Cambridge United enter the quick-fire Easter fixtures quietly optimistic as Fleetwood Town make the long journey down to the Abbey Stadium for a significant Sky Bet League One encounter...
Good Friday offers Mark Bonner’s buoyed men with the opportunity to breathe further life into their survival pursuit as they stake to claim back-to-back wins for the first time since September and bridge the five-point gap from safety.
How to Watch
Friday afternoon’s clash kicks off at 3pm with tickets available for fans to buy online at cufctickets.com. Your invaluable support means that, once again, tickets are selling at a rapid pace, with seats in the Main Stand and Newmarket Road End extremely limited.
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From the tenth tier of the English League system to an established League One outfit, a remarkable and rapid rise saw Town secure six promotions to take them to the heady heights, where they’ve since even reached the play-offs on two separate occasions. Under the tutelage of the no-nonsense Scott Brown - who is understandably hungry for success after racking up 23 major honours in his playing career – the side from Lancashire have the right man to kick on. Arriving with built-up steam, our visitors are optimistic about the future and look destined to build on previous rankings of 15th and 20th.
A rocky start saw newcomers Port Vale seal the points on the opening day, but dogged Town went unbeaten in their next eight matches. Although six of those were close-fought draws, they picked up impressive wins against Plymouth Argyle and Peterborough United. From here, they won one of their next six but flipped the script by losing the solitary time in the following half a dozen. From post-Christmas, the Lancashire outfit lost six from seven games – a 0-2 defeat to Portsmouth in late January was one of just two occasions this season where they’ve lost by more than one goal. February was concluded with a staggering 13 points from five, which included four successive clean sheets, before they bowed out of the Emirates FA Cup at a record-breaking Fifth Round stage. Most recently, back-to-back defeats away at Cheltenham Town and Wycombe Wanderers has been terminated by a four-game unbeaten streak, which includes a famous 0-2 win at Derby County. Sitting comfortably in 13th, the Cods are a well-oiled machine and focused on climbing.
Thanks to productive transfer windows, which has seen Brown pluck up-and-coming talents from the Republic of Ireland owing to a strong relationship, as well as vastly experienced forwards, the team in red aim to conclude the season on the front foot. Thanks to a versatile group, the ability to switch between a 5-3-2 or a 4-2-3-1 means Fleetwood can suit their approach to frustrate their opponents. Mainstay Jay Lynch has started every single league match this season, keeping 11 clean sheets, and is usually joined by the consistent Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu and fellow centre-back Harrison Holgate. Despite operating as a full-back, Shaun Rooney has reached double digits for goal involvements already, with Josh Vela doing the dirty work and ensuring the side ticks in the middle of the park – he could be partnered by Everton loanee Lewis Warrington. In the attacking ranks, Carlos Mendes Gomes is an exciting front-footed forward with pace to burn, whilst Jack Marriott and Jayden Stockley know their way around this division and in front of goal.
Cambridge United: LDLLW
Fleetwood Town: LDWWD
United head into the Easter schedule with their tails up and heads held high after breathing life into their survival pursuit courtesy of a 0-2 success at Port Vale last weekend.
An industrious and confident attacking display was rewarded in the opening stages of the second half when quickfire strikes from Sam Smith and Lloyd Jones gave the group the impetus to see out a first win and clean sheet since mid-February in imposing fashion.
Hoping the three points garners much-needed belief to kick on, Bonner stated: “To be honest if it wasn’t the perfect performance we wouldn’t have given two hoots. We needed to win and we should take some confidence from winning a game we had to because we’re going to have to do that again between now and the end of the season.”
From first viewing, the switch back to a 4-2-3-1 has boosted the U’s attacking threat and bite, with the relatively new-look back four from the last time it was implemented remaining firm and equally threatening on set-pieces. The only side in the bottom half to win, the gap is now reduced to five points for the team in 23rd - who understand that securing back-to-back wins would edge them straight into the equation.
Hopeful that this is the start of an adventurous culmination to 2022/23, you can hear all that Bonner had to say ahead of Friday, as well as the latest team news, in his pre-match presser, which is available on the club’s YouTube channel.
Cambridge United Wins: 2
Fleetwood Town Wins: 3
Down Memory Lane
With their last meeting just over a month ago, vengeance is fresh in the minds of the U’s after they left Highbury Stadium empty-handed following drama at the death.
Despite crafting arguably their most impressive final-third performance since the turn of the year, they were forced to rue their well-worked missed opportunities as Rooney’s late close-range header separated the sides.
Dejected by the events on that February evening, Bonner stated: “I’m really frustrated and gutted for the players because I thought they gave everything to take something. I’m gutted for the supporters who were brilliant, but they sang us off the pitch. They know we were good tonight.”
In the eight previous meetings between the clubs, the U’s have lost just once at the Abbey, that coming in April 2011 as the Cods edged out a slender 0-1 success. The most recent victory was secured in November 2014 as Kwesi Appiah’s late strike handed the men in black and amber a surprise FA Cup First Round win. The team that day: Dunn, Tait, Nelson, Coulson, Taylor, Hughes, Champion, Naylor, Dunk, Elliott, Appiah.
Referee: Lee Swabey
Assistant Referee: Ollie Williams
Assistant Referee: Oliver Bickle
Fourth Official: Gareth Viccars