Cambridge United look to restore that winning feeling in Sky Bet League One at the weekend as the Abbey Stadium plays host to newcomers Port Vale...
Mark Bonner’s side have slipped down the table of late owing to a four-game losing streak, but they’re adamant to put things right against the Valiants, who continue to progress under the tutelage of Darrell Clarke.
How to Watch
Saturday afternoon’s clash at CB5 kicks off at 3pm, with tickets still available for fans to buy online at cufctickets.com or over the phone by calling 01223 566500.
Save money by purchasing your tickets in advance of the fixture, as all prices increase by £2 when buying in-person on the day of the game.
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.
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Since the appointment of owners Kevin and Carol Shanahan in 2019, the Valiants stabilised and enjoyed real progressive years, which was revved up a gear when Darrell Clarke entered the building early last year. Determined to return to this level sooner rather than later, the Valiants broke through at the fifth attempt last season, conquering Mansfield Town in the play-off final. Serial winner Clarke wants further success to his CV – his first step, prove that they are where they belong.
Vale got the ball rolling with the perfect introduction as they conquered Fleetwood Town on home soil, but only picked up a point in their next three as Exeter City and MK Dons proved too strong. Burton Albion were put to the sword 0-2 in what was their first success on the road, although Portsmouth dampened spirits with a resolute win the following week. This sparked a three-game unbeaten run, as the shares were spoiled against Cheltenham Town and Barnsley before securing a last-gasp victory against Shrewsbury Town. Promotion-chasing Peterborough United and Sheffield Wednesday gained 3-0 and 0-1 triumphs respectively, but they turned on the gas away at Derby County by pulling off their result of the season in a comeback win, which was backed up by a point last time out against Forest Green Rovers. Thanks to their endeavour and overall consistent showing, the travellers arrive in 16th and level on points with the U’s.
At their disposal are several key men who will keep the hosts on their toes throughout the 90. Nathan Smith orchestrates the defence impeccably, whilst young partner Will Forrester is learning by the game alongside him. Gavin Massey and David Worrall operate well on the flanks, boasting experience and undoubted quality in possession, and former top flight striker James Wilson is enjoying providing for Ellis Harrison, who’s already bulged the onion bag seven times in 11 games.
Cambridge United: LLLLW
Port Vale: LLWDW
Last time they graced the pitch, the U’s cancelled out a four-match losing streak as they gained a 1-0 victory over 10-man Ipswich Town.
Although it took them time to find their feet following Kyle Edwards’ dismissal, the hosts put in a determined shift in the second half to go ahead through Lewis Simper’s sublime strike, before seeing the game out assuringly.
Although it proved an end to their Papa John’s Trophy campaign, it was an important night for minutes for the threadbare squad, who will take heart and momentum into the clash against the Valiants.
Speaking on Tuesday night, the Head Coach was impressed with the mentality of his players, as well as stating: “We’re pleased to win the game, we’re pleased to get some of the players playing that we did, and pleased to move on now and get ready for Port Vale at the weekend, knowing that the road to Wembley is off for this year.”
Ultimately, their first win since Morecambe away in late September is something to hold onto and utilise as they aim to kickstart an unbeaten run. On top of that was a much-needed clean sheet, Will Mannion’s third from just five appearances, which is a foundation to build upon, particularly when it’s just the second game in the new 3/5/2 experiment which has shown promising signs.
Updating the press with injury matters ahead of the weekend, Bonner confirmed that Adam May will miss the rest of the season after rupturing his ACL. Elsewhere, Dimitar Mitov is out for a few weeks at the minimum, Brandon Haunstrup a month and Harrison Dunk could be back in contention next weekend. Paul Digby, Shilow Tracey and Joe Ironside, however, all stand a chance of returning.
Cambridge United Wins: 9
Port Vale Wins: 11
Down Memory Lane
Although the sides have been well-accustomed to each other in recent years, this weekend will be their first clash in the third tier in just over 20 years.
Last time out, a Liam O’Neil thunderbolt in February 2021 rose the U’s to the summit of Sky Bet League Two in a critical 0-1 success at Vale Park. Pulling something special out of nothing near the death was just one of many awe-inspiring afternoons in the COVID-stricken, promotion-winning campaign.
Speaking on that triumphant afternoon, Bonner hailed his men, stating: “My goodness, that was a tough game, really tough. The boys are shot to bits in there… it was a real collective effort, a real hardworking performance. A sickener if you’re on the other side of that result, but for us, a really important win.”
The U’s will want to capitalise on back-to-back wins against the Valiants, but the overall clashes since the turn of the millennium has been a tight one – with the visitors winning six compared to United’s five. Remarkably, both teams have scored in just one of their previous nine matchups.
Referee: Thomas Kirk
Assistant Referee: Scott Williams
Assistant Referee: Conor Farrell
Fourth Official: Nicholas Cooper
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