Cambridge United aim to make the Third Round of the Emirates FA Cup for a second successive season as they welcome League Two outfit Grimsby Town to the Abbey Stadium...
Needing to navigate their way past a potential banana skin, Mark Bonner’s men will hope the prospect of a healthy cup run can breed confidence within the group heading into the Christmas period. The Mariners, on the contrary, are out to put another League One side to the sword and conclude a memorable 2022 with progression.
How to Watch
Saturday afternoon’s clash kicks off at 3pm. Supporters who wish to attend can buy their tickets for the match online at cufctickets.com or over the phone by calling 01223 566500.
The match will not be broadcasted domestically. However, U’s fans who can’t make it can still receive minute-by-minute updates from the official Twitter account or listen to full match commentary of the game via BBC Radio Cambridgeshire or live on iFollow.
Approaching their 150th year as a football club, the Mariners boast a rich history, which consists of promotions from four different divisions as well as many campaigns in the First Division under their belt. Although they’ve fluctuated in and out of non-league in recent years, the only way looks to be up following 2021/22’s dramatic play-off success - where they managed to come from behind on three occasions to wrap up an instant return to the 92.
Eager to gel quickly and build on the generated momentum, the Mariners went seven unbeaten after succumbing to Leyton Orient in their opening match. Not conceding more than one in any of those occasions, they’d been resilient and ultimately tricky to break down. From here, they suffered successive defeats to Swindon Town and Carlisle United, but continued their streaky form by registering eight points in four. Most recently, they banished a three-match losing streak by sharing the spoils at the death against Stevenage, which allocates the visitors in a creditable 16th thanks to a consistent start.
Replacing legendary figure James McKeown between the sticks is Max Crocombe, who has registered six clean sheets in 18 this season. Together, with the likes of Luke Waterfall, a threat at both ends, and youngster Andrew Smith, the Mariners have been stern. Bryn Morris and Kieran Green have adapted very well to the level, whereas long-serving Harry Clifton is improving at a rapid pace and adding goals to his game. Speaking of goals, John McAtee has returned from an injury setback, the Luton Town loanee bagged 16 goals in the National League last season and will be desperate to make up for lost time.
Town, whose best run in this competition is the semi-finals - where they embarked on the mazy run twice in 1936 and 1939 – are out to reach the Third Round for the first time since the 2018/19 season, which concluded with a valiant 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. In securing this afternoon’s matchup, the side ran riot against top-ranked Plymouth Argyle, storming to a 5-1 win at Blundell Park. Understandably, they arrive quietly optimistic.
Cambridge United: LDDWL
Grimsby Town: WWLDL
Last time out, the U’s fell to a disappointing 0-1 defeat to Accrington Stanley at the Abbey.
A strike from Harvey Rodgers on the stroke of half-time handed struggling Stanley a first victory in eight. And in truth, it was relatively comfortable thanks to their professional away performance. Below-par, United couldn’t step it up a gear and offered little in the final third, which confirmed another game without a goal and added frustration to the sticky period.
Reflecting on the encounter, Bonner admitted, “We’ve got to do more, that’s obvious because we’ve been starved of goals here and chances here. There’s a frustration among everyone for that.”
Although floating in 20th, attention is now solely focused on cup progression. A stern test awaits, but in front of the United faithful, they hope to go into a crucial December with victory, and a potential date with a giant, to use as motivation.
As for team news for Saturday, everyone barring the long-term absentees will be available. In that pack, Zeno Ibsen Rossi is making positive progress and could start featuring in a couple of weeks’ time.
Cambridge United Wins: 15
Grimsby Town Wins: 15
Down Memory Lane
Cast your mind back to the afternoon of Saturday 8th May 2021, where were you at 5pm? Celebrating in front of iFollow or were you part of the hundreds who congregated outside the Abbey Stadium ready to party the evening away?
The last meeting with the Mariners just so happened to be United’s last game in the fourth tier of English football. Pre-match nerves were soon diminished when Liam O’Neil scored his trademark screamer, before the imperious Wes Hoolahan and Paul Mullin put the game to bed, the champagne on ice and the U’s name in League One.
Emotional and beaming with pride, just before he was drowned in cold water from his players, Bonner stated: “You don’t get many moments like this… I think over the course of the season we probably deserve it (promotion).”
The sides enjoy mirroring head-to-head stats, but the U’s are now unbeaten in seven, which includes five clean sheets, following successive defeats. From Chris Maxwell’s penalty save to Ryan Bird’s lethal strike to seal a first Wembley visit in six years, 2013/14 also sparks many jubilant memories against the team in black and white stripes.
Referee: Carl Brook
Assistant Referee: Stephen Brown
Assistant Referee: Paul Yates
Fourth Official: Abigail Byrne