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Match Previews

Match Preview: Cheltenham Town vs U's

19 October 2023

Match Previews

Match Preview: Cheltenham Town vs U's

19 October 2023

Precious Sky Bet League One points are on the line this weekend as Cambridge United make the journey west to early season strugglers, Cheltenham Town...

Mark Bonner’s men are looking to rekindle their early-season form by grabbing their first win since early September at the Completely-Suzuki Stadium, against a Robins side who are still awaiting their opening victory of the 2023/24 campaign.

How to Watch

Over 400 U’s fans have already snapped up their ticket for Saturday’s meeting in Gloucestershire, which gets underway at 3pm. If you'd like to join the travelling Amber Army, advance ticket sales end at 9pm on Thursday, but tickets are available on the day for a £2 increase.

Unable to attend? Fans in the UK can listen to full match commentary with iFollow or on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, whilst overseas supporters can stream the game live with an iFollow Video Match Pass.

Opposition Focus

Formed in 1887, our visitors spent much of its early history competing in local football circles before they began a 50-year spell in the Southern League from 1935. Thanks to their domination in the mid-1980s, the side gained promotion to the Football League, but continued to fluctuate. That was until 1997, where the Robins embarked on a successful five-year era under Steve Cotterill - winning the FA Trophy, a first promotion to the Football League in 1998 and then gaining access to the third tier just three seasons later with play-off success. In recent years, Cheltenham have enjoyed real progression, going from fourth tier mediocrity to a spellbinding championship-winning campaign, giving them the confidence to comfortably avoid the drop in the previous two seasons. Their third go at it doesn’t look so lucky right now, but time is on their side.

Now at the helm following Wade Elliott’s dismissal, Darrell Clarke appears to be a sound acquisition and will hope the two-week break from league football will do his men the world of good. Usually setting up in a 4-4-2, Luke Southwood is a fine shot-stopper and is eager to recapture his form of last campaign, with Sean Long and Will Ferry dependable full-backs who can relieve pressure from 19-year-old Owen Bevan, Lewis Freestone or experienced head Curtis Davies. In the middle, Liam Sercombe is a vital cog, whereas Elliot Bonds and James Olayinka are the spearheads who look to make things happen. In the attacking ranks, record signing Aidan Keena and Rob Street know how this league works now and need to navigate it well over the coming weeks.

There’s no hiding away from the fact that it’s been an extremely demanding first few months for the Robins, who remain winless and have scored the solitary goal in their opening dozen. 2023/24 was kickstarted with defeats to Shrewsbury Town, Bolton Wanderers and Reading, but they did nick a stalemate against leaders Portsmouth. A seven-match losing streak followed, which included 3-0 losses to Peterborough United and Stevenage, but a glimpse of progression was unveiled last time out as Street’s strike secured a share of the spoils against Derby County. Up and running, they’ll be desperate to gain a first win of the campaign and reduce a nine-point gap from safety this weekend.

Form Guide

Cheltenham Town: LLLDL

Cambridge United: DLLDL

United’s Approach

Attention swiftly turns to an important League One meeting after a midweek 1-2 defeat to Colchester United left the U’s EFL Trophy hopes hanging by a thread.

Clinical first-half goals from youngsters Samson Tovide and Chay Cooper put the Essex side in the ascendency, who remained firm to hold on for victory despite Gassan Ahadme’s consolation from the spot in stoppage time.

After naming nine changes to his squad, the Head Coach’s reflection was: “[It’s] a night where we get some really good minutes into some who are going to help us over the next month and where some need to do a lot more to get closer to the team.”

Like the Robins, the U’s need to garner some momentum and put to an end a current eight-game winless run, which in turn would increase the gap from the lower echelons of the table. Sitting in 17th, the seven-point advantage from the bottom four is a healthy one, but the sole task is to look ahead. Just two points separate Bonner and co from 10th, so whilst the league remains competitive, the hosts will remain determined to climb.

Quick Quotes

Bonner on pinpointing Cheltenham’s style: “It’s really hard and you could send yourself mad trying to work out what their system might be, what their shape might be, their style and how might they try and play against us. Have they used the 11 days to concentrate on themselves or with an eye towards our level and our performance? We need to be mindful of that and be ready for whatever comes.”

Bonner on United’s journey: “This team is 12 games into a new cycle so we’re in the same sort of parallel as everybody else. We have to understand that learning and development takes time, we need wins and need to get results quickly of course, but at the same time for 12 games in we’re not in too bad of a spot.”

Team News

After representing Sierra Leone during the international break, Sullay Kaikai travelled home on Wednesday evening – his fitness levels will be assessed and the group hope he’ll be ready to contribute.


Cheltenham Town Wins: 8

Cambridge United Wins: 7

Draws: 5

Down Memory Lane

A familiar face ever since United returned to the Football League in 2014, the sides have played out some good encounters over the years, with the Robins improving their recent record back in February as they returned home from Cambridgeshire with a crucial 1-2 win.

Although a penalty from Joe Ironside immediately cancelled out Elliot Bonds’ long-range stunner, the U’s couldn’t capitalise on any momentum as the tide turned in favour of the Robins, who grew as the second half progressed and sealed the points through James Olayinka for their first win of 2023 and Cambridge’s sixth loss in eight.

Summarising the defeat to fellow relegation rivals, Bonner said: "It was definitely one to win and not to lose. Look at all the other results tonight, they've gone the way that we'd have wanted them to. If we don't win games and do better, it doesn't matter.”

The triumph secured the double for Town, who won by the same scoreline in September’s reverse. From the previous nine encounters, United have claimed maximum points on one occasion, that being on a rampant 2021 evening at Whaddon Road when Sam Smith opened the scoring and Ironside helped himself to a 25-minute hat-trick.


Referee: Ed Duckworth

Assistant Referee: Mark Derrien

Assistant Referee: Marvyn Amphlett

Fourth Official: Alan Cresswell

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