Man in the middleCambridge FC view
In 25 games he issued 94 yellows and 2 reds
Assisted by Richard Morris and Mark Derrien
Fourth Official : Scott Jackson
A key part in Cambridge United’s four-game winning run has been the ability to be hard to break down.
They have only conceded two goals in their last four games in Sky Bet League Two, a vital factor in being unbeaten in February.
Interim head coach Mark Bonner has made the side compact and defensively strong, quick to get up the pitch and the work of the midfield four protects, the defence allowing very little room in behind.
“We’ve often played with quite a lot of bodies centrally in terms of playing a diamond or three in midfield, and we’ve taken a body out of there which means we have to make sure we’re more compact so we’re blocking their passing lines,” said Bonner.
“It’s definitely been a big thing for us to try to make ourselves harder to beat. The longer we go on playing how we want to play, people will throw things at us to try to cause us problems.”
Bradford opted for a change in formation last week, with a No 10 and two out-and-out wingers, but they found similar problems in fashioning chances as the U’s earned a 2-1 win.
Bonner is anticipating a different test again at Plymouth Argyle.
“We will play against a team this weekend that are highly-possession based, that get real width in their team and get lots of numbers in attacking areas,” he said.
“It’s going to test us like no other game has so far. They will test our compactness and our way of defending, so we will have to make sure we’re ready for it, can adapt in the game and maintain possession for as long as possible so they are on the defending foot as much as we can make it. But we know how tough a task that will be.”
It has not been a case of piling the bodies into the box to defend though, it has been making sure that the structure has been put in place.
The compact nature has therefore stood out, which in turn has made them hard to beat.
“Lots of goals are scored off crosses, lots of goals are scored off set-plays and lots of goals are scored off second-phase attacks, so if you spend the game in your penalty box, inviting crosses and unable to stop them, overloaded in a wide area, you just put your back four under needless pressure,” said Bonner.
“Sometimes it’s not the first move that gets you, it’s just the sustained periods of pressure that can really cause you a problem.”
But, overall, it is matter of making sure that the basics are done properly.
“It’s all well and good saying it’s simple and we’ve just put players in the right positions but, ultimately, wherever you put them, players have got to work with a real intensity, aggression and desire to defend in order for it to work,” said Bonner.
“It’s not me changing the shape of the team, it’s the players being ultimately that committed to make that happen and they’re going to have to do that this weekend.”
Cambridge are on a run of four straight wins which followed a sequence of just one point from six games. The U's occupy 12th place in League Two and have an away record of won five games, drawn five and lost seven.Lowe View on Cambridge
Ahead of Argyle’s clash with Cambridge United at Home Park on Saturday, boss Ryan Lowe was keen to highlight how they could prove tough opposition but insisted the correct preparation will set his side on the right path.
“It’s a big game for us and a game that we feel where we need to make sure we’re right on it because they’re no mugs – they’ve turned a corner recently,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re on it and I’m sure we will be.”
After a draw at Moss Rose against Macclesfield Town on Tuesday, it is often a case of managing the workload in a hectic spell of fixtures.
“We needed a little bit more [at Macclesfield on Tuesday], we asked for that at half-time – and they did it and put bodies on the line, so fair play to them,” said Ryan. “I think, coming away from Macclesfield, when you reflect on it, we were happy with the point.
“We know we can’t put too much into their legs at this stage of the season. Part of their bodies are still recovering from Tuesday, so we’ll minimise any risk by not putting too much into them. We have to make sure that you’re ready for Saturday afternoon. At this stage of the season, there isn’t much you can do with them, it’s just the basic, tactical stuff, such as awareness.
“The lads are fit, they’ve been fit from pre-season right the way to now. It’s just about ticking them over now.”
As a fellow former player just beginning his journey into management, Ryan has huge respect for his opposite number this Saturday, interim head coach at Cambridge Mark Bonner, who has won four games on the trot.
“Mark [Bonner] has done a fantastic job since he has gone in there as Caretaker manager, fair play to him,” said Ryan. “He’s got them playing the right way, they’re the most in-form team – winning four in a row. They’re coming here as a winning side.
“They beat us at their place, where we weren’t quite at our best on that day, they’ll take positives from that, just like we take positives from our wins.
“We wish him [Bonner] all the best after Saturday because he’s another young manager learning his trade. As a young manager myself, I think he should be given the opportunity to take the club going forward because of how well he has done.”
I hope Josh Grant is back, no news how the injuries is progressing
I going for a hard 1 - nil win
Sorry I was late with this one