Cambridge United look to make an instant return to winning ways as they make the midweek trip down to Fratton Park to take on Sky Bet League One table-toppers Portsmouth…
After seeing their unbeaten run come to an end last time out, the U’s plot to increase their gap of four points from the bottom four by taking their share against Pompey, who are firmly lodged in the ascendency after recently registering 13 points from a possible 15.
How to Watch
Over 300 U’s have already secured their place for Tuesday’s encounter on the south coast, which kicks off at 7:45pm.
Visiting supporters have the choice of either seated or standing tickets, which are both priced the same. They can be purchased online at cufctickets.com, with tickets off sale at 9pm on Monday.
Please note, this is an all-ticket fixture – supporters should not travel without a ticket.
Enriched with a past packed to the brim with triumphant eras, Pompey were founded in 1898, were promoted to the top-flight for the first time in their history 29 years later and went on to reach two FA Cup finals before finally lifting the prestigious trophy in 1939. A decade later, they kick-started their golden era, winning Division One in consecutive campaigns – only four other clubs have achieved this since. From the late 1950s, they started to fluctuate between the divisions, but made a return in 1987 and would soon establish themselves once more. A second FA Cup triumph ensured European football for the first time in 2008, but crippling financial crisis ensued as, just five years later, they were languishing in the fourth tier. Building up steam since, a League Two title success, EFL Trophy euphoria and six successive top 10 finishes in League One has been welcoming, but they’re hungry for more this time out. Under John Mousinho, a first campaign in the second tier since 2012 looks increasingly likely by the week, with the runaway leaders showing no signs of complacency.
Utilising the trusted 4-2-3-1, the gaffer has been a revelation and has built a possession-based, hard-to-beat, easy on the eye side. Former U Will Norris leads the way for clean sheets, his trusted back four ahead of him in Connor Ogilvie, Conor Shaughnessy, Sean Raggett and Joe Rafferty have gained 15 in total and have heaps of experience. As does the indispensable Marlon Pack in the middle of the park – he’s on nine goal involvements and is joined by either Tom Lowery or new signing Owen Moxon, who thoroughly impressed in League Two with Carlisle United. In the attacking department, loanees Abu Kamara and Myles Peart-Harris are exciting, front-footed options whereas Paddy Lane has added goals to his game and January addition Callum Lang has hit the ground running. 27-year-old Colby Bishop remains a consistent figurehead – he’s on 15 for the season and completes what is a strong team on paper, despite the recent losses of key men Joe Morrell, Terry Devlin and Tom McIntyre who are ruled out until summer due to injury.
From the get-go, Pompey have been imperious and a cut above their opponents. From their opening seven, they registered three assuring wins and four battling draws, but a rapid 2-3 success against Barnsley in mid-September moved them to the summit – a place they’ve occupied for every gameweek bar two since. The unbeaten run continued, with the win at the Tykes the start of a six-game winning run. They first tasted defeat on the 25th November, a 0-4 battering at home to Blackpool, but no hangover ensued as they entered the Christmas period with four successive victories and clean sheets. A rocky spell followed, with a New Year’s Day triumph over Stevenage their only win during a six-match period, but Portsmouth have come alive of late and are currently unbeaten in five, with an extremely healthy seven-point gap from the play-offs – they’ll look to extend that on Tuesday and edge that one bit closer to promotion.
Cambridge United: WDDWL
The U’s now dust themselves down and prepare for the quick turnaround after their last League One outing saw them be downed 0-1 by Cheltenham Town at the Cledara Abbey.
Despite dominating the clear-cut chances throughout the first half, they couldn’t find the all-important opener as the Robins grew into the game after the break and snatched maximum points thanks to Matty Taylor’s clinical finish.
Reflecting on a disappointing afternoon, the Head Coach stated: “The performance wasn’t good enough, but it’s one game. It’s a disappointing one and probably the biggest kick in the proverbial since I have been here. We need to be better, that’s for sure, but we did have unbelievable chances to win the game.
“Today is a real disappointment for us, but we have not had many of these over the past couple of months. We have to get over this and see a reaction from the group, see what they are made of and see how they respond on Tuesday.”
The result signalled the end of a positive four-game unbeaten run – and just their second league loss of 2024 – but with one of the biggest tests of the season ahead of them, they’ll be fully focused on a week which sees them pit their wits against sides at the polar end of the table.
Portsmouth Wins: 16
Cambridge United Wins: 3
Down Memory Lane
The last time we did battle, a significantly improved performance saw Cambridge shake off the possibility of a fourth league defeat from five as they earned a creditable stalemate at CB5.
Prior to their recent promotion, United’s form against the Blues looked cursed. Following a 1-0 win in March 1978, they didn’t record another victory from their next 16 games, before a first-ever triumph at the upcoming venue was secured in September 2021 as an expert Joe Ironside header and a Liam O’Neil scorcher set them on their way to a memorable 1-2 win.
Recent form has certainly better, with another success recorded in a 2022 Football League Trophy tie, as well as two closely-fought 0-0 draws and two defeats, which includes a 4-1 win for Pompey in last season’s meeting at Fratton Park.
Referee: Robert Madley
Assistant Referee: Ian Cooper
Assistant Referee: George Byrne
Fourth Official: Lee Swabey