Fighting at either end of the Sky Bet League One table, Cambridge United aim to secure an instant return to winning ways and ramp up their safety pursuit at Home Park on Saturday afternoon when they clash with title-chasing Plymouth Argyle...
The matchup doesn’t get more challenging for the U’s, who entertain a Pilgrims outfit who boast the best home form in the division and are sitting pretty at the top. Nonetheless, the optimistic underdogs’ impressive performance levels have earned them the right to believe as they attempt to attack the final four.
How to Watch
The U’s have been given 500 unallocated seated tickets for Saturday’s encounter in Devon, which gets underway at 3pm. The game has been designated an ALL-TICKET fixture and as such, supporters have until 9pm to buy their ticket.
Overseas fans can stream the game live with an iFollow Match Pass. Match Passes cost £10 and are available to purchase by clicking here. Elsewhere, domestic supporters who can’t make it to Vale Park can listen to live match commentary on iFollow
For many Argyle fans, a return to second tier football felt a lifetime away after they battled to fend off relegation into non-league between 2011 to 2013. A decade on, it’s in their hands with four integral meetings to go. Masterminded by Steven Schumacher, the Liverpudlian laid the foundations during 2021/22 and has undoubtedly defied the odds by cementing the Pilgrims as League One’s finest. Euphoria is around the corner – can they hold their nerves?
Despite succumbing to away defeats at Fleetwood Town and Charlton Athletic in their opening four encounters, Argyle steamrolled the division by enjoying a 15-match unbeaten run, which included nine victories in 10. Following a brief slip to Port Vale prior to the reverse fixture, the Pilgrims saw the new year in with aplomb by losing once in 12, which happened to be against rivals Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough. Overpowered on just three occasions since, including a 5-2 loss to Peterborough United and Barnsley, Plymouth are racing towards the finish line with five triumphs from six. Remarkably, a 100-point campaign is still on the cards for the side who will have spent more than half of the season in 1st place, but where the home faithful are concerned, so long as they’re dancing the night away on the 7th May, nothing else will matter.
Critical to their early-season success has been revolutionary goalkeeper Michael Cooper, who kept 11 clean sheets in 29 before injury disrupted his campaign. Replacing the talent is former U Callum Burton – he’s acquitted himself well and aims to supply heroics on his way to a second promotion in three years. The effective 3-4-1-2 will look to suffocate United, make them work for their opportunities and punish them with both energy and grit. At the heart of the backline, Macauley Gillesphey, Dan Scarr and the experienced James Wilson are a cohesive unit, with Joe Edwards dependable and January signing Saxon Earley a ready-made star. Each almost playing every minute, holding midfielders Jordan Houghton and Matt Butcher are the unsung heroes, allowing loanees Finn Azaz and Young Player of the Season nominee Bali Mumba to thrive. Between them, the damaging livewires have combined for 27 league goals. Elsewhere in the attacking ranks, Sam Cosgrove is tricky to handle, with Niall Ennis aiming to continue his consistent season by reaching double figures.
Plymouth Argyle: LWLWW
Cambridge United: WWDWL
Last time out, the U’s suffered defeat for the first time in five attempts on Tuesday evening as Wycombe Wanderers came home with a slender 1-2 triumph.
Despite creating the best opportunities of the first half, the U’s found themselves two goals down following Ryan Tafazolli’s volley and David Wheeler’s close-range header. Despite serving up a consolation through the in-form Sam Smith on the hour mark, the hosts couldn’t conjure a leveller, despite finishing in the ascendency.
Summarising the work rate of his group, Mark Bonner said: “I thought we played really well tonight. We should have got ahead in the first 15 minutes. To go in 0-2 at half-time is a tough chase but we did enough in the first half. There is a new-found belief in us that shows we can compete with everybody and we’ve shown that against top teams recently.”
Retaining a two-point cushion from 22nd, the U’s now need to bridge a one-point gap plus goal difference in their remaining four. In spite of defeat, 10 points from five equals their best form of the season – and with the bottom two still standing in their way, they’ll aim to capitalise on others’ misfortunes, extend their goalscoring streak to seven successive games for the first time in 2022/23 and climb out of the drop, where they’ve stayed since mid-January.
Aiming to galvanise the whole football club, the Head Coach declared: “First of all, we’ve got to take it to the final week. That was the task that everyone would have said we no had no chance of a few weeks ago. The first task is we’ve got to go to Plymouth and try to get something and then we should hopefully be in the race for the final little bit. Everybody can see there is a lot of fight and quality in the team. We’re playing really well but it’s going to go the distance so everybody better be ready for it.”
In regards to team news for the weekend, it’s a game too soon for Lloyd Jones, who is expected to be back for the final week of the season. Elsewhere, there are no fresh injury concerns to have come out of Tuesday evening.
Plymouth Argyle Wins: 9
Cambridge United Wins: 12
Down Memory Lane
The last time we met, the sides played out a battle-hardened stalemate on a cold December afternoon in CB5.
Unlucky not to take maximum points, the U’s did everything but score as they created the more dangerous opportunities throughout the contest - whilst remaining firm defensively in the process and limiting the pace-setters to a frustrating 90 minutes.
Following the draw, Bonner looked to the positives, stating, "We might have turned that into three points a couple of times in the second half, but in the end I thought the level of performance was very good. I thought we played well, we played with a real intent and energy, ran forward, looked a tough team to play against and applied ourselves brilliantly."
United aim to stretch their impressive unbeaten run against the Pilgrims to six games on Saturday afternoon, following two victories and three draws since back-to-back defeats were suffered in 2016/17. In over 450 minutes of play, the U’s have remained extremely firm, conceding just once. Of recent Home Park memories, the 1-2 success in December 2015 is certainly a popular one thanks to Luke Berry’s sweet late strike.
Referee: Ollie Yates
Assistant Referee: Christopher Husband
Assistant Referee: Declan O’Shea
Fourth Official: Kevin Howick