Action at the Cledara Abbey Stadium continues this weekend as Cambridge United’s latest Sky Bet League One encounter sees them take on relegation-battling Cheltenham Town…
Both sides have gained an extra bit of recovery after their midweek matches fell victim to weather – but Neil Harris’ men won’t let that affect their strong form of four matches unbeaten and one home defeat from six.
Whilst the U’s will look to extend their advantage of five points from the bottom four, the Robins must close the gap and break their current rut of three successive defeats.
How to Watch
A close-to-capacity home crowd looks to be on the cards for Saturday’s matchup in CB5, which gets underway at 3pm.
Only single tickets remain in the Buzz Catering Main Stand, whilst demand is also extremely high for the Newmarket Road and South Stand – which is open to home fans as part of the Club's Youth Development Matchday.
The majority of the remaining tickets are in the Intelligent Membranes North Habbin, but be sure to secure your place well in advance either online at cufctickets.com, over the phone by calling 01223 566500 (option 1) or by visiting the Ticket Office ahead of kick-off.
Formed in 1887, our visitors spent much of their early history competing in local football circles before they began a 50-year spell in the Southern League from 1935. Thanks to their domination in the mid-1980s, the side gained promotion to the Football League, but continued to fluctuate. That was until 1997, where the Robins embarked on a successful five-year era under Steve Cotterill - winning the FA Trophy, a first promotion to the Football League in 1998 and then gaining access to the third tier just three seasons later with play-off success. In recent years, Cheltenham have enjoyed real progression, going from fourth tier mediocrity to a spellbinding championship-winning campaign, giving them the confidence to comfortably avoid the drop in the previous two seasons. Their third go at it has proven to be tricky, with a major scrap for survival ahead of them.
Nonetheless, Darrell Clarke has been a sound acquisition, with form improving since his September arrival. Lining up with a compact 3-4-1-2 formation, last season’s loan hero Luke Southwood is now a permanent figure protecting the net, he has a core defence of veteran Curtis Davies and Jack Shepherd ahead of him, with the long-serving Sean Long and Will Ferry flying up and down the wide areas. Elliot Bonds, who scored a stunner in last season’s fixture, orchestrates from the middle and is joined by the accomplished Tom Pett and further forward Liam Sercombe – who has chipped in with seven league strikes. Fresh from a debut goal, Matt Taylor will be itching for a start ahead of record signing Aidan Keena or George Lloyd, with January signing Joe Nuttall also waiting in the wings. A rapid impact is needed.
The Robins have been forced to play catch up ever since the introduction of the season. In their opening 11 matches, they picked up just the solitary point – coming away at Portsmouth – and in that time failed to find the back of the net. Despite fearing the worst, a 1-1 draw against Derby County proved to be the catalyst that changed their fortunes as they recorded a first win of the campaign after, which was against the U’s in October’s meeting. This kick-started a run of one defeat from six, before they entered the Christmas period with three victories from five. Most recently, they’ve lost four from their previous five, with their only success of 2024 being a scalp from Pompey. Languishing in 23rd, a seven-point gap is active with two precious games in hand – it’s an achievable task, but consistency is needed for Clarke and co. The double over the U’s would be an excellent start.
Cambridge United: LWDDW
Cheltenham Town: LWLLL
It’s as you were again for the U’s, who had their midweek fixture against high-flying Bolton Wanderers abandoned due to torrential weather in Cambridgeshire. As a result, the schedule is a condensed one, with several games in hand over their third tier rivals.
Nonetheless, United will remain buoyed and fancy their chances of extending their unbeaten streak as they come into the tie off the back of a clinical 1-2 comeback success against Shrewsbury Town.
Although they lost their streak without conceding early on in the encounter through Daniel Udoh’s close-range finish, Lyle Taylor responded with two instinctive finishes to conclude two excellent counters to secure their first three points away from home since August.
Cutting a jubilant figure, Harris stated post-match: “It’s been a long time coming. I can’t praise the players enough – to come from behind in any game is difficult but the way we did it was very impressive. Shrewsbury had a lot of the possession; it was in the wrong areas for me. We dictated where they had the ball, and we looked a threat and could have scored more goals.”
Onto 35 points for the campaign - something which took them until 7th April to claim last season – means progress is there for all to see. Unbeaten in four for the first time in 2023/24, with impressive form of one defeat from six at the Abbey behind them, they’re enjoying their most fruitful spell and there would be no better way to head off for a week of travelling than with three valuable points.
Cambridge United Wins: 7
Cheltenham Town Wins: 9
Down Memory Lane
On what was a memorable day for Cheltenham during our last meeting was certainly one to forget for Cambridge, as they were second best on an afternoon where the Robins picked up the three points courtesy of Liam Sercombe’s audacious early effort.
In fact, this weekend’s visitors have become somewhat of a bogey side for the U’s in recent years, with the 0-5 thumping in December 2021 the only win from the previous ten attempts. Although slender, it’s now three victories on the bounce for the Gloucestershire outfit.
The last recorded triumph at the Abbey occurred back in April 2018 as the hosts came through an epic tussle to claim a 4-3 thriller. Despite going behind twice, United showed spirit and desire to strike through Greg Taylor, George Maris and Jevani Brown, before Barry Corr hopped off the bench in the latter stages to put their opponents to bed.
Referee: Ben Atkinson
Assistant Referee: Hugh Gilroy
Assistant Referee: Gareth Viccars
Fourth Official: Damith Bandara