarter of the game, though, with both defences working manfully to keep their opposition at bay.
Bean bundled his way through to get on the end of a Porter cross with twenty minutes remaining, but he was never in a real position to get a shot off to test McLoughlin.
The best chance of the half came not long afterwards as the Saddlers failed to clear a U’s ball in the box and a fierce Ibehre volley on the turn went agonisingly wide of the post.
The U’s did get their noses in front with a goal that lifted the tension around the stadium. Substitute Sears chased down a shot back pass and, with McLoughlin out of position, Ibehre was able to slot into the empty net.
Sears almost doubled the advantage with six minutes to go. He cut in from the right and thundered in a superb strike that cannoned back off the crossbar with the keeper beaten.
The climb up the table starts now!
A crucial win that lifts the pressure off the players' shoulders and takes the U's out of the bottom four.
The second goal proved crucial as four additional minutes were announced, but the U's kept firm, defended well and were never truly threatened as they protected Walker superbly.
The former West Ham man kept calm and smacked it home into the bottom corner to send the home fans into delirium.
However, they did get the crucial second when Porter got away down the right hand side, looked up to see Sears and squared it to his team-mate.
Massey was next to seek that game clincher, darting from midfield, getting to the edge of the box and driving in a shot that McLoughlin did well to save.