OXFORD United’s pre-season optimism was given a jolt as the side fell to a defeat at Cambridge United on the opening day of the campaign.

Jack Lankester and Gassan Ahadme gave the hosts a thoroughly deserved 2-0 lead at the break, as the U’s failed to lay a glove on Cambridge, despite dominating possession.

Liam Manning named the same side which beat Sky Bet Championship sides Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City in pre-season, meaning there were full debuts for James Beadle, Jordan Thorniley, Josh McEachran, Ruben Rodrigues and Mark Harris.

Fellow summer signings Fin Stevens and Stanley Mills were included on the bench.

Jack Stevens, who left the U’s in the summer, started in goal for the hosts.

It was Cambridge who outran and outbattled the visitors in the first half, with Mark Bonner’s side enjoying the first sight of goal.

With three minutes on the clock, a dangerous free kick on the very right-hand corner of the penalty area was fired into the wall, before Lankester hit the rebound over the crossbar.

At the other end, a defender got a touch in front of Harris following good work down the left by Marcus Browne.

Cameron Brannagan then fired over a 30-yard free kick after Browne was hauled down.

The home side took the lead with quarter of an hour played when Lankester fired home from the centre of the box.

Saikou Janneh smashed a shot from the right channel, with Beadle opting to palm the ball away.

However, it failed to clear the danger area and Lankester was able to run onto the ball and give his side the lead with a low effort into the corner.

The advantage was doubled just before the half hour mark and the impressive Janneh was again at the heart of things.

The 23-year-old winger did superbly well to keep the ball in play on the left and then make a burst towards the byline.

His cross towards the back post was accurate, with Ahadme getting up to head past Beadle.

Five minutes later, Janneh and Ahadme almost repeated the trick when the wide player clipped a cross in, however this time, Beadle claimed the cross.

Three minutes before the break, a frustrated Brannagan pinged a shot from distance, but it bounced off the wet turf and harmlessly wide of Stevens’ goal.

Manning’s side then came the closest to an opening when Brannagan struck a free kick laid off to him by McEachran, but Stevens made a good, low save to push the ball away to safety.

In the final minute of first half stoppage time, Rodrigues worked space for himself 20 yards out, however his effort was tame and proved to be a simple hold for Stevens.

Harris had the chance to eat into the two-goal deficit eight minutes into the second period when he broke the offside trap and made his way into the box.

However, when he got into the left channel of the area, he got his feet tied up and the ball drifted harmlessly out of play for a goal kick.

At the other end, a dangerous cross from James Brophy narrowly avoided the head of Ahadme.

Brophy repeated the trick moments later, and this time, Janneh’s back post header drew a simple stop from Beadle.

Lankester then smashed a 25-yard volley into the midriff of Beadle as the hosts enjoyed a dangerous spell in the game.

Just after the hour mark, Manning made his first alterations as Marcus McGuane and Mills replaced McEachran and Tyler Goodrham.

Mills was involved soon after when he smashed a shot high over after a corner was cleared in his direction on the edge of the box.

Manning’s next set of substitutions saw Billy Bodin and Gatlin O’Donkor replace Browne and Harris.

Mills then grew into the game, first flashing a cross in which Bodin was unable to control, before seeing a header pawed behind from point-blank range.

Just after six minutes of stoppage time were added on, Sullay Kaikai drifted infield from the right and drew a brilliant stop from Beadle with a swerving, low effort.

Cambridge United (4-2-3-1): Stevens; L Bennett, Morrison, R Bennett, Andrew (Dunk 82); Digby, Thomas (Kachunga 82); Brophy, Lankester (Cousins 71), Janneh (Kaikai 71); Ahadme (Okenabirhie 82).

Unused subs: Mannion, Okedina.

Booked: Brophy, Lankester, Janneh, Kachunga.

Oxford United (4-2-3-1): Beadle; Long, Moore, Thorniley, Brown (Stevens 80); McEachran (McGuane 61), Brannagan; Goodrham (Mills 61), Rodrigues, Browne (Bodin 72); Harris (O’Donkor 72).

Unused subs: Eastwood, Negru.

Booked: Rodrigues.

Referee: Sunny Singh Gill (Middlesex)

Attendance: 7,435 (1,469 away)