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Kick off 19:45 (UK)

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22 December 2023 Venue Cledara Abbey Stadium Attendance

Kick off 19:45 (UK)

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English Football League - League One

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Match Previews

Match Preview: Cambridge United vs Exeter City

21 December 2023

Cambridge United step into a busy Christmas schedule in Sky Bet League One with a Friday night clash under the Abbey Stadium lights against Exeter City…

The U’s will be hoping to consolidate their high spirits by extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to four games, whereas the Grecians – winless in 12 league matches - are desperate to generate some momentum and take a leaf out of the hosts’ book by rekindling their goalscoring touch.

How to Watch

Tickets for Friday night’s encounter – which gets underway at 7:45pm – are still available to be purchased either online at, over the phone on 01223 566500 (option 1) or by visiting the Abbey Stadium Ticket Office.

The festive fixture will be played out in front of a bumper home crowd, with the Newmarket Road End and Intelligent Membranes South Habbin both sold out and the Buzz Catering Main Stand due to sell out ahead of kick-off. 

If you can't make it to the game, supporters in the UK and abroad can stream the game live on iFollow. A Match Pass costs £10 and can be purchased by clicking here.

Opposition Focus

Starting out in 1901 as St Sidwell’s United, our visitors have plied their trade at St James Park ever since – first playing host to Football League action in 1920 after an invitation to join. A stable outfit fluctuating between the Third and Fourth Division throughout the decades, the Grecians found themselves in the Conference Premier at the start of the millennium, but back-to-back promotions between 2008 and 2009 saw them rise to the third tier. Most recently, they were very much part of the League Two furniture, but their 10th attempt paid dividends as Matt Taylor put things right in the play-offs in 2021/22. Last time out, a respectable ranking of 14th saw them comfortably survive the drop – matching that is the task now for this crop.

At the helm is 41-year-old former Celtic and Wigan Athletic defender Gary Caldwell - who has only recently started cutting his teeth as a manager - but has grown to know the club well since his October 2022 appointment. He tinkers with his formation on a frequent basis, but could stick with the compact 4-5-1. Finnish goalkeeper Viljami Sinisalo, on loan from Aston Villa, has tallied up six clean sheets from 19 starts, with an extremely settled back four of Zak Jules, Alex Hartridge, Cheick Diabate and favourite Pierce Sweeney ahead of him. Youngster Ryan Trevitt is the creative man in the middle, whereas former Hayes & Yeading United man Reece Cole will hope to retain his place alongside him. Previously a young U before departing for Chelsea, Dion Rankine is a silky option on the right wing, with summer signing Ilmari Niskanen likely to be on the other flank. Attacking threat Jack Aitchison is usually a nailed starter, but his suspension paves the way for the experienced Yanic Wildschut or Sonny Cox to make their mark.

Early form indicated another campaign of consolidation for City, who in their opening six games grabbed four wins – notably an opening day 0-3 success at Wycombe Wanderers and a last-gasp 2-1 win vs Reading – with a stalemate against Blackpool and a slender defeat to runaway side Portsmouth, which at the time put them in pole position. A devastating late loss to Leyton Orient was backed up by a 1-0 victory against Cheltenham Town at St James Park, but a heavy defeat to Oxford United was the beginning of a winless rut which is currently at 12 games. Three points and goals from a possible 36 means Caldwell and co are languishing in 20th, but boast a three-point gap from the drop and will hope to enter Christmas in contention to climb.

Form Guide

Cambridge United: LLWDW

Exeter City: WLDLD

United’s Approach

The U’s breathed life into their campaign and look to have turned a corner after completing a morale-boosting 2-1 comeback success over play-off contenders Blackpool at CB5 last time out.

An early spell of pressure from the Tangerines saw them draw first blood through marksman Jordan Rhodes’ header, but the hosts showed excellent desire to turn the game on its head courtesy of Elias Kachunga’s finish and Gassan Ahadme’s penalty, before navigating a late dismissal well to return to winning ways.

After securing his first win at the helm and terminating a five-match streak without a win, Neil Harris stated: “Credit goes to the players. I must praise the players, because it’s not always just about shape, it’s about discipline, desire, and ultimately it’s about personality and character to get three points and we showed that today.”

It put to an end an alarming run of just one win in 14 games, with the response from the defeat to Lincoln City under a month ago an impeccable one. A first victory since late October – and their first comeback triumph since Boxing Day 2022 – means a corner could very well have been turned, with the U’s also finding their goalscoring touch after plummeting eight from their previous three games.


Cambridge United Wins: 31

Exeter City Wins: 26

Draws: 13

Down Memory Lane

It was a tricky day out in Devon when the sides pitted their wits last time out, as a February encounter saw United fall to a comprehensive 2-0 defeat.

A well-taken header from Archie Collins in the first half gave the Grecians the momentum to kick on after the break, which they did through Kevin McDonald – whose long-range strike consigned the visitors to successive League One defeats.

Ranging back to 1970, we’ve met a total of 70 times, with United slightly edging the results. Recent from reads back-to-back home triumphs against Exeter, with their only three wins from their previous 14 all coming at CB5. A repeat of the 4-0 dismantling in October 2019 would certainly go down well, where a breath-taking display saw Luke Hannant, Jack Roles, George Taft and Andrew Dallas all get on the scoresheet.


Referee: Darren Drysdale

Assistant Referee: Andrew Aylott

Assistant Referee: Alan Cresswell

Fourth Official: Marc Wilson

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Match Reports

Report: Cambridge United 2-0 Exeter City

22 December 2023

Cambridge United secured back-to-back victories at the Abbey Stadium in Sky Bet League One as they registered a well-deserved 2-0 win against Exeter City…

The U’s came out of the blocks firing and took an early lead through the in-form Gassan Ahadme, who found the back of the net for the fourth consecutive game after slotting home from the spot. Remaining in the ascendency throughout, they secured the points late on thanks to Elias Kachunga’s clinical finish, before preserving their ninth clean sheet of the campaign.

Heading into the festive fixture, United were hoping to consolidate their high spirits by extending their unbeaten run to four games, whereas the Grecians – winless in 12 league matches - were desperate to generate some momentum and take a leaf out of the hosts’ book by rekindling their goalscoring touch.

In response to the victory against Blackpool six days prior, Neil Harris felt there was no need to tinker with a winning formula – as the Head Coach named one enforced change as the suspended Paul Digby made way for George Thomas. Elsewhere, James Holden, Ryan Bennett and Glenn McConnell all returned to the matchday squad as they made the bench.

A high tempo start saw the U’s peg their opponents back and cause a scare when Danny Andrew sent a delivery towards Ahadme in the six-yard box, which cued cries of handball but the referee signaled for a foul.

Five minutes later, former Academy prospect Dion Rankine won the ball in the middle of the park and ventured on a blistering run down the right, before thundering a venomous shot at Jack Stevens, who impeccably stopped it at his near post which allowed his defenders to clear up.

Probing for the opener, Andrew was enjoying the freedom in the final third and this time squared to Sullay Kaikai, who touched down the super ball, cut inside and unleashed a curler, but it landed inches wide of Viljami Sinisalo’s right post.

With 15 minutes on the clock, United were handed the opportunity to break the deadlock after George Thomas’ attempt from outside of the area struck the hand of Alex Hartridge. It was that man Ahadme who stepped up, exquisitely placing it into the corner before wheeling away to celebrate his sixth goal from six.

Showing no signs of letting off and very much in the ascendency, winger Kaikai was unlucky not to put his name in the scoresheet on two quickfire occasions on the 20th minute, when a half volley sliced off target before a well-taken header flew just over the crossbar.

As we approached the interval, the Grecians calmed things down, started to grow in confidence and enjoyed their share of the ball, but ultimately it suited the hosts, who were the more inventive in possession and maintained that energy about them.

Persisting to extend their lead, a neat corner from Thomas during additional time presented Jubril Okedina – capping his 100th appearance in amber – with the chance to extend the advantage, but his two attempts to pass a sea of men were blocked.

Early signs indicated that United would enjoy an equally lively second half, as James Brophy picked out a teasing cross which was missed by Sinisalo and met by the head of a leaping Ahadme, but he couldn’t get the angle as it went wide.

Gary Caldwell’s men were aggrieved not to have levelled matters on the 52nd minute when Ilmari Niskanen teed up Yanic Wildschut inside the area, who pulled the trigger but an important deflection cut down the speed as it trickled past Stevens’ post.

Apart from that, it was a really good spell of pressure for the U’s, who in truth were relentless. Brophy almost opened his account for the season moments later when Kaikai played in his wing partner, who from close range struck towards goal but it was straight at a firm Sinisalo.

A double attacking switch from the Devon side gave them some impetus, which they almost capitalised on in the 69th minute after Sonny Cox’ flick required Stevens to rush out and claim the ball.

The U’s introduced Adam May and Jack Lankester to the fold shortly after, who were required to dig in defensively, with Reece Cole testing his luck with a speculative 25-yarder on 82, which Stevens punched clear.

Lankester played a pivotal part in securing the victory for Harris’ men, after the substitute marauded down the right after being released by Thomas, before spinning his man and shooting, which was cleared off the line but fell kindly to Kachunga, who showed great initiative to slot home and ensure the continuation of the positive form heading into Christmas.

Up next, there’s some festive football on Boxing Day (26th December) as the U’s make the journey to Oxford United – be sure to get behind the boys.


Cambridge United: Stevens, L. Bennett, Okedina, Morrison, Andrew, Cousins, Thomas, Kaikai (May, 72’), Kachunga, Brophy (R. Bennett, 88’), Ahadme (Lankester, 72’)

Subs Not Used: Holden, Haunstrup, Gordon, McConnell

Goalscorers: Ahadme (15’), Kachunga (83’)



Exeter City: Sinisalo, Rankine (Cox, 63’), Sweeney, Diabate, Hartridge, Niskanen, Kite, Trevitt (Caroll, 13’), Cole, Taylor (Scott, 63’), Wildschut

Subs Not Used: MacDonald, Aimson, Jules, Richards


Bookings: Carroll, Cole


Referee: Darren Drysdale

Attendance: 6157 (298 away fans)

Man of the Match: Andrew

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