Cambridge United prepare to welcome Morecambe to the Abbey Stadium on Saturday afternoon in a crucial Sky Bet League One clash...
Both with 24 points to their name, Mark Bonner and Derek Adams will be determined to extend the current two-point gap from the relegation zone. The Shrimps make the journey full of optimism following three consecutive victories, whereas it’s quite the contrary for the U’s - they need to cancel out a three-match losing streak in what is their most important game of the season so far.
How to Watch
Saturday afternoon’s clash kicks off at 3pm, with tickets available for fans to buy online at cufctickets.com.
A healthy crowd is expected, with sales starting to become limited in the Main Stand and Newmarket Road End. To avoid disappointment, please secure your place well in advance. By doing this, you also save money as all prices increase by £2 when buying in-person on the day of the game.
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.
A modern-day success story, the Shrimps’ recent history has seen them punch above their weight and thrive in a division packed with giants. Under the tutelage of Derek Adams, the Lancashire outfit have gone from League Two relegation battlers to a very optimistic, and now acclimatised, League One group. Currently enjoying their best form since rising to the third tier for the first time in their history in 2021, they arrive with a plethora of confidence. Like the U’s, they maintain a two-point gap from the drop and are desperate for maximum points.
With many predicting the Shrimps to suffer from second season syndrome, their early form certainly hinted at it. After their opening day stalemate against Shrewsbury Town was followed up by a 3-0 defeat at Peterborough United, they slumped into the relegation zone and would remain there for another 23 matchdays. From their opening eight games, they attained four points, before grabbing the breakthrough in mid-September when Rawson’s last-gasp strike earned a first win as Forest Green Rovers were put to the sword. To date, it’s their only success on the road. A three-match losing streak followed, although they did enjoy a run of just two defeats in eight, albeit five were a share of the spoils.
Narrow defeats to Plymouth Argyle and then Port Vale on Boxing Day put Adams’ men in a precarious situation, but they’ve since showcased remarkable adversity to turn on the gas and register three consecutive victories, scoring nine goals in the process. As of last weekend, their revivial has seen them rise away from the bottom four. Despite obtaining an 8% win rate away from home, the tide looks to have turned for the Lancashire side and like the U’s, they’re two points from the drop and determined to extend that gap.
Efficient in the loan market, and in crafting more of a no-nonsense side, Adams has ensured the 2022/23 version of Morecambe suit his 3-5-2 system to a tee. Penalty king Connor Ripley has already established himself as a fan favourite between the sticks, whilst Farrend Rawson, Jacob Bedeau and Ryan Delaney are complimenting each other well of late, keeping two clean sheets in three. In the centre of the park, mainstay Liam Gibson has been joined by promising loanees Liam Shaw and former U Jensen Weir, who has popped up with an impressive nine strikes already. The trio are energetic and work in unison to break up play and spearhead attacks. In impressive form with three goals and two assists in his last two, Huddersfield Town loanee Kieran Phillips is the main attacking threat following last season’s hero Cole Stockton’s testing start.
Cambridge United: DWLLL
The U’s approach the must-win encounter eager to mark a response from the 1-2 defeat to top-half Bristol Rovers the previous Saturday.
For the opening 20 minutes, the hosts were free-flowing and pleasing on the eye. Frustratingly, they couldn’t capitalise on the momentum and add to Sam Smith’s well-executed header as the Pirates’ impressive attack combined to secure the quickfire turnaround through Josh Coburn and Scott Sinclair. In the second half, United hit the crossbar and limited Joey Barton’s men to little gilt-edged opportunities, but the game petered out with the points falling elsewhere.
Reflecting on the loss, Bonner stated, “We’ve got to make sure that the chances we create become a goal more often because we’re in games but we’re finding ways of not taking points from them. In the end, it was a fairly even game, and yet again we’ve come out on the wrong side of it.”
Dropping to 20th in the table, the two-point gap is a slender one. With Accrington Stanley boasting two games in hand and Milton Keynes Dons one, the U’s inferior goal difference means they remain afloat despite others closing in. The club are yet to find themselves in the bottom four this season, they’ll hope it remains that way until May. As for now, three points against the Shrimps is an absolute necessity.
Regarding team news, Bonner confirmed in midweek that Steve Seddon fractured his cheekbone and eye socket – he looks to be out for a minimum of six weeks. Elsewhere, fellow new signing Ryan Bennett is aiming to make his debut next weekend, with Saturday’s tie coming too soon.
Already hinting that the squad will look very different heading into February, with recruiting experience the main aim, the Head Coach said, “It’s a slow start to the window really, in the fact that we haven’t been able to get so much done too early, but we’re very close with a couple.”
Cambridge United Wins: 10
Morecambe Wins: 8
Down Memory Lane
Last time out, the U’s garnered a 1-2 come-from-behind success in September’s entertaining clash at the Mazuma Stadium.
After falling behind to Weir’s first half goal, United persevered by carving out some pleasing pieces of play, getting their rewards with Jack Lankester’s leveller and Harvey Knibbs’ late winner to rise them to 7th in the league.
Speaking to the press after his side gained their first away victory of the campaign, Bonner said: “Overall, we played a really good game… I thought the contribution of everybody today was excellent. Winning games in this league is hard but we’ve made a decent start of that in the first ten games.”
Although fortunes have changed since then, the head-to-head continues to look extremely pleasing. On Saturday, United look to make it a sixth consecutive success against the Shrimps and extend the unbeaten run to eight. Before that, the group from Lancashire were seen as a bogey team, with the U’s unable to overcome them on six separate occasions, scoring just twice in that time.
Referee: Paul Howard
Assistant Referee: Hristo Karaivanov
Assistant Referee: Michael Webb
Fourth Official: Garry Maskell