Cambridge United are presented with the chance to make instant amends in Sky Bet League One as the Abbey Stadium hosts Bristol Rovers this weekend...
Mark Bonner’s men endeavour to celebrate their 2000th league game with a third win from their opening four and shatter the Pirates’ promising start, which has seen them clock five points so far under Joey Barton’s tutelage.
How to Watch
Your phenomenal support means that CB5 looks set to be jam-packed for Saturday’s clash, which gets going at 3pm. Tickets are still available for fans to buy online at cufctickets.com.
The Newmarket Road End is rapidly approaching full capacity, as is the Main Stand – with only single tickets on offer. The Intelligent Membranes North and South terraces also has availability, but to avoid disappointment and a £2 increase on the day, please buy in advance.
For further updates regarding sales, make sure you keep your notifications on for the Ticket Office Twitter account.
Founded 150 years ago, Bristol Rovers saw in the 1900s as a Southern League outfit, but would go on to establish themselves as a resolute Division Two member throughout the 50s, 70s and 90s, which included a solitary season in the second tier in 1992/93, where they were relegated with the U’s. The three-time FA Cup quarter-finalists fluctuated from here, bouncing back from a slump to non-league to now embarking on their second season back in League One with increasingly high hopes.
Real dark horses thanks to excellent recruitment, Barton has implemented an expansive style of football. Deploying a familiar 4-4-2, they play aggressively and take the game to opponents with a front foot approach. In order to build on the foundations of a 17th-placed finish last time out, they’ve brought in experience to control matches and ensure consistent performance levels. Brentford loanee Matthew Cox should don the sticks, with an incredibly young backline ahead of him in the likes of Luca Hoole, Connor Taylor, Tristan Crama and Lewis Gordon. When fit, the no-nonsense James Wilson leads by example and adds real quality. In midfield, Grant Ward, Sam Finley and Antony Evans all add drive and a ball-carrying nature, with Scott Sinclair’s know-how and summer signing Luke Thomas’ tenacity already contributing to goals. Aaron Collins, the division’s Player of the Season last time out, is itching to get off the mark – he’s usually partnered by Jevani Brown or prolific threat John Marquis, with Ryan Loft waiting in the wings.
So far, so good for the Gas, with three strong sides yet to take anything from them. Defensive foundations were laid in pre-season – the team collected five clean sheets from seven, which included a 0-9 drubbing of Melksham Town and dispatching Brentford B and Swansea City away from home. 1-1 draws against promotion hopefuls Portsmouth and Barnsley were creditable, as was a last-gasp 1-2 victory away at Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night. In spite of defeat, they gave a great account of themselves at Championship high-flyers Ipswich Town in the Carabao Cup too. They’ll be optimistic of extending their unbeaten run to four league games on Saturday.
Cambridge United: LWLWL
Bristol Rovers: WDLDW
The U’s slipped to their first defeat of the campaign last time out, as newcomers Stevenage picked up a valiant 1-2 triumph in CB5.
Going into the match full of confidence, the side started with real exuberance, but an early forced change shifted momentum as Boro drew first blood via Jordan Roberts. Slowly increasing the pressure, the hosts overpowered a dogged defence ten minutes from time as Elias Kachunga directed home from close range, but the killer sucker punch was dealt seconds later when Jamie Reid powered the decider from 25 yards.
Looking at the positives, the boss stated post-match that: “If tonight is a draw it’s probably the right result. It’s easy to say that when you’ve lost it but there was actually lots I quite liked about our performance and I think there’s lots we can learn as well.”
Early days, but plenty of heart to take from the U’s start – six points and five goals from three is a solid base to build from. In addition to that, should they record victory against Rovers, it’ll be their best start to a season since returning to the Football League.
Bonner on the Pirates: “There’s no question they’ll be fighting for play-off positions this year. I think they’ve built a good side, coached very well, they’ve got a very good way with the ball, very difficult to break down and counter-attack very well.”
Bonner on squad rotation: “The ability to make lots of changes isn’t there for us, so we’ll just need to try and freshen up the players over the next couple of days and hit a really good level.”
Bonner on transfers: “We’ll definitely look to add to the squad in those attacking areas and to cater for those players that are injured. We’re working hard on that now and we’ll see what we can do before the window shuts.”
The Head Coach confirmed on Thursday that they’ll need to check on Kachunga and Sullay Kaikai, who could make the squad. However, Jordan Cousins is likely to be out until October owing to a thigh problem and Saikou Janneh – who is awaiting the scan results from his hamstring injury – is expected to be out for “quite a long time.”
Cambridge United Wins: 7
Bristol Rovers Wins: 22
Down Memory Lane
In our previous meeting, United tasted defeat in their first piece of Abbey action of 2023 after the Gas secured a come-from-behind 1-2 victory.
Despite a really spirited introduction, where the U’s dominated proceedings and found themselves a goal to the good courtesy of Sam Smith’s well-executed header, they couldn’t go from strength to strength as the potent Pirates’ attack broke through in rapid fashion thanks to finishes from Josh Coburn and Sinclair, before holding out for the success.
In response to the defeat, Bonner acknowledged: “We were everything we wanted to be in the first 20 minutes and within a five-minute period the game turned around… We’re at home against a side that leaves two or three up the pitch constantly and tries to separate you from defence to midfield and we didn’t do our jobs properly – we get punished for it.”
A bogey side to say the least, Rovers have essentially won 60% of the 37 ties between the clubs and currently boast a five-game winning streak. The last United win occurred back in October 2004 when John Turner’s second half finish secured the 1-0 triumph for the League Two outfit.
Referee: John Busby
Assistant Referee: Graham Kane
Assistant Referee: Michael Webb
Fourth Official: Jamie O’Connor