Cambridge United are looking to build on their recent performance levels and add more points towards their Sky Bet League One pursuit when they take on play-off chasing Barnsley at Oakwell Stadium...
Following some committed back-to-back draws, the U’s have shown a stubborn edge of late and are now eager to capture their first three points since Boxing Day and embark on a rise up the table. Meanwhile, the Tykes - who have lost just once at home since October - continue to protect their top six berth and are making good strides towards a potential instant return to the second tier.
How to Watch
Over 500 U’s fans have already secured their place for the first clash at S71 since 1993. Tickets for Saturday’s encounter, which kicks off at 3pm, are available online at cufctickets.com or over the phone by calling 01223 566500 – three away credits will be allocated for this fixture.
Please note, tickets will be available on the day, but at a £2 increase.
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 the Abbey can listen to live match commentary on iFollow.
Under the tutelage of no-nonsense manager Michael Duff, who has enjoyed a thoroughly progressive start to his managerial life, the Reds remain well-equipped to write off a turgid previous season, were they were relegated from the Championship despite being in the play-offs 12 months earlier. For a team who thrive on momentum, the South Yorkshire outfit’s sole aim is to enter the final stages of the campaign with hopes of an instant return to the second tier intact.
In a tricky opening five games, which put the Tykes in 16th following defeats to Plymouth Argyle, Derby County and Wycombe Wanderers, the side showed their steel by undergoing a six-match unbeaten run which included a 2-2 draw at Ipswich Town, a stern 0-2 win at Sheffield Wednesday and the comprehensive 0-3 reverse at the Abbey.
A miserable October saw the group pick up the solitary point from a potential 12, that coming against Bolton Wanderers as they failed to find the back of the net throughout. The streaky form continued, with Duff’s group bouncing back by winning six of their next seven to put them in 4th heading into the new year. Despite losing 0-3 to Bolton and 2-0 to Charlton Athletic, the side are now hunting a fourth game without a loss thanks to picking up seven points from Accrington Stanley, Oxford United and Portsmouth. Maintaining 6th, the Reds have a three-point cushion in the play-offs and boast games in hand over their rivals.
An important figure between the sticks, former Chelsea man Brad Collins continues to be a mainstay – he’s popped up with eight clean sheets in 26 this season. Operating with a three at the back system, Liam Kitching has blossomed alongside the stubborn Mads Juel Andersen, who dictates play well and keeps his men organised. Burnley loanee Bobby Thomas is proving equally menacing in front of goal too, he’s bagged two goals and an assist in just three starts. In the middle of the park, 21-year-old Luca Connell is tipped to have a bright future due to his industrious displays and links up well with former U’s loanee Adam Phillips. In the attacking department, Devante Cole knows this level well – he’s the top scorer with seven goals, whilst Max Watters, on loan from Cardiff City, is an exciting acquisition.
Cambridge United: LLLDD
The U’s arrive in Yorkshire with their heads held high following a commendable 1-1 draw against promotion-chasing Ipswich Town last time out.
Excellent value for a draw, and perhaps rather unlucky not to have won the game, owing to an impressive first-half performance topped by Harvey Knibbs’ sublime strike. The U’s defensive foundation proved stubborn once more as they endeavoured to frustrate the Tractor Boys.
Enthused with what he saw, Bonner stated, “We’d like to have won more (throughout the season) but obviously our draw column is very, very low and the last couple of weeks we’ve ground out results. Today we’ve probably more than ground it out and taken a really, really important point. We are delighted with the point and performance and it gives us another little one to build on and we can turn a page towards the next 18 games.”
Now that the side have gone back to basics, they have been able to record consecutive games witchout defeat for the first time since the clashes against Plymouth Argyle and Shrewsbury Town in December. Although the overall form reads one win in 12, U’s fans will feel buoyed by the application shown of late. Maintaining 23rd, United are just three points from 17th position and, with the likes of Fleetwood Town and Cheltenham Town in the midst of sticky runs, a victory can soon change fortunes and heap pressure on their rivals.
In regards to team news, Lloyd Jones should be part of the squad despite hobbling off with a groin injury last weekend. It’s been a good week for George Thomas, his progress means he has a good chance of making his debut against Oxford United on the 18th and elsewhere, Harrison Dunk, Liam O’Neil and Steve Seddon are on the verge of being integrated into group training sessions and are recovering well.
Barnsley Wins: 10
Cambridge United Wins: 5
Down Memory Lane
The last time we met, the Tykes shattered the U’s perfect start to the season on home soil with a comprehensive 0-3 triumph in mid-September.
In their first meeting in almost 30 years, the visitors that day were on-song, professionally seeing out the U’s despite seeing a man sent off on the hour mark, which gave United real hope until Robbie Cundy and James Norwood converted.
Reflecting on that afternoon, the Head Coach said: “When you play the best teams, it’s very difficult to get results if you don’t stick in it when it gets a little bit tough – that’s what we’ve built our team of in the past.”
Albeit it’s only been seven games since, the U’s have only beat Barnsley once since 1983, losing five and drawing the other. That victory occurred on the 26th October 1991 when the men in amber ran out 2-1 winners thanks to late goals from Steve Claridge and Dion Dublin in front of 5,534 at the Abbey.
Referee: Ross Joyce
Assistant Referee: Darren Williams
Assistant Referee: David Avent
Fourth Official: Conor Brown