The Opposition View: Cambridge United

Last updated : 19 February 2015 By Jim Bonner

What's your assessment of Cambridge's season so far?

After nine years in non-league all we really wanted out of this year was to not even have to contemplate being relegated back there, so until a couple of weeks ago that was going along quite nicely. A run of bad results now has us looking slightly nervously over our shoulders, and by the end of the month we should know how the rest of the season will pan out.

Much like last season we have suffered after losing Kwesi Appiah mid-season and we just seem to be solid if not spectacular in most areas, which, coupled with some questionable tactical decisions has seen us dip a bit recently, but when we play on the front foot we can beat anyone. If we end up well clear of the drop zone though we will all be very happy. And of course, the cup tie against Man Utd was a huge bonus, hopefully that will set us up for years to come financially.

Ryan Bird was deemed not good enough to play for Pompey. What do Cambridge fans think of him?

An FA Trophy specialist, scored some vital goals for us on the way to winning that competition last season as well as a few in the league. I'm not sure we needed to sign him when we did and think it was largely done on sentiment, and he hasn't really looked up to standard for most of the season, to the point that we have now told him he can leave. No hard feelings certainly, but definitely a "good Conference striker" and no more at the moment.

Nathaniel Mendez-Laing also had a short spell on loan at Fratton Park not so long ago. What are the opinions of U's fans on him?

Well, he comes from "that lot" up the A14 (Peterborough) so he needs to hit the ground running or else the fans will turn on him quickly! We have a habit of playing central midfielders out wide which seems to stifle our creativity, so hopefully his signing will allow us to play two out-and-out wingers and go back to the fast attacking style which suits us best.

Who are the key players in your team?

Ryan Donaldson, scorer of the goal that got us promoted, the goal that got us the Man Utd tie as well as being man-of-the-match against them. He plays best behind the striker but has played mostly on the wing, although he has looked tired in recent games and might be given a rest.

The rest of our team are all largely solid not spectacular as mentioned earlier but an honourable mention for Josh Coulson at centre half who came through the youth system and has now been in the first team for seven years and is a definite fans' favourite.

What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of this Cambridge side?

Our strength is playing on the front foot and trying to take the game to teams as when we do that and knock it around quickly we tend to score three or four goals. We are also very well drilled and disciplined, Richard Money doesn't stand for any nonsense, we have only lost by more than two goals once in two years and that was at Old Trafford.

However, it's also a weakness as it means we can be conservative and sit back too much against teams we shouldn't do. We simply do not close down crosses and our keeper has let a few dodgy ones through him as well in recent weeks. Sadly, all three of those weaknesses tend to combine at the same time.

Richard Money said that Portsmouth would win the league after our win back in August. Things haven't quite turned out that way but what do you make of the Pompey squad?

It is still hard for us to properly judge even now, after being away for so long we are just getting back up to speed with what a "good League Two squad" actually is, but I think most of us had you down for promotion at the start of the season, if only based on reputation.

Ryan Taylor was by far and away your best player at Fratton Park against us (well, except for our Liam Hughes who fancied smashing one in the back of your net), Matt Tubbs is someone who has torn us to pieces over the years in the Conference (and this year for Wimbledon) and we had a young Craig Westcarr in our terrible 2006/7 team but he was one of the few standouts then, so coupled with a few other recognisable names amongst your squad, it is surprising to see you down in the bottom half again.

Where are the best pubs/places to go around the Abbey Stadium?

Sadly over the years the number of pubs in the immediate vicinity of the ground have reduced dramatically, so I would avoid there pre-game altogether. Luckily for you, Cambridge city centre is one of the best places to drink in the country as well as being bloody lovely generally, so I would get yourself down there instead.

The Regal is the Wetherspoons option and is rather sizeable, but do try out one of the smaller pubs as well, my personal recommendation would be The Eagle. Also check out Parkers Piece (two minutes from The Regal) as it is on that piece of land where the modern day rules of football were first drawn up.

You can catch the citi 3 bus towards Fison Road from the city centre to right outside the ground, otherwise it's a 20 minute walk. The station is a 35 minute walk from the ground and doesn't take you through the city centre, but it does take you via Mill Road which also has a magnificent selection of pubs.

What sort of match can we expect on Saturday and how confident are you of winning?

Our season has been a run of a few poor games followed by a run of a few good games, we have two points from the last five games and were stupidly conservative in the second half at Plymouth last week, so I am hoping that we will launch ourselves into another good run with two home games this week and a positive approach to both games.

But, having witnessed our captiulations at Exeter and Plymouth, I'll believe it when I see it. I wouldn't be too disappointed with a draw. A loss and there will be some serious over the shoulder looking going on. We are capable of absolutely anything though.

Predict the outcome of the match.

An optimistic 1-1.