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Match Previews

Match Preview: Valiants vs U's

30 March 2023

Match Previews

Match Preview: Valiants vs U's

30 March 2023

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Cambridge United return to action in Sky Bet League One on Saturday afternoon when they make the trip up to Burslem to take on Port Vale...

Following a two-week hiatus, Mark Bonner’s men are aiming to shatter their winless streak on the road and reduce their current gap from safety as they endeavour to take the fight to the wire.

How to Watch

The U’s have been given 700 unallocated seated tickets for Saturday’s encounter in Staffordshire, which kicks off at 3pm. Supporters who wish to join us can buy their tickets for the match online at or over the phone by calling 01223 566500 – advance sales are available until 9pm on 30/03. Three away credits will be allocated for this fixture.

Tickets are priced at £24 for Adults (22-61), £19 for Seniors (62+), £16 for Young Adults (18-21), £12 for Young Teens (13-17) and Under 13s can get in for free. Tickets will be available for fans to buy on the day, but they must be purchased online via

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 Vale Park can listen to live match commentary on iFollow

Opposition Focus

After their formation in 1876, Vale fluctuated between the Football League and Midland League after a sticky patch almost forced them into oblivion. With time, they continued to add to a sizeable trophy cabinet, which now reads at four promotions from the third tier, six from the fourth and two EFL trophies, which were won in 1993 and 2001. Since the turn of the millennium, the Valiants have yo-yoed between the two divisions, but the appointment of Darrell Clarke last year was an inspired one as he guided the side to play-off triumph at the fifth attempt. Going from strength to strength, a creditable first campaign back could be topped off with safety in the coming weeks.

Going steady, the Valiants continued to clock the points in the opening months, although in quite an inconsistent fashion as they registered two wins, a draw and three defeats in their first half a dozen. An unbeaten run of three games in early September was cancelled out by consecutive defeats to Peterborough United and Sheffield Wednesday, but they responded emphatically with the solitary loss in six – impressively kick-started by a 1-2 win at Derby County. Heading into Boxing Day, three wins and clean sheets in four and a 1-3 triumph against Forest Green Rovers strengthened a potential top 10 bid, but one win in two months caused a rut which has recently started to amend courtesy of five points in their previous four. Although not out of the woods, 16th position and a ten-point advantage from the drop makes for very satisfactory reading.

Deploying a 3-5-2 formation which has a blend of experience and potential, 23-year-old Aidan Stone has donned the sticks of late and has been protected by long-serving colossus Nathan Smith, who has adjusted to League One life seamlessly, popping up with three goals. He’s been guiding the promising Samson Robinson and Aaron Donnelly, 21 and 19 respectively, who are growing by the minute. Pivotal to their success, wing-backs Mal Benning and David Worrall have the know-how to create and are just as tricky defensively. Tom Conlon is a mainstay in the middle of the park and could be joined with Funso Ojo and Tom Pett as they aim to feed proven talisman Matt Taylor and Ellis Harrison, who recently reached double digits for the campaign. 

Form Guide

Port Vale: LWDLD

Cambridge United: LLDLL

United’s Approach

Feeling a sense of rejuvenation following a two-week break, a well-rested Cambridge plot to showcase an immediate response from their last outing.

Staged in CB5, a slow start proved costly a fortnight ago as Charlton Athletic held on for a 1-2 victory. Instinctive finishes from starlets Miles Leaburn and Jesurun Rak-Sakyi put the Addicks in cruise control, but a change in system reignited the U’s spirits after the break. Lloyd Jones’ consolation raised hopes, but they were unable to claim a point despite endeavour.

Encouraged by the second half but demanding more over a 90-minute spell, Bonner said to the press: “We had a real thrust about the game and might have been able to turn something but couldn’t find the quality. And in the first half they were too good for us, too athletic for us and moved the ball too well. We couldn’t quite get our shape right to contain them.”

Winless in six, United are languishing in 23rd with a seven-point gap from safety and an inferior goal difference. One consolation is that the three sides above them are also without victory in that period too. With nine challenging games to go, the task is to claw back-to-back successes for the first time since September, reduce the gap and give the side a fighting chance.

In preparation for the match, Bonner admitted: “When you go through a tough spell like we’ve had, it can be difficult all the time, trying to put a brave on… it’s harder to maintain that when results are going as they are so sometimes getting awa from each other is important.

“We had two extra days to be able to do that and that in itself can create a little bit of a spark and a bit of a freshness… hopefully that’s what we have going into this run of games because we’ll certainly need energy.”

In regards to team news, Liam O’Neil has picked up a slight hamstring problem, while Harvey Knibbs and Joe Ironside will need to be assessed. Elsewhere, it was hinted that George Thomas and Fejiri Okenabirhie may still have a part to play in the run-in as they up their recoveries.


Port Vale Wins: 12

Cambridge United Wins: 9

Draws: 2

Down Memory Lane

United will do everything in their power to ensure the Valiants don’t register a league double following the slender 0-1 defeat at the Abbey Stadium back in October.

In a game where the U’s failed to conjure up any clear-cut opportunities, they were made to be punished late in the tie after Will Forrester forced an unfortunate own goal from Paul Digby to consign the hosts to their fifth defeat on the bounce.

Summarising that defeat, the Head Coach stated: “(It’s) a tough run of games for us (and) tough results at the moment. We’ve lost way too many games. That should be just a rubbish 0-0 in the end after the first half but we haven’t found a way of taking points from games at the moment when they’re running away from us.”

Of the U’s nine victories against Port Vale, just one has occurred at this weekend’s venue. Funnily enough, no fans were there to witness it as O’Neil’s piledriver in February 2021 secured the 0-1 success and pushed his side back to the summit of League Two. Where the visiting faithful are concerned, a win in Burslem is long overdue.


Referee: Tom Reeves

Assistant Referee: Adam Ricketts

Assistant Referee: Jacob Lehane

Fourth Official: Darren Wilding

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