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Match Previews

Match Preview: U's vs Blackpool

15 December 2023

Match Previews

Match Preview: U's vs Blackpool

15 December 2023

Neil Harris’ first match at the Abbey Stadium sees Cambridge United take on Sky Bet League One newcomers Blackpool...

The U’s broke their third tier losing streak last time out and will hope to make it three unbeaten in all competitions this weekend. By doing that, they’ll need to break down the Tangerines’ resolve, with their play-off prospects being accelerated of late thanks to three comfortable wins from four.

How to Watch

Tickets are selling at a rapid pace for Saturday afternoon’s encounter at CB5, which gets underway at 3pm.

With the Buzz Catering Main Stand and Newmarket Road End expected to reach its capacity, avoid the possibility of disappointment by buying your tickets online, over the phone on 01223 566500 (option 1) or by visiting the Abbey Stadium Ticket Office.

Unable to attend? Fans in the UK can listen to full match commentary with iFollow or on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, whilst overseas supporters can stream the game live with an iFollow Video Match Pass

Opposition Focus

Formed way back in 1887, the Tangerines have resided at Bloomfield Road since 1901, five years after their application to join the Football League was successful. The 1950s was undoubtedly the golden period for the Lancashire outfit, who were a force in English football after winning the FA Cup Final at the third attempt in 1953, even claiming a best-ever position three years later as they posted a 2nd place finish in the First Division – prompting Stanley Matthews as the inaugural recipient of the Ballon d’Or. Blackpool dropped out of the top tier both in 1967 and 1971 and descended down the divisions over the years, but famously embarked on a Championship play-off success in 2009/10, but despite a brave fight under Ian Holloway their stay in the Premier League lasted the solitary season. A turgid spell meant that the Seasiders were demoted to League Two six years later, but yet again they’ve built from adversity and will hope their spell here in the third tier is a short and sweet one following last season’s relegation.

Under the returning Neil Critchley - who certainly has pedigree in this division – Blackpool enjoy playing out from the back, showcasing organisation in the middle with a no-nonsense approach in the final third. Deploying a 3-5-2, Daniel Grimshaw is a dependable goalkeeper, he’s eyeing up his tenth clean of the season and has a commanding back three ahead of him in Matthew Pennington, Callum Connolly and James Husband to thank. Blessed with an array of talent in midfield, CJ Hamilton and Owen Dale are creative out wide, whereas Kenny Dougall and Oliver Norburn do the dirty work to allow young talents Sonny Carey and Brest loanee Karamoko Dembele to roam and cause havoc. A powerful pairing up top, Jake Beesley is important off the ball, whereas experienced talisman Jordan Rhodes has superb instinct – he’s bulged the onion bag 13 times already this campaign.

From a defensive perspective, it was the perfect opening four games for the Tangerines as they obtained four clean sheets, kick-started with a 2-0 triumph against Burton Albion but followed by a trio of stalemates before a 3-0 defeat at Lincoln City. Nine points from a possible 12 ended September in a positive manner, particularly after edging out Barnsley 0-1, but a blip to Derby County was backed up by a four-match unbeaten run. A streaky side, they then lost to promotion-hunting Peterborough United and Bolton Wanderers either side of a 3-3 thriller with Fleetwood Town, but from their last four encounters they have grabbed three wins, three clean sheets and plundered 12 goals to move them to 8th position. Bridging the gap to the play-offs and making a statement is their mantra for this weekend.

Form Guide

Cambridge United: LLLWD

Blackpool: WWLWW

United’s Approach

U’s fans will hope their recent outing was a sign of things to come as they showed an excellent example of commitment and desire to come from behind at the death to grab a 2-2 draw away at Charlton Athletic.

Following an imposing first half at the Valley, where United took the game to their opponents, they couldn’t capitalise as quickfire strikes from talisman Alfie May and Chem Campbell gave the Addicks a healthy lead. Refusing to give in, Gassan Ahadme breathed life with a header before dispatching a calm penalty deep into the afternoon to claim a share of the spoils.

Examining his first game at the helm, Harris stated: “I can’t praise the players, the football club and the fans highly enough. Just on that, the fans, the noise, the amount that were here – phenomenal… The camaraderie and togetherness between the terrace and the pitch is going to be so important for me as a head coach of this football club.”

The group hope that performance can be the marker to attack the fruitful Christmas period, improve on the current run of one league win in 14 and increase the current gap of five points from the bottom four. After fighting back from a two-goal deficit to grab a point for the first time since the draw against Ipswich Town in October 2021, there’s no doubting the character.

Head-to-Head

Cambridge United Wins: 3

Blackpool Wins: 4

Draws: 4

Down Memory Lane

The sides have met on 11 different occasions throughout their history, which stretches back to August 1993, where United went on a run of three successive 3-2 triumphs. However, an eight-game winless streak followed, with the Tangerines hoping to extend their unbeaten run to nine matches.

Included in that run is the LDV Vans Trophy Final of 2002, where the U’s succumbed to a 4-1 defeat at the Millennium Stadium in front of 20,287. A Paul Wanless penalty originally cancelled out John Murphy’s early strike, but a dominant second half ensured it was not to be for John Taylor’s men, who on the day lined up with: Perez, Tann, Duncan, Angus, Murray, Tudor, Guttridge, Ashbee, Wanless, Kitson, Youngs.

Most recently, we met during the 2016/17 League Two season and claimed a point apiece with a 1-1 tie in Lancashire thanks to Luke Berry’s free-kick and Will Norris’ penalty save, before battling to a goalless draw in the January reverse. Blackpool went on to gain promotion after defeating Exeter City at Wembley in the play-off final, whereas the U’s took the fight to the final day but ultimately had to settle for 11th.

Officials

Referee: Charles Breakspear

Assistant Referee: Leigh Crowhurst

Assistant Referee: Jack Forder

Fourth Official: Hugh Gilroy


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