Cambridge United aim to make an instant return to winning ways in Sky Bet League One as they make the long journey to Exeter City on Saturday afternoon...
With just two points separating their current position from 20th, Mark Bonner’s men will look to earn a crucial three points at St James Park against a mid-table Grecians side who will also be fired up to impress owing to a four-game winless run.
How to Watch
Over 250 U’s fans have already booked their day out in EX4, with the match kicking off at 3pm. Supporters who wish to join us can secure their seat, or place in the terrace, online at cufctickets.com or over the phone by calling 01223 566500 - four away credits will be issued for this fixture.
Overseas fans can stream the game live with an iFollow Match Pass. Match Passes cost £10 and are available to purchase by clicking here. Elsewhere, domestic supporters who can’t make it to the Abbey can listen to live match commentary on iFollow.
Originally part of the League Two furniture, the Grecians finally broke through at the 10th attempt as Matt Taylor helped them storm to promotion last summer. After departing for Rotherham United in October, replacement Gary Caldwell was appointed and tasked with improving on the foundations that have been laid and help stabilise City as they plan for a long-term future in the third tier.
Playing without fear and embracing the challenge of a new division, Exeter held Lincoln City to a 1-1 draw on the opening day, before going on to batter Port Vale 4-0 and see off Wycombe Wanderers 3-1 either side of the reverse in CB5. In their next five, they registered four points, with a cruel 3-2 loss at Shrewsbury Town a frustrating one to take. The Grecians welcomed in October with eight strikes, overpowering Forest Green Rovers 0-4, sharing the spoils with Bristol Rovers and dispatching a strong Barnsley outfit 0-2.
From there, form stuttered heading into Boxing Day – although late euphoria helped defeat Fleetwood Town 2-1 and Peterborough United 3-2, they convincingly lost five times and drew on four occasions. Thrilling wins against the Gas and Oxford United gained momentum ahead of 2023, but Caldwell’s men have since triumphed once in seven, finding the back of the net once in their previous four. Although comfortable in 14th, the team in red and white have ambitions to conclude their reunion season in the top half.
Between the sticks, January signing Gary Woods has deputised for the previous three games following the imposing Jamal Blackman’s hip injury. In a defensive three, Alex Hartridge and Pierce Sweeney, both instrumental in the promotion season, are mainstays. Archie Collins looks to make things tick from the middle of the park, with the experienced Jake Caprice and prospect Harry Kite flying down the wings. Currently without the services of Jevani Brown, who had combined for 21 goal involvements so far, City could deploy Fulham loanee Jay Stansfield behind star forward Sam Nombe, a hustling figure who can hold the ball up well and has an eye for goal – he’s settled to the third tier well, plundering 11 important strikes.
Exeter City: WLLDL
Cambridge United: DLLWL
The U’s were dealt with a bitter pill to swallow last time out as Fleetwood Town stole a last-gasp 1-0 victory at Highbury Stadium.
The men in sky blue were in the ascendency throughout large periods of the encounter, carving out some excellent opportunities. Ultimately, they were forced to rue them as Shaun Rooney headed home the winner at the death to consign United to a third defeat in four.
Reflecting on the killer blow, Bonner said, “If I’d stood here with a 0-0 I’d have probably been a bit disappointed - we had the best chances in the game… It’s a bit unfair on us but we’ve got to do better when we get the moments because that game was there for us and to take nothing is really hard for everyone.”
With their form now reading at the solitary success in ten, the U’s need to re-enact a run similar to how they welcomed in the season. In their opening seven games, they conjured up 13 points from a possible 21 - since early September, they’ve gained another 16. Depending on results elsewhere, a first three points on the road since October could see them climb out of the relegation zone after a month inside.
In regards to team news, George Thomas will be out for the foreseeable future following an ankle injury he picked up in training. Shilow Tracey has recently been missing from action due to knee tendonitis, but his return could be imminent. Meanwhile, Steve Seddon has started training with the group again. For further updates, be sure to tune in to the full pre-match press conference on our YouTube channel.
Exeter City Wins: 25
Cambridge United Wins: 31
Down Memory Lane
A sweltering Abbey Stadium hosted a come-from-behind 2-1 victory for the U’s when the sides met in August. Their second of six home victories in 22/23 was earned by thunderous headers from Sam Smith and Paul Digby, who cancelled out Brown’s opener.
Assessing his side’s application, Bonner expressed: “We were good second half. I thought we played with miles more intent, and two really good goals… The game ended with all the drama that you’d expect, but we managed to see it out and it’s a really good win for us.”
Back-to-back successes against the Grecians has helped eliminate the ‘bogey team’ tag following a run of eight defeats in ten – in seven of those, the U’s didn’t find the back of the net. They last tasted three points at St James Park back in October 2016 when the clinical visitors raced into an early two-goal lead through Luke Berry and Harrison Dunk and stayed composed defensively to see out a late barrage of pressure after Joel Grant reduced the deficit. The line-up that day was: Norris, Halliday, Legge, Roberts, Taylor, Dunne, Clark, Mingoia, Berry, Dunk, Ikpeazu.
Referee: Robert Lewis
Assistant Referee: Adam Ricketts
Assistant Referee: Justin Amey
Fourth Official: Alex James