Cambridge United look to kick start back-to-back matches at the Abbey Stadium with some important points towards their Sky Bet League One tally when they take on Cheltenham Town in midweek...
Mark Bonner’s men suffered their first defeat in three last time out, but the quick turnaround gives them the chance to soon put things right against the Robins - who similarly are yet to secure a league victory in 2023. As a result of that, Wade Elliott’s team are four points ahead of the U’s, so the meeting under the floodlights provides a great opportunity to bridge the gap.
How to Watch
Tuesday evening’s clash kicks off at 7:45pm, with tickets available for fans to buy online at cufctickets.com. With this being our designated ‘Kids for a Quid’ matchday, tickets are selling fast - particularly in the main stand - so please secure your place well in advance.
By doing this, you can save money as all prices increase by £2 when buying in-person on the day of the game.
Enjoying a similar trajectory to the U’s over the years, Cheltenham have ambitions to establish themselves as part of the furniture in the third division of English football following a history which has seen fluctuation throughout the pyramid. A non-league side as recently as 2016, the Robins were great value for their 2020/21 League Two title win and never looked like being dragged into a relegation scrap last season. Despite being in the midst of a demanding fixture list, Elliott will look to conclude his first year at the helm with safety and potentially even a trip to Wembley on top of that – the side have reached the semi-finals of the Papa John’s Trophy and just Plymouth Argyle stand in their way of a visit to the home of football.
Early fears of second season syndrome, following three successive defeats to Peterborough United, Barnsley and Portsmouth, soon dematerialised as Elliott’s men lost one of their next five – taking a point from Fleetwood Town and Port Vale, whilst beating Exeter City and the U’s. Since that September evening in Gloucestershire, the side are yet to find themselves back in the relegation zone. In spite of Accrington Stanley gaining victory straight after, they kickstarted streaky form by securing home victories against Shrewsbury Town and Bolton Wanderers, before losing three on the trot and shipping eight goals in the process. A vital five-match unbeaten run, which included four clean sheets, followed, but their 10 league encounters since has resulted in the solitary win. Now, the division’s lowest goalscorers are out to cancel their seven-match winless streak, rise from their 19th position and extend the two-point cushion from the drop.
Operating with the tried and trusted 3-4-1-2 formation, which has given them a plethora of success over the years, Town pride themselves on a gritty and committed defence. Between the sticks is the reliable Luke Southwood, who is enjoying a successful loan from Reading and is eyeing his 12th clean sheet. A team effort, he’s been aided by the experience of Charlie Raglan and Sean Long ahead of him, who are alongside rising star Caleb Taylor – the highly-rated young defender is thriving in his first taste of senior football. The influential Liam Sercombe was a big miss whilst out with an injury, his desire and energy in the middle of the park means he’s an excellent spine. Ryan Broom and former U Ryan Jackson look to supply ammunition from out wide to modern-day Robins legend Alfie May, who’s on 10 for the season, and exciting record signing Aidan Keena, plucked from Sligo Rovers following a devastating goalscoring season.
Cambridge United: LLDDL
Cheltenham Town: LLDLD
Cambridge United are presented with the quickfire chance to bounce back three days on from a 2-0 defeat to play-off chasing Barnsley at Oakwell Stadium.
Despite spending almost 60 minutes of the game with 10 men, the Tykes, for the second time this season, overpowered the U’s thanks to strikes in each half from Max Watters and Jordan Williams.
Despite forcing attempts to find a way back in the game, notably when a Sam Smith header forced a smart reaction save from Harry Isted in what could have been the turning point, the visitors couldn’t make the most of their possession and break down the well-oiled hosts.
Reflecting on the defeat, Bonner conceded: “We never used the moments ourselves and lacked real composure at times and that was probably the story of us throughout the afternoon. There was lots of moments to have some control and bring some calmness and quality that we needed but we weren’t able to find that.”
Aiming to replicate the performance levels of the previous back-to-back draws, United’s next 11 matches sees them take on sides languishing from 10th to 21st, which could prove crucial going into the final weekend in May. Against the teams around them, and in a relentless period where their larger squad will all be needed, the U’s will first look to bridge their three-point gap and drag other rivals towards the dogfight in the process.
For a full update on team news ahead of the encounter, be sure to check out the Head Coach’s full pre-match press conference on our YouTube channel.
Cambridge United Wins: 7
Cheltenham Town Wins: 7
Down Memory Lane
The last time we met, the Robins secured the points with a 2-1 in a mid-September evening at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium.
Going into the game, the U’s were at a season-high of 5th, whereas the Robins were in the relegation zone. The script was flipped, however, when strikes from Dan N’Lundulu and Alfie May cancelled out Adam May’s powerful opener.
Speaking on that night, Bonner admitted: “They (Cheltenham) ran really hard, they played with a real intensity – much better than us tonight and they deserved to win.”
It set the recent record against the Gloucestershire outfit to just the solitary win in eight – dating back almost five years. United’s last victory at the Abbey against Town proved to be a classic when they secured an exhilarating 4-3 success in April 2018 thanks to goals from Greg Taylor, George Maris, Jevani Brown and Barry Corr.
Referee: Andy Woolmer
Assistant Referee: Lee Venamore
Assistant Referee: Rob Smith
Fourth Official: David Rock