Cambridge United are looking to claim an Emirates FA Cup scalp this weekend as they make the trip to Ewood Park to take on six-time champions Blackburn Rovers, with a place in the Fourth Round of the competition at stake…
The U’s have made the Third Round for the second time in the past three seasons after edging out Bracknell Town and comfortably dispatching Fleetwood Town en route, whilst the Championship outfit are eyeing up another mazy run.
How to Watch
Well over 1,600 U’s fans have already purchased their ticket for Saturday afternoon’s tie in Lancashire, which kicks off at 3pm.
With advanced sales having closed at 9am on Friday 5 January, fans wishing to still attend can buy from the Away Ticket Office at Ewood Park which opens at 1pm.
Please note, this match is not available on iFollow. UK fans who are unable to attend can tune into full live match commentary via BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
The game is being broadcasted live in 36 oversees territories - see below to find out where the match is being shown.
Formed in 1875, Rovers almost immediately established themselves as a giant of English football. A founder member of the Football League in 1888, they’ve hosted games at this weekend’s venue since 1890 and marked this by claiming an array of trophies. However, form scuppered post-war with a subsequent decline that - in contrast to two First Division titles – hover between the second and third tier. The early 1990s was special, with the side claiming the Premier League title in 1995 – one of seven clubs to win it – before gaining the composure to stabilise with 6th place finishes in 2003 and 2006 and succumbing to relegation six years later. A sole season in League One in 2017/18 is well behind Blackburn now, who will hope to record a third successive campaign in the top half of the table.
As for the FA Cup, they’ve certainly got history. Lifting the beloved trophy a total of six times, back in 1884, 1885, 1886, 1890, 1891 and 1928, they’ve reached eight finals altogether and only seven sides in England can say they’ve won it more. Repeating last season’s feat would go down well – as Jon Dahl Tomasson’s men reached the quarter-finals and cruelly lost out to Sheffield United. Prior to that, they crashed out at the first hurdle five years on the trot.
Under Dane Tomasson, who coached for Malmo FF prior, the side attack with directness and implement real control with their 4-2-3-1 shape. Swedish goalkeeper Leopold Wahlstedt should be retained, whilst a ball-playing defence of Callum Brittain, loanee James Hill, Hayden Carter and Harry Pickering may be chosen again – although the return of no-nonsense Scott Wharton will be welcomed. His younger brother, Adam, has been seen as a revelation and is showing excellent attributes at just 19, Norwegian Sondre Tronstad links up with him, who both supply for Brighton loanee Andrew Morton and Arnor Sigurdsson on the wings. Semir Telalovic, Niall Ennis and Dilan Markanday are vying for a place up top, but there’s no doubting star man Sammie Szmodics’ qualities – he’s the Championship’s top scorer after plundering 16 goals and causes havoc on a regular basis.
A streaky campaign started relatively steady for the Lancashire outfit, who impressively dispatched West Brom, Watford and Middlesbrough as they claimed a total of ten points from their opening six. A losing streak of four followed, with 12 goals conceded, but they responded with a three-game winning run as they trounced QPR 0-4 and gained slender wins over Cardiff City and Millwall. With their paws up, they then won three of their next five and had clearly developed a clinical edge, but a tricky eight-match run has seen them conjure the sole victory and six fair defeats. A share of the spoils in their first encounter of 2024 at home to Rotherham United may have helped Rovers, who occupy 17th in the Championship table, with just five points separating them from 8th.
Blackburn Rovers: LLLLD
Cambridge United: DWWLL
The U’s who utilise their FA Cup tie as an opportunity for a free hit to express themselves and hopefully cause a shock prevent three successive defeats, after Leyton Orient gained a professional 0-2 triumph at the Cledara Abbey at the start of the week.
Following a close-fought first half, the O’s came out of the blocks firing by racing into a two-goal lead moments after the break thanks to Jordan Brown’s and Dan Agyei’s close-range finishes. The hosts were unable to muster a response and score for a sixth consecutive game, as the winning run at CB5 was terminated.
Reflecting on the defeat, Neil Harris admitted: “I’m frustrated, disappointed, angry, all those emotions after losing a game of football at home… I’m not used to my teams being outcompeted at times. I don’t like it, I won’t accept it.”
Determined to bounce back, United of course have pedigree at this stage of the competition – the cup may prove to be their catalyst as they head into an integral month on and off the pitch.
Harris on Blackburn: “A great opportunity for us as a football club to go and enjoy it against a team from the league above. The group’s done really well to get to the Third Round, there’s good prize money… we’ll hope to express ourselves as the underdog and we look forward to that challenge.”
Harris on transfer activity: “We’re full throttle, 100 miles an hour. I cannot praise Paul Barry, the board and Ben Strang enough for the support they’ve given and the attitude we’re adopting to try and get players in.”
The U’s Head Coach revealed an extensive injury update during his pre-match presser, confirming that Glenn McConnell and Brandon Haunstrup are ruled out for the next three months owing to ankle ligament injuries. George Thomas will miss the match after being forced off early last time out, whilst Harrison Dunk could return to full training in a couple of weeks and Elias Kachunga may play a part next weekend.
Blackburn Rovers Wins: 10
Cambridge United Wins: 4
Down Memory Lane
Funnily enough, it’s 31 years to the day since the sides did battle, with Blackburn securing a 3-2 victory in a 1993 League Cup quarter-final tie.
A spirited and resourceful performance saw the U’s almost progress, particularly after Alan Shearer was forced off with an injury on the half an hour mark and Gary Clayton capitalised with a 30-yarder. Rovers battled back nonetheless, with Mick Heathcote’s consolation proving to be just that. The side on that day: Vaughan, Fensome, Kimble, Raynor, Heathcote, O’Shea, Francis, Rowett, White, Clayton, Leadbitter.
Plying their trade in Division Two a year prior, both teams secured 2-1 wins on home soil, but during a range of meetings between 1973 and 1983, Blackburn won a total of eight matches, with both teams scoring on just one occasion.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
Assistant Referee: Shaun Hudson
Assistant Referee: Andrew Dallison
Fourth Official: Ross Joyce