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Club News

Match Preview: Stevenage vs U's

28 December 2023

Club News

Match Preview: Stevenage vs U's

28 December 2023

Cambridge United are out to secure an instant return to winning ways in Sky Bet League One by closing out 2023 with some points against high-flying Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium…

With one defeat in five behind them, the U’s will look to put on a show and impose themselves against Steve Evans’ tricky outfit, who are play-off contenders thanks to a run of 15 games that has seen them lose on just one occasion.

How to Watch

United will be playing in-front of a sold-out away end during Friday evening’s tie in Hertfordshire, which gets underway at 7:45pm. A full allocation of 1,386 tickets were snapped up in rapid time, therefore fans are advised not to travel without a match ticket.

Fans in the UK or abroad who are unable to attend can ensure that they don’t miss a kick of the action by purchasing an iFollow Match Pass – passes cost £10 and can be purchased by clicking here.

Opposition Focus

Founded in 1976 following the demise of the town’s former club, Stevenage began as a United Counties League club but progress was sky-rocketed in the early 1990s thanks to three promotions in four seasons. Despite winning the Conference National in 1996, they were denied entry due to insufficient ground facilities – they eventually fulfilled that dream for good in 2009/10, however. The two-time FA Trophy winners are now back in League One following nine years away thanks to the guidance of Evans, who transformed the club by preventing relegation and masterminding a 2nd place finish last season. Well-equipped, optimism is in the air that Boro can go from strength to strength - write this side off at your peril.

Successful thanks to their physicality and ball-winning approach, the set of battering rams are both equally effective out of possession as well as on it, with a technical side they can implement at the flick of a switch. Able to suffocate an opponent via a 4-3-1-2 or a three-at-the-back setup, goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond has accumulated nine of their 11 league clean sheets – no side have more in the division and he’s been an integral reason. Former non-league centre-back Carl Piergianni is no-nonsense and has adapted to the third tier with ease, he’s joined by Dan Sweeney or Terence Vancooten usually with excellent full-backs Luther Wildin and Dan Butler protecting and spearheading attacks. In the middle of the park, experienced figures Louis Thompson and Nick Freeman have helped Manchester City loanee Finley Burns thrive. Elliott List and Jordan Roberts have proven to be livewires with consistent performances, whereas talisman Jamie Reid is flourishing – his 14 league strikes is bettered only by Alfie May and Jordan Rhodes.

Stevenage have spent just two gameweeks outside of the play-offs in 2023/24, with the underdogs getting started with three successive wins against Northampton Town, Shrewsbury Town and the U’s in the tight reverse in mid-August. A first defeat was tasted against fellow newcomers Reading after, but they showed real grit and desire to win two and draw three of their next five. Form did dip from here, with three-goal defeats to Oxford United, Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool either side of a win against Wigan Athletic, but they bounced back to show they can compete with the big boys by creating a nine-match unbeaten run – included in that run was four victories on the trot, with the pick of the bunch being a 3-1 home triumph against Derby County and a 2-2 tie against Peterborough United. Most recently, a slender defeat at Barnsley was backed up by a comprehensive 3-0 win against Northampton on Boxing Day. Impressive form puts Evans and co in 6th, with a mere two points separating them from the automatic promotion spots – they hope to cap off a remarkable year by making that charge.

Form Guide

Stevenage: WWDLW

Cambridge United: WDWWL

United’s Approach

The U’s suffered defeat for the first time under Neil Harris last time out, as Oxford secured a last-gasp 2-1 victory at the Kassam Stadium.

Up against it with no out and out forward, United didn’t look fazed and gained a well-deserved lead through Jordan Cousins’ first goal for the club. The only thing missing from a tremendous first 45 was being able to convert well-crafted chances, as the hosts equalised through Tyler Goodrham and dealt the blow in the dying embers as Ciaron Brown plummeted home.

Reflecting on the cruel loss, the Head Coach said: “I feel for the group because that’s a sucker punch. Immediate reaction is that I’m gutted for everybody, but really proud of the performance in difficult circumstances.”

Importantly, the U’s remained front-footed in their approach and will feel aggrieved that the unbeaten streak wasn’t stretched to four league matches. But with a kind fixture schedule ahead of them, they’ll be hopeful they can bounce back and move into the top half of the table for the first time since late October – a win could ensure that.

Quick Quotes

Harris on form: “Ultimately, in four games of football, we’ve been very, very good. I want to focus on that.”

Harris on Stevenage: “It will be a completely different game to today [Oxford]… His [Evans] teams are competitive, organised, very difficult to play against, score a lot of goals and physically it’s a real challenge. We’ve got to make sure we’re prepared for the game, which we will be.”

Team News

In addition to the recent confirmation that Fejiri Okenabirhie will be out of action until at least mid-February, the side have also lost fellow attackers Gassan Ahadme and Elias Kachunga during the Christmas schedule. The Ipswich Town loanee is sidelined for roughly ten weeks owing to a stress fracture, whilst the latter is expected to miss two weeks due to a hamstring injury. Long-term absentee Harrison Dunk remains sidelined, but could come back into contention by the end of January.


Stevenage Wins: 14

Cambridge United Wins: 11

Draws: 5

Down Memory Lane

It was Boro who forced United to suffer their first defeat of the season back on a warm August evening, as a bumper crowd in CB5 saw the visitors come away with a 1-2 win.

The U’s had work to do for the majority of the contest after Roberts poked home on the stroke of the half an hour mark. Although they levelled ten minutes from time through Kachunga’s first goal in amber, a rapid response from Reid secured maximum points.

It’s fair to say that Stevenage have become a bogey side for United over recent years, with Friday’s hosts coming into the encounter on the back of five successive wins, with four clean sheets – and delaying a promotion party - in that time. Prior to that, the U’s registered a seven-game unbeaten run and hope that kind of form can be rekindled as the third tier outfits do battle once more.


Referee: Lee Swabey

Assistant Referee: Samuel Fudge

Assistant Referee: Dean Treleaven

Fourth Official: Daniel Robinson

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