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Hopefully We Can Spring a Surprise Or Two - Notes for Cambridge United
Friday, 1st Apr 2022 13:48 by TomTheWriter

Heading into the final month of the season, Town have six games left in the League One campaign in which to complete their play-off push with a visit by Cambridge United up first. TomTheWriter assesses the mood in the opposition camp.

After an impressive display in the 1-0 victory over Plymouth Argyle last week, Town begin April with another game at Portman Road in front of a crowd expected to be in excess of 24,000.

Their opponents Cambridge United are not mathematically safe, but find themselves 15 points above the drop zone with 21 left to play for.

This season, Joe Ironside has been impressive in front of goal, Paul Digby has offered strength and aggression from the midfield with Dimi Mitov performing well between the sticks.

Mark Bonner

“For weeks now, he has been talking (rightly) about fatigue and heavy workload, but despite having options on the bench, he didn't change things up at any stage, choosing to finish the game with the XI who started it”, “It's symptomatic of the progress we're making under [Mark] Bonner and the identity we're developing”, “The issue for me is around Bonner. Great he has been but now we are seeing his limitations.”

player imageMark Bonner

United boss Bonner was appointed as the permanent manager of the U’s in March of 2020 having joined the club in 2011, previously working as academy manager and first-team coach. Bonner was born in Cambridge and at one time was a season ticket holder.

“I think the issue with the way we have played in last few games is down to Bonner’s set-up and no Plan B”, “We may have lost a couple of games but look at how much we have progressed under Bonner”, “Listen to how Bonner analyses games and you'll hear how he wants us to approach games and what he feels matters in judging performances.”

He has turned them into a capable League One side whose aspirations are to be a consistent team at this level. They are only a few wins away from completing a very strong season in the third tier.

The State of Play

“Now we have pretty much got safety, we can go all out for the A14 derby”, “Worst case, AFC Wimbledon winning every game would net them 57 points. We need a max of 13 more from seven to best them with 58”, “Six more points needed. Crewe can’t catch us now.”

As it stands, United find themselves in 16th place in League One with 12 wins, 12 draws and 15 defeats from their 39 games.

player stats

“We can all look forward to a relaxed April”, “Hopefully we can spring a surprise or two in our last few games but I'm not sure I see us getting much from the remaining away games other than a stubborn and hardworking loss, we're capable of winning our remaining home games, though”, “I'd like us to really give finishing as the ‘best of the rest’ a right good go. Twelfth would be an excellent result for our season, but if not that I'd feel pretty happy with finishing above Cheltenham.”

Cambridge sit seven places and 16 points behind Town heading into the fixture on Saturday and a win would help the Blues stay in touch with the play-offs.

The Squad

Currently Cambridge have a strong selection of midfielders to choose from with six players all featuring in over 1,000 minutes of League One action.

However, the defence looks to have been Cambridge’s weak point this season, with only two centre-backs featuring consistently for the U’s over the campaign.

Cambridge fans have found a few things to be positive about this season, especially in the recent weeks.

“Still, in [Lorent] Tolaj’s small time on the pitch, he showed some strength, some speed and a moment of guile that displays some real promise”, “We were technically good, fit, strong and incredibly hard working”, “[Harvey] Knibbs looked stronger than he has previously and his attempted header from the rebound off the post when he risked getting booted in the head was incredibly brave.”

However, on the other hand, they have found a couple of things to be negative about.

“Why would he not choose to strengthen a tired-looking squad, strewn with injuries”, “Poor all-round overall, looked knackered against a strong side”, “Jubril [Okedina] and [Sam] Sherring a bit too lightweight together, as feared.”

AFC Wimbledon 0-1 Cambridge United

“I'll put that down as a great win, 48 points and no need to look over our shoulder (not that there ever was). I'd fear for Wimbledon”, “That wasn’t pretty at all but what a result and excellent defending, albeit a very poor Wimbledon. Feel for their fans to go through 20 games of that”, “Nice glass of wine tonight to toast our League One status for another year, well done all!”

“Was only absently watching but it felt like everyone put it a shift with Ironside in particular throwing some beef around. [Lloyd] Jones looks back to his best again”, “Not the best game to watch but the result was everything and I never felt that Wimbledon were capable of scoring”, “Did what we needed to against a terrible side. Over the two games this season I think they've been the worst I've seen in this league.”

Last weekend, Cambridge headed to relegation candidates AFC Wimbledon knowing a win would strengthen their chances of securing League One football next season. They did so with a goal from Adam May.

Cambridge United 0-1 MK Dons

“Kind of sums up everything that sort of game. Most weeks we are clearly good enough to compete at this level and ensure all three results are possible, but we lack the quality to be more flexible or change things up in certain scenarios”, “Disappointed - should have got a draw out of that”, “We got a response from the players and can’t fault the effort but again it’s another defeat and four games without a goal.”

“Should have got something out of that game but a lack of quality in final third again cost us. Substitutes gave us nothing, but hard for those coming on for 15 minutes”, “Good effort - a shame to not take advantage when MK were clearly far below their best, especially given the chances we created”, “Play like that and we shouldn’t have much trouble disposing of the real Dons next weekend.”

A few weeks back, Cambridge hosted promotion contenders MK Dons at the Abbey Stadium, but fell to a 1-0 defeat due to a Warren O’Hora goal for the visitors.


“Gillingham look poor and don’t think [Dimitar] Mitov has had a shot to save”, “Pretty crap game to watch from both sides really, Mitov had nothing to do apart from the goals”, “They missed a couple of excellent saves by Mitov, especially the point blank one from [Dion] Charles at the beginning.”

Cambridge's number one goalkeeper Mitov has solidified himself as the first-choice keeper this season after losing his place to Callum Burton last year, keeping 11 clean sheets in League One so far.

player stats


“Shillow [Tracey] seems to have disappeared into the ether alongside Jones and [Jensen] Weir”, “Jones looks to be recovering his fitness”, “Good to see Jones look more like his old self. Hopefully he's played his way through the rust now.”

player imageShilow Tracey

A constant fixture in the Cambridge side early in the season, before spending a while on the sidelines with an injury, Jones has returned for the last five games as Cambridge look to end the season on a high.

“[Greg] Taylor is a way away from being ready”, “I can't see Taylor being ready for a start just yet, but I wouldn't argue if the rest of the team reflected what you suggest”, “Pretty sure that Taylor is right-footed primarily, but can use his left just as well?”

Club captain Taylor fractured his ankle back in August and hasn’t featured for the club since. Working his way back to fitness and will be a big boost for them if he returns for the end of the season fixtures.

“Very impressed with Sherring”, “Mistakes happen, Sherring set Bolton’s striker up for a shot with an errant pass too but got away with it. Hopefully it doesn't happen again”, “Sherring looked very calm and composed and looking to pass the ball.”

Previously on loan at Accrington Stanley, Sherring made the short-term move over to Cambridge for the rest of the current season from AFC Bournemouth. Has been dropped recently for Jones and Jubril Okedina.

“[Jack] Iredale set to miss at least half of our remaining games”, “Iredale’s seen a specialist and Bonner is talking about him missing more of the rest of the season than he’s available for, so that suggests six weeks”, “I said we had to bring in a couple more players on loan in January as soon as Iredale had to be subbed off.”

Iredale has been the ever-present at left-back for the past few seasons, but has missed the last 11 games in the league due to an ankle injury. Recently returned to training, but Saturday might be too soon for him.

player imageJack Iredale (L) Harvey Knibbs (R)

“[James] Brophy and [Harrison] Dunk are better tracking back but not as good going forward”, “Lifetime contract for Dunk anyone?”, “At this stage you could say Dunk stamps on baby chicks with his lovely left foot and I think I'd find it cute.”

Senior defender Dunk has been with the club since 2011 and had a testimonial this summer to show appreciation for his efforts at the club. Has featured in the last 31 games in all competitions and is likely to be up against Wes Burns on Saturday.


“Great vision and great in the build-up, will assist plenty this season”, “Is that the third time [George] Williams has cleared off the line this season? Quite a knack”, “We are getting a bit of joy with Williams getting forward but sorely lacking creativity or even ball retention.”

Picked up in the summer from Bristol Rovers, Williams replaced the outgoing Kyle Knoyle after his departure to Doncaster. Started slowly, but has picked himself up and improved over the season.

player stats

“[Adam] May, Dunk, Williams - they all need a rest now”, “Why is Williams not taking his man on and getting crosses in from the byline?”, “I don't think I've ever seen a player that loves a headed cross as much as Williams.”

Has featured the most of any defender this season for Cambridge and has been an ever-present at the right-back spot. Has one goal and three assists this season.


“I thought Okedina had a mixed and not entirely comfortable game. He did lots of things well and a few things not very well. He'll make it at this level but he's going to need time to adapt to it and will probably need to be cut some slack at times”, “We need to cut out any silly mistakes - Okedina I'm looking at you. Very fortunate to get away with that sloppy pass”, “Thought Sherring, Okedina and Williams were all decent.”

Snapped up in the summer from Tottenham after a solid loan spell last season, Okedina has played more than he probably would have expected due to the injuries to Taylor and Jones.

player stats

“I think with Okedina we need a steady head alongside him to learn from and be directed by”, “I thought Okedina looked shaky and his languid style was seized upon by the quicker Luton forwards”, “Wes [Hoolahan] and Okedina were good as always.”

Okedina had only featured in one of the first 13 League One games this season, but has stepped up when called upon due to injury. Formed a solid partnership with Conor Masterson, Sherring and Jones this season.


“[Adam] May has also exceptional off the bench in recent games”, “May played that advanced role really bloody well. He's quietly showing himself to be quite the versatile and complete midfielder, isn't he? He's played pretty much every role in that midfield whereas I think others are more specialist”, “He's got a lot of qualities and is young enough to improve and we've seen how effective he can be in the diamond formation.”

Twenty-three-year-old midfielder May joined Cambridge from Portsmouth last season and scored the winner in their last game against Wimbledon. A combative midfielder who has missed only six league games this season.

“Liam O’Neil only exists to score worldies and I love it”, “O'Neil looks to be giving their lad too much time on the ball”, “I'm a little surprised the slack O'Neil is taking to be honest, he was throwing his body on the line and blocked at least two shots by doing that. Had some nice touches and I thought was pretty solid last night.”

O’Neil had started every league game of the season prior to the 2-2 draw against Ipswich back in October, before missing the next 19 games. Has recently come back into the side after an injury, but picked up a knock last weekend.

“Wes Hoolahan has been a revelation at Cambridge”, “If there is such a thing as the footballing gods, then Hoolahan will see us [beat Ipswich] scoring a brace”, “I think the last two games were made for Wes, but I wouldn't be getting on the players' backs for tonight. We are far better off than we should be, all things considered.”

player imageWes Hoolahan

Outstanding in League Two last season, rolling back the years to his Norwich days, Hoolahan hasn’t had as much of an impact this season, starting only 18 times in the league.

“Jones is back in full training and [Jensen] Weir was expected to be this week”, “Hopefully Jones, Tracey and Weir give us some options soon too”, He seems like he favours attack more than defence so can only really see him getting in a Tuesday team if we go with a flat midfield four.”

Weir, currently on loan from Brighton, hasn’t featured since the beginning of January due to a knee injury.

“I’d love to give Ben Worman a chance. Wes [Hoolahan] had a substandard game, now seems a good time to see what Ben offers”, “Wish Worman would show this lot how to cross a ball”, “I'd rather us be keeping the likes of Worman or pushing through some of the youngsters than being loyal to O’Neil every summer.”

Academy graduate Worman has been with the senior side since 2017, starting all four of their cup games this season. Finished third in the infamous ‘Bersant Celina vs Cole Stockton goal of the month competition’ back in November.

“Shilow Tracey is dangerous”, “I really thought Shilow had a good game on the attacking front, he’ll come better on his defensive side with more games”, “Tracey for me was my man of the match, his defensive game has come on leaps and bounds and tracking back to make some very good tackles on the edge of our area last night.”

Tracey, who had a trial with Town in 2015 when a 17-year-old with Ebbsfleet United's academy and featured for the Blues’ U21s, returned to the Abbey Stadium on a permanent deal after a successful loan spell last season, but has missed a large chunk of the season due to injury. Came off the bench on Saturday, so could be available at Portman Road.

“We are short on numbers but [Jack] Lankester could start as could Worman to give the likes of May a rest”, “Would love to see Lankester play the in the hole with Brophy and Tracey out wide”, “I really like the look of Lankester. I think he’ll be a great option when he’s fully fit.”

Ex-Ipswich forward Jack Lankester left the club this summer, as part of Paul Cook’s demolition plan. Has struggled for game-time this season due to injury, but scored his first Cambridge goal a few weeks back against Plymouth.


“James Brophy has pulled off two sensational pirouettes”, “I desperately want Brophy to sort his end product”, “Brophy had another good game though I thought, his confidence to run at people, especially a deep defence, is excellent. I'm assuming he was feeling his legs because he was better than Shilow on the night. After a slow start it looks as though it's starting to click for Brophy.”

Summer signing Brophy has played across four positions so far this season, having been recruited for his excellent displays at left-back for Leyton Orient.

player stats

“The trip on Brophy last night was a stonewall penalty”, “Brophy's an excellent player and is going to be really useful for us, even if he doesn't end up weighing-in with significant numbers of goals and assists – but his decision-making at 27 is the reason League One is his ceiling”, “Brophy, whilst a good worker, is frustrating as hell. How many times did he get into good positions, cut in then realise he had no right foot so could not cross or shoot so cut back and lost the ball?”

Brophy has found his place in the side as Cambridge’s left winger. Offers both attacking and defensive capabilities, he has been a solid signing this season.

Centre Midfielder

“Great work by Paul Digby to keep possession under pressure to set it up as well”, “Admittedly, I think a 4-4-2 requires a partnership of Paul Digby and Liam O'Neil. Digby is more marauding and snapping at players to break up play”, “Digby was outstanding, my man of the match.”

Ex-Town midfielder Digby departed Portman Road in the summer of 2017, having spent 18 months with the club. Was originally on loan from Barnsley before seeing his move made permanent.

player stats

“Digby and May just look knackered”, “I quite enjoyed that performance from Digby today. He seemed to be in the thick of everything and making a proper scrap of it in midfield”, “Digby very lucky there - stupid to react to a push on the back with a push in the face.”

Since moving to Cambridge in July of 2020, Digby has been a solid addition to their midfield and has featured in every single game for the club this season bar three. Currently captain whilst Taylor is out injured.


“Sam Smith scores Cambridge's winning goal, congratulations!”, “I found Smith a bit frustrating. Some of his decision-making was questionable, some of his first touches were a bit heavy. I do love his energy and movement though and he fired off more shots than anyone else on the pitch”, “Smith was probably the best we could get in this year.”

Tasked with replicating the stunning form of Paul Mullin, who moved to Wrexham in the summer, Smith has been a revelation in the frontline, particularly when Ironside was out injured. Has 17 goals to his name this season.

“First touch like a fly trap, visionary pin-point passing, strength of an ox”, “If we ever look to push on to the next level (ie compete for a play-off place), [Harvey] Knibbs isn’t a player to take us there”, “All good points and Knibbs is OK as a squad player and I expect he’ll go back to being a squad player when other players are back from injury.”

Young striker Knibbs saw his game-time limited last season, but has featured in 27 games in League One during this campaign and has two goals and one assist to his name.

“Brophy is starting to win me over and that's why it's a good idea to give players time to come good and not write them off after five minutes. Like some are doing with poor [Lorent] Tolaj”, “Tolaj could well fit that criteria; I wouldn't write him off yet based on his lack of game-time”, “Give Knibbs or Tolaj a start up front, can't be any worse than recent games.”

On loan from Brighton, Tolaj has struggled to make an impact for Cambridge since his arrival in January. Hasn’t made a start yet for the club, but has come off the bench on occasion.


“Joe Ironside wins every battle he’s ever faced”, “I know Joe is an excellent player and works so hard, but they both had similar games I thought today and yet Smith gets the criticism”, “At one point last season for instance, Ironside went 13 games without scoring, but none of us would ever have suggested his role in the team was one that should be judged on goalscoring alone.”

Star striker Ironside has been tasked with leading the line for the U’s this season and started the season like a house on fire with three goals in four games.

player stats

“Ironside went under the radar with Mullin’s goals last year but he’s a great target man”, “To say Ironside didn't look bothered is a woefully poor perspective and a complete joke”, “Ironside did some good things but they were all 40 yards from goal and he and Smith really didn't get much to work with.”

Picked up an injury mid-season that halted his progress, but has featured in the last five without scoring. Has 13 goals for the season so far in all competitions.

Cambridge United Fans on ITFC

“Ipswich are yet to beat Cambridge in the Football League in three previous attempts”, “Ipswich say 23,500 tickets have been sold so far so still well over 6,000 below capacity.”

Last Time Out – Cambridge United 2-2 Ipswich Town

“The attitude, determination, effort and resilience are remarkable though. I can't remember ever being so confident that we'll score at least once in a game”, “For all the ability in Ipswich's squad, they aren't anything special at the moment. They should be much better going forward than they are – suspect it'll click for them at some point over the next month or so though”, “Pleased with a point that I didn't think we'd get before the game and certainly not after 30 minutes, but please can we just stop making daft individual errors at the back?”

“Ipswich should have had enough in the tank to have killed the game off but hey we’ve got so much fight in us from being a team who would run through a brick wall for Bonner”, “Our squad have proved they can handle themselves well in this division”, “Great atmosphere and amazing to see the stadium full for a league game.”

Back in October, Cambridge United and Ipswich Town played out a 2-2 draw at the Abbey Stadium with Sone Aluko scoring two of his three League One goals this season.


The main forum for a Cambridge United fan is the CUFC Unofficial.

Photo: Matchday Images

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

SuperBlue69 added 14:38 - Apr 1
I know we have to respect the opposition and are in the same league blah blah blah…But does anybody else feel a little down when we have to listen and read about these little teams managers and fans pontificating about ITFC as if they are on the same level (No disrespectful to the article though which is great)..Ipswich v Cambridge bloody UTD should be a FA cup game or a friendly!
Anyway back to the real world! COYB!!!!

ringwoodblue added 14:39 - Apr 1
The insights into our opposition every match are really interesting and informative.

Looking at tomorrow’s games, SW, Sund and Wyc have what look to be 3 point home bankers against bottom teams so we will need to beat Camb just to stay still . We really need Plym to be Oxf as we can still catch the latter imho.

ringwoodblue added 14:40 - Apr 1

TomTheWriter added 15:01 - Apr 1
@SuperBlue69 imagine being the one scrolling through ‘Ipswich’ in the opposition teams’ search bars 😂 the majority of the time it is negative because the quotes for each return fixture are either Cook’s or McGreal’s games, so it was either a loss, poor draw or undeserved win, bar Pompey and Wycombe.

The issue I’ve had sometimes is that teams like to talk about us when we lose, but are quiet when we win. You’ll get 3 or 4 posts about McKenna in 14 weeks, but 40-50 about Cook because he failed 😨

TomTheWriter added 15:07 - Apr 1
@ringwoodblue I wouldn’t count out Gillingham turning over Sunderland tomorrow afternoon. Lots of players were on int. duty, not trained much. Pritchard & Broadhead might not be fit. Gills always make it a tough game, especially as they look to stay up.

Wimbledon new manager bounce will hopefully come into effect against Wednesday, that would be nice. Wycombe a home banker sadly. Hopefully Pompey’s 8 games in 25 days will be too much for them

Letchworth_Blue added 15:58 - Apr 1
“Ipswich say 23,500 tickets have been sold so far so still well over 6,000 below capacity.”
And what? So Cambridge would get 30,000 if it was their stadium? They cant even fill the shAbbey! lol

TimmyH added 16:36 - Apr 1
Well they've failed to spring any surprises against our play-off rivals of recent weeks so in my opinion why do they feel they can with us?...hope we hammer them and they go home with their tales between their legs!

Linkboy13 added 17:07 - Apr 1
Could be another one of those games where the opposition come for a point and try and frustrate us with wasting time tactics and niggly fouls just hope we've got a good referee. Still think we should win it two nil. Special Ks blue and white army.

Umros added 23:02 - Apr 1
Ha, saying we have 6500 tickets not sold, do they not realise it’s just another game for us, they are not a local rival to us but just another dour first division team to endure. Hopefully put them to the sword on ‘The Big Day out’

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