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Match Previews

Match Preview: U's vs Reading

2 September 2023

Cambridge United are determined to put on a show in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday night when Reading visit the Abbey Stadium...

Back on the television for the first time since April 2022, the U’s have enjoyed a strong start to the Sky Bet League One season thanks to three wins from five. However, just like the newly-relegated Royals, they’re staking a claim to make an instant return to winning ways.

How to Watch

Monday evening’s clash, which gets underway at 8pm, is expected to be played in front of yet another near-capacity crowd – with tickts in the Newmarket Road End and Main Stand scarce. The Intelligent Membranes North and South Habbin currently have capacity, but please buy in advance.

Be sure to keep your notifications on for the Ticket Office Account on Twitter for all of the latest updates regarding sales.

As stated, this clash has been selected for live viewing on the Sky Sports Football channel – coverage from CB5 starts at 7:45pm.

Alternatively, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire will be on hand to provide full match commentary.

Opposition Focus

Formed during the festive period of 1871, the visitors gradually built up steam towards 1895, where they turned professional and would go on to enjoy 22 seasons in the Southern League and gain some FA Cup exploits in the process. After gaining election to the Football League in 1920, the club have not looked back since. Predominantly a Third Division outfit throughout the course of their history, a record-breaking 106 points in 2005/06 saw them storm to the Championship title, before finishing a remarkable 8th in their first ever season in the Premier League. Returning for just a sole season since (2012), the Royals 10-year stay in the second tier came to an end last time out. Now, the only way is back up.

Under the tutelage of Rubén Sellés, who briefly cut his coaching teeth with Southampton last season, the faithful have an energetic and hungry squad at their disposal, who are desperate to showcase their talents. Following some big-name departures, a total of 12 have entered the fray in Berkshire to add depth and overall conclude a solid summer considering the pre-season uncertainties. Experienced David Button orchestrates an extremely youthful defence ahead of him, which includes the likes of Nelson Abbey, Amadou Mbengue and now Clinton Mola. A plethora of enticing talents in the middle, Sam Hutchinson does the dirty work to free up Charlie Savage, with former U Harvey Knibbs and Femi Azeez supplying ammunition down the wings. With Sam Smith ruled out with injury, the frontline could contain new loanee Dom Ballard and the well-rounded Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan – the 20-year-old is beaming with confidence after bagging five goals so far this campaign.

Going into what felt like the unknown after a long stay in the upper echelons of the pyramid, Reading required time to gel after falling to slender defeats to Peterborough United and Port Vale, but bounced back with two successive wins and clean sheets at home to Cheltenham Town and Stevenage. Now, they’ll be eager to respond from last weekend’s last-gasp 2-1 defeat at Exeter City and register their first away league win of the calendar year. Prior to Saturday, Sellés’ men sat in 16th due to a one-point deduction and may take heart from their midweek showing in the Carabao Cup, where an average age of 20 narrowly lost to Ipswich Town on penalties. Although there’s a lack of know-how, the promise, exuberance and little fear of this group makes them for a tricky test of resolve.

Form Guide

Cambridge United: LWLWL

Reading: LWWLL

United’s Approach

After being knocked off the summit last time out, United now aspire to climb once more after Leyton Orient secured a spirited 2-0 win last weekend.

The O’s piled immense pressure from the get go and were tricky to contain throughout large stretches of a match which conjured up a storm both on and off the pitch. Shaq Forde’s first-half strike handed momentum, before Theo Archibald slotted home from a one-on-one position to consign the U’s to their second loss from five.

Speaking after the whistle, Mark Bonner admitted: “We’ve got to be much better than we were today because that wasn’t a good enough level for us. It wasn’t consistent with what we’ve been delivering so far, but credit also goes to them, they made it like that.”

Hoping to rekindle the attacking threat that was evident in their previous five games – where they scored nine altogether - United moved fast by snapping up Crystal Palace loanee John-Kymani Gordon on deadline day to complete the squad to attack the next block of fixtures, which sees them take on four very former Championship outfits.  

Quick Quotes

Bonner on making an impression in front of the cameras: “We want to show ourselves, as a club and a team, in a really bright light. We know that Reading are probably more the pull than we are for the TV audiences, but at the same time we want to make sure that any time we get in the spotlight we show ourselves in the right light.”

Bonner on the Royals: “We know they’ve got a young squad with very, very talented young players and a super athletic team… They’ve got a changed style under the new manager and it might take a bit of time, but I think what we’ve seen so far is some excellent performances and results and then with young players, sometimes it creates that little bit of inconsistency. That’s fairly normal and natural.”

Team News

The Head Coach stated that no knocks were picked up following the game at Orient, with Elias Kachunga primed to return to the matchday squad after missing out owing to personal reasons. Elsewhere, long term absentees Adam May and Mamadou Jobe are now involved in heavy training sessions and are progressing well, but Jordan Cousins is not yet back on the grass and remains out for some time.

Head-to-Head

Cambridge United Wins: 9

Reading Wins: 10

Draws: 6

Down Memory Lane

The sides have met on 25 different occasions throughout their history, with the Royals winning 10, the U’s proving victorious nine times and with six draws played out.

Due to being four divisions apart as recently as 2013, this is the first time we’ve crossed paths since September 2002, when 2,696 fans watched United claim a 3-1 success in the First Round of the League Cup at the Abbey. Andy Duncan, the popular Dave Kitson and Shane Tudor bagged the hosts’ goals, with World Cup goalscorer Matt Upson supplying the consolation.

From six attempts, it remains the only win against Reading since the turn of the millennium, but on the contrary it did stretch their unbeaten run on home soil to four games, with the visitors last gaining three points in Cambridgeshire back in 1994.

Officials

Referee: Darren Drysdale

Assistant Referee: Stuart Butler

Assistant Referee: Jacob Lehane

Fourth Official: Christopher Pollard


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