A far improved performance didn't get the result it deserved on Monday, as 2015 came to a close with a narrow defeat at high-flying Gillingham.
Defensively more robust, with a genuine sense of purpose going forward, there is much to be enthused by as the team look to claw back their points deficit on the teams above them and climb to safety in the second half of the season.
Those positive results will need to come soon, but there is a real feeling that a turn around in results is not far away.
So another defeat for the U’s, but a host of things to be positive about as they go into the new year with Kevin Keen ready to get to work in the January transfer window.
The U’s forward had a sight of goal on the ninetieth minute, but Nelson stood up strong to turn the ball away with his feet.
The U’s were not to be cowed though and continued to press late into the game. Moncur contrived some space in the box after good work from Gilbey and Nelson pulled off a quite sensational save to deny Sordell at the far post.
The home side were starting to turn the screw and got their noses in front with twenty minutes to go. They had fed a number of balls into the box and it finally told as Samuel was on hand to stab home from close range.
At the other end, Parish got across well to turn away a Norris free kick low at his left hand post, before Eastman blocked well from a throw in from the right.
Next, a U’s corner saw Porter rising highest at the far post. His header went right back across goal, and his effort clipped the top of the woodwork with Nelson beaten.
The U’s then went forward with some fine approach play from left to right, before Brindley’s low whipped cross was collected well under pressure by Nelson under pressure from the U’s attack.
It was Norris who first saw sight of goal in the second half, as he got in round the back, but Parish stood up strong to turn it away – although the referee gave a goal kick.
Such was the nature of the two teams’ respective performances in the first half that Justin Edinburgh introduced Doug Loft and Luke Norris to try and shake things up.
And the enigmatic number ten twisted and turned on the edge of the box in injury time in the first half, but Nelson tipped his effort over.
And the visitors were finishing the half strongly, as Moncur struck a free kick that kept low and only just over the bar from 35 yards.
A minute later and the hard working U’s were at it again. Moncur battled for a ball on the edge of the box and fed it to Massey, who curled it just wide of the far post with Nelson beaten.
The U’s picked up a loose ball in midfield, with Massey sending Sordell away and his low cross was struck just wide by Porter as he darted to the near post.
Chances were at a premium with two defensively organised sides, but the U’s were next to go close with six minutes to go to half time.
Midway through the half and some good hold up play by Porter saw the U’s move forward. Moncur laid it into the path of Sordell and, despite slipping, he stung the fingertips of Nelson with a good shot.
The home side went closest on ten minutes, as a cross from Jackson was helped on in the middle and Hessenthaler couldn’t divert it in at the far post.
At the other end, Donnelly headed one onto the roof of the net himself as a free kick was recycled into the danger area, before Porter showed good technique to force a diving save out of Nelson with a first time volley from the edge of the box.
U’s had an early chance as Sordell turned and whipped in a shot that clipped the roof of the net as Nelson watched on helplessly.