“That energy, togetherness and optimism from everybody in the 19 games that we’ve got ahead is going to be really important for us...”
Head Coach Mark Bonner is relishing this weekend’s test of Cambridge United’s resolve as they prepare to take on Ipswich Town.
In front of a bumper crowd, the U’s are out to get the ball rolling with a first win of the year and secure the bragging rights over their local rivals. They’ll need to stick to their gameplan and frustrate the Tractor Boys whenever possible, who are vying for promotion from Sky Bet League One this season.
“We know the size of the challenge. Every manager will say the same things about them, the strength of their team and the strength of their window – they’ve added very well and used the resources they’ve got.
“I saw an angry team against Morecambe (4-0 win) that were really determined. They’re chasing something now and that can be dangerous for us as the opponent, but also it might give us opportunities as well.
“We’ve got to try and find the formula. We’ve played them twice already this year and done ok in parts of those games. We’ve got to try and put another performance on the board from last week and see if we can be a really competitive match for them.
“There will be plenty of moments in the game where we can take some control, not only counter-attacks. We’ll have to be courageous and brave enough to do that and of course we’ll have to defend brilliantly… we’ll have to be good in order to compete with that.
“I am excited for the game, it’ll be a brilliant crowd, a brilliant atmosphere. Our supporters were amazing last week at Lincoln and that sort of energy, togetherness and optimism from everybody in the 19 games that we’ve got ahead is going to be really important for us.”
Many at Sincil Bank will have noticed a new approach from the U’s. Switching formation and extra bodies in the defensive areas proved effective as they gained a clean sheet. With the return of key men and the acquisition of players with real pedigree, the boss feels possessing that versatility could be vital.
“It’s something we flirted with earlier in the season (3-5-2) but, like any system we’ve played, we were always a little bit square pegs in round holes at times because the reality was we were always lacking. We need to make sure we’re strong enough and have enough cover to find that variety.
“You look at the team last week and think it’s a strong team, a strong bench and some strong players not in that - I think that will hopefully be a pattern between now and the end of the season, that we’ve got to make the most of the options that we’ve got. The variety it gives us is something we were really looking for.
“I wouldn’t say we’re going to be one shape forever, but it certainly gives us a really good option.”
Overall, the Head Coach is pleased with the calibre of signings the group have made, emphasising that their know-how, at not just this level but beyond, can put them in good stead going into the dogfight.
“I don’t remember many better windows where we’ve signed five players of such experience at this level, more experience than what we’ve got and at a level that’s quite exciting so we’re absolutely delighted with the five we have added.
“With them joining the returning players from injury and the current players that are here, it makes the squad look a heck of a lot stronger… it gives us a nice strong group to go and attack the final part of the year.”
“I’m really enthused and excited by the players we’ve added and what that’s done to the rest of the team – I hope that shows over the next few weeks.”