Cambridge United’s Emirates FA Cup journey begins at National League North outfit Curzon Ashton in Sunday’s First Round clash...
The U’s are out to write some more cup history as they kickstart their campaign at the Tameside Stadium, but they’ll be wary of a potential banana skin against the optimistic Nash, who ply their trade three levels below Mark Bonner’s men.
How to Watch
Just shy of 500 tickets have already been snatched up ahead of the 2pm tie in Greater Manchester and fans should please note, tickets will not be available on the gate.
The match will not be broadcasted domestically, although it has been chosen for extended TV highlights on the BBC. On top of receiving minute-by-minute updates from the official Twitter account, U’s fans who can’t make it can listen to full live match commentary of the game via BBC Radio Cambridgeshire or on iFollow.
Formed in 1963, Curzon Ashton compete in the sixth tier of English football and have enjoyed a remarkable rise over the years. Several honours have been added in recent times, which includes successive promotions from the Northern Premier League in 2013/14 and 2014/15, where they’ve since held their own in the National League North, cementing their highest ever finish in 2016. On top of that, they’ve embarked on impressive cup runs – in last season’s FA Trophy, they recorded their best performance as they made the Third Round, falling to Alfreton Town. Stabilised, they look to capitalise on the potential banana skin.
Two consecutive losses was a tricky way to introduce the 2022/23 league season, but they responded in emphatic fashion by losing just one of their next seven. After seeing off Kidderminster Harriers and Kettering Town, they shared the spoils with Farsley Celtic. Chester sealed maximum points next, but they recorded eight points in their next four. In a recent schedule battered by cup clashes, they lost to Bradford Park Avenue, beat Boston United away from home, battled to a stalemate with Peterborough Sports before Hereford United consigned them to defeat last weekend. For their endeavours, they are languishing in 15th, just five points from 6th, and boast a couple of games in hand.
As for the ones to watch, central midfielder Josh Hancock has popped up with six goals so far, proving effective in and around the 18-yard box and integral to the team’s build-up play – he’s fed Tom Peers on several occasions, who’s bulged the onion bag 10 times. Captain Craig Mahon possesses leadership qualities and has been the driving force of the Nash midfield since arriving in 2020. Between the sticks, Chris Renshaw kept an impressive 13 clean sheets in 2021/22, has great agility and is out to make a name for himself against higher-league forwards.
Curzon Ashton: LWWDL
Cambridge United: LWLWL
Rejuvenated from eight days of well-needed rest, the U’s are determined to bounce back from the derby day defeat at Peterborough United last time out.
Bonner’s men made a stern account of themselves throughout the encounter, but rued several golden opportunities and one defensive mistake which resulted in the decider in-front of a raucous atmosphere.
Reflecting on the 1-0 defeat, the Head Coach stated that, although “we didn’t want to lose this game,” he pointed out that “what probably displays the level of performance is that 2000 people cheer us and sing us off the pitch, because they know that if you give that level and you leave everything out there, you give yourself a great chance in the game.”
Undoubtedly a different type of match to approach, the visitors understand that they are the heavy favourites, therefore need to impose themselves from the get go and break down what will be an extremely spirited Curzon side.
In regards to team news for the weekend, Harrison Dunk could return to the squad, but Liam O’Neil could miss the next few weeks (ankle), George Williams is a doubt (shoulder) and Fejiri Okenabirhie has been ruled out for 10-12 weeks with a hamstring tear.
FA Cup Folklore
In order to secure the plum tie, the Nash have navigated their way through three qualifiers. Their journey began at FC United of Manchester in the Second Round, where they secured a 2-3 victory, before a stern Scarborough Athletic forced a replay after an entertaining 2-2 draw. The goals continued to pour in the replay, as Lakeland's team progressed thanks to a 3-2 win after extra time. Last time out, Josh Hancock’s penalty was enough to overcome Peterborough Sports as they put their name in the First Round for just the third time in their history.
The previous two times have resulted in success. In 2008/09, they dispatched League Two Exeter City before falling to Kidderminster Harriers in the Second Round. Most recently, they reached the same stage in 2016/17 and were leading AFC Wimbledon 3-0 up until the 80th minute, but suffered a capitulation as the Dons scored four in 14 minutes to wreck their Third Round dreams.
It’s safe to say United have a bit of recent history in this competition. Whilst the early 1990s dished up their best-ever run of the Quarter-Finals, where they lost to Crystal Palace and Arsenal in consecutive seasons, they’ve made headlines since returning to the Football League. After taking Manchester United to a memorable replay at Old Trafford following a stalemate at the Abbey in 2015, they fell to a shock 4-3 loss at Guiseley in 2018, who too were in the National League North at the time. The U’s made an appearance in the Fourth Round last season, bowing out to Luton Town after achieving the euphoric feat of beating the richest club in the world, Newcastle United, on their own turf. And some say the FA Cup has lost its spark?
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Assistant Referee: Peter Gooch
Assistant Referee: Nik Barnard
Fourth Official: Matthew Parry