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Club News

Match Preview: U's vs Oxford United

3 August 2023

Club News

Match Preview: U's vs Oxford United

3 August 2023

The Abbey Stadium hosts the U's curtain raiser for the Sky Bet League One 2023/24 campaign on Saturday afternoon as Cambridge United welcome Liam Manning’s Oxford United...

The U’s introduce their third campaign back in the third tier on home soil once again and, after a summer of change, Mark Bonner’s men are hungry for a strong start in their quest to improve on last season’s overall ranking of 20th position.

How to Watch

The clash in CB5, which kicks off at 3pm, is set to be fought in front of a bumper crowd. Following the sale of over 3,000 season tickets, improving on 2022/23’s exceptional average attendance of 6,200 is the new aim.

As a result, demand is high and tickets are scarce, with the Newmarket Road End, Main Stand and North Habbin now sold out, sales have recently opened for the South Habbin terrace – so be quick in securing your place.

For further updates regarding sales, make sure you keep your notifications on for the Ticket Office Twitter Account.

Opposition Focus

Founded in 1893, originally as Headington FC/United, the U's became professional in 1949 and reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup in 1964, just two years after joining the Football League. Peaking in the mid-1980s, the club enjoyed a brief spell in the top tier of English football and claimed the League Cup in 1986, but have since had to work their way up from the Conference at the fourth attempt and League Two at the sixth. Flirting with promotion on occasions, a horror 17-match winless run heading into late April meant the drop was possible, but respected boss Manning steered the ship at the death to keep the group afloat. With strong preparations behind them, optimism is in the air - the only way appears to be up.

Thanks to some shrewd acquisitions, and under the guidance of someone who’s recently flirted near the upper echelons of the league, Oxford fans can rightfully believe that a return to the top half is more than possible. A collaborative approach has seen Brighton youngster James Beadle embedded between the sticks, with smart centre-back Jordan Thorniley ahead of him. Adding to an already-strong midfield, which already contains enforcer Marcus McGuane and the dynamic Cameron Brannagan, is Josh McEachran, whereas former Cardiff City man Mark Harris is at a great age to improve and could suit the drop down the division. Last but not least, adding the creative Ruben Rodrigues to the attacking department is a statement of intent, his robust nature and ability to pick out pinpoint passes will help promising youngsters Tyler Goodrham and Gatlin O’Donkor thrive.

Although it’s wise to never read too much into pre-season, dismantling a Championship outfit in Queens Park Rangers 5-0 last weekend is certainly enough to raise eyebrows. Oozing class with their build-up play, it was the perfect final preparations from a schedule which had seen them lose 4-1 to Bristol City, but overcome Swansea City and Southampton U21s before that. Write the U’s off at your peril.

Form Guide

Cambridge United: DWWWL

Oxford United: WDWLW

United’s Approach

Keen to continue the momentum built up during their applaudable survival attempt in 2022/23, United enter a new era determined to kick on and establish themselves as a no-nonsense outfit in the division.

It’s been a real summer of change, with key figures of the club – even dating back from the Conference era - leaving for pastures new as United carve  a new identity by recruiting further experience. With six through the door so far, business is ticking along well. Familiar face Jack Stevens was a key figure in Oxford’s play-off campaign in 2021, full-back Danny Andrew can spearhead attacks and is accomplished defensively, meanwhile central midfielder Jordan Cousins is seen by many as a real coup – his know-how of succeeding at this level and beyond is vital. Elsewhere, Gassan Ahadme is a livewire and, at just 22, has already proven he belongs in step three. Returning winger Sullay Kaikai blesses the flanks with pace and directness and will hope to supply former Premier League and Bundesliga forward Elias Kachunga, whose ability to bring others into play will add a great dimension.

Bedding into the accustomed 4-2-3-1 formation and getting minutes into the tank for a large majority, planning for 2023/24 has been strong, with the side in high spirits and focused on the task ahead. Although defeat at Barnet concluded the schedule, sharing the spoils with Cardiff City and then registering wins against St Albans City, Ipswich Town and Gillingham have demonstrated enough hunger and impetus to leave fans optimistic of chalking the points early on.

Quick Quotes

Bonner on preparations: “There’s a lovely energy around the place, everyone’s fresh and ready to go… We’ve got a busy first month, that’s often the way, but I think everybody can’t wait to get back to the Abbey in what will be a really full stadium and a brilliant atmosphere, as is always the case on day one.”

Bonner on his squad: “We’ve got the core of a team that’s been with us in the past, but there’s a lot of change there - that’s an exciting scenario… Although it’s a fourth season for me, this feels like a new start and fresh team, and we’re really enjoying the work that we’re doing together already.”

Bonner on expectations: “We want to see if we can be as competitive as we can in the league. It’s very difficult to make so many predictions and understand maybe what the league will look like – it’s probably double figures of games before you can get any pattern or structure to the season.”

Team News

In regards to team news, the boss stated that he has a fully fit squad at his disposal, apart from Brandon Haunstrup - who suffered a reoccurrence of a calf injury - and Adam May, who is back on the grass following the rupturing of his ACL, with plans for a mid-September return.


Cambridge United Wins: 12

Oxford United Wins: 14

Draws: 14

Down Memory Lane

Enriched in history, the cities have done battle on numerous occasions over the years – in a range of divisions that have conjured up a variety of results. A familiar face, the fellow U’s are the opening day opponents at the same venue for the second time in three seasons, with that encounter finishing 1-1 after Joe Ironside’s second-half penalty cancelled out Steve Seddon’s lashed opener.

The last time we met, Bonner’s boys picked up a morale-boosting – and ultimately invaluable – 1-0 success in February after Lloyd Jones’ early header handed the side the impetus to dominate and frustrate.

Speaking after the whistle on that afternoon, the head coach said: “That’s how we’ve got to be, that’s the level we’ve got to hit as many times as possible to give us the best chance of winning.

“Whatever happens, and however many games we win between now and the end of the season, if that’s the level I think people will accept that from us all the time.”

The overall record between the sides makes for pleasant reading for the hosts – it’s been almost 17 years since Oxford returned home from Cambridgeshire with a victory to their name. In that time, the U’s have picked up an eye-catching 5-1 thrashing in front of the Sky Sports cameras in October 2014 and flexed their youth talents with a 4-1 success in the 2021/22 edition of the Papa John’s Trophy.


Referee: Sunny Singh Gill

Assistant Referee: Marc Wilson

Assistant Referee: Andy Bennett

Fourth Official: Damith Bandara

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