Cambridge United look to kick-start the Neil Harris era with a Sky Bet League One victory this weekend as they do battle with Charlton Athletic at the Valley…
The U’s will hope to latch onto some new-found momentum by cancelling out their losing streak in the league and head into the Christmas period with back-to-back wins in their locker. As for the Addicks, their individual quality has helped them go four unbeaten in the league, with the chance of stretching their impressive home form at stake.
How to Watch
Over 1,300 U’s fans have already secured their place for Saturday’s encounter in the capital, which gets underway at 3pm. Tickets are available online from cufctickets.com or on the day with an increase of £3.
Following their formation in 1905, a turbulent two years between 1919 and 1921 saw the Addicks move into their current home, turn professional and gain election into the Football League, where they’ve since stayed for over a century. A meteoric rise culminated in their highest ever finish in 1937, where they soared to second in the First Division before maintaining the remarkable era - which included an FA Cup win in 1947. The steady outfit turned into a fluctuating one throughout the 1970s and early 80s and were on the brink of extinction at one point, but the glory days returned at the start of the millennium when Alan Curbishley inspired them to seven successive Premier League campaigns. Yet to return since 2007, Charlton have spent nine of the previous 16 years as a third tier outfit and are determined to improve on steady recent rankings of 13th and 10th by pushing for a promotion tilt.
Operating with either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 under the tutelage of determined Michael Appleton, the boss has Ashley Maynard-Brewer to depend upon between the sticks, with stalwart and former U Lloyd Jones partnering Michael Hector or 21-year-old Lucas Ness at the centre of defence. Tayo Edun and exciting youngster Nathan Asiimwe provide the cover and look to generate attacks from the flanks, with the integral George Dobson as the beating heart and pulling the strings alongside Scott Fraser or Conor McGrandles. In the attacking ranks, the long-term injury blow to prodigy Miles Leaburn will be a miss, but wingers Tyreece Campbell and Corey Blackett-Taylor are exciting watches and have combined well with ruthless star man Alfie May, who is the division’s leading goalscorer with 14.
Hitting the ground running, Charlton secured an opening day 1-0 victory against newcomers Leyton Orient, but stuttered to four consecutive defeats as Peterborough United, Bristol Rovers, Port Vale and Oxford United bettered them by a one-goal advantage. Steam was immediately built up once Appleton took the reins – a seven-match unbeaten run saw them plunder four past Exeter City and Reading as they obtained 15 points from a possible 21. Back-to-back defeats against Lincoln City and Bolton Wanderers in late October didn’t damper spirits too much and in turn proved the start of a streak which they hope will be extended to five on Saturday. Comfortably lodged in 10th, it’s been a steady season but a seven-point gap from the top six must be diminished during the Christmas period.
Charlton Athletic: WDWLL
Cambridge United: WLLLW
The U’s are rightfully buoyed and head into Saturday full of belief and determination after a clinical Cup outing last weekend saw them steamroll Fleetwood Town 4-0 to book a tie against Blackburn Rovers in the Third Round of the FA Cup.
Coming out of the blocks firing, a scintillating opening 12 minutes saw the U’s race into a three-goal lead thanks to Danny Andrew’s free-kick and strikes from Elias Kachunga and Fejiri Okenabirhie. The hosts remained fluid throughout the encounter and wrapped up the proceedings late on through Gassan Ahadme to secure their place in the famous velvet bag.
Reflecting on a dominant display, Assistant Head Coach Barry Corr lauded: “I thought we came out with unbelievable intensity, and it didn’t feel like it for me, but it was probably done after 15 minutes… The levels that they got to were really good, so it was really pleasing.”
The win affirms that the U’s have been somewhat of a cup team of late, with three successive league defeats sandwiched in between comfortable FA Cup and EFL Trophy wins. That form now needs to be translated to the league, with a streak of one win in 13 needing to be terminated whilst they have a strong gap from the bottom four, which currently reads at four points.
Harris on joining the U’s, “I am super excited and really pleased to be here. It’s a brilliant project in motion here and I just want to come and add some value to that… I have seen the team evolve over the past four or five years and have always followed the results from my connections with the club from my younger days. I have always had an affinity with Cambridge.”
Harris on his philosophy, “I want us to be a Cambridge United side that people fear playing against. I want to win games of football and address recent results as quickly as I can. It’s certainly not revolution, it’s about evolution and supporting the players.”
Charlton Athletic Wins: 8
Cambridge United Wins: 8
Down Memory Lane
In the last clash between the sides back in March, Charlton claimed maximum points as they fought their way to a 1-2 victory.
A rapid start from the Addicks saw them race into a two-goal lead within 20 minutes thanks to instinctive finishes from Miles Leaburn and Jesurun Rak-Sakyi. A change in system to the familiar 4-2-3-1 – which ultimately proved to be the turning point in United’s fortunes ahead of their great escape – helped reignite United’s spirits after the break, but Lloyd Jones’ poke home proved to be just a consolation.
The sides shared a 1-1 draw at this weekend’s venue last August when Harvey Knibbs cancelled out Scott Fraser’s opener, with the U’s holding firm despite being under the cosh throughout the whole encounter. All in all, it’s currently six games without a win against Charlton, with their last coming back in February 1992 when 6,563 saw Tony Dennis score the only goal at the Abbey in a Division One tie. The XI that day was: Sheffield, Fensome, Kimble, Dennis, O’Shea, Daish, Heaney, Leadbitter, Dublin, Claridge, Taylor.
Referee: Thomas Kirk
Assistant Referee: Daniel Cook
Assistant Referee: Joseph Stokes
Fourth Official: Damith Bandara