Saturday afternoon sees Cambridge United arrive at the Alexandra Stadium as they look to get their season back on track having not won in any of their last 4 games.
So far this season, they have beaten Colchester United and Scunthorpe United, have drawn with Bradford City and Newport County and have been beaten by Oldham Athletic, Port Vale and Forest Green Rovers. In the cups, they beat Brentford on penalties before losing to Swansea City in the EFL Cup while they have yet to play in their EFL Trophy group that contains Peterborough United, Northampton Town and Arsenal’s Under-21 side.
Over the summer, Cambridge have signed 10 players over the summer, 8 of which are permanent signings and 2 loans and let 9 leave the club. Joining the club are goalkeeper Callum Burton, defenders Kyle Knoyle and Dan Jones, midfielders Luke Hannant, Samir Carruthers and Jack Roles (on loan until January) and forwards Harvey Knibbs, Andrew Dallas, Marc Richards and Sam Smith (season-long loan).
Looking back in the archives, the two teams have met 30 times with Cambridge leading the head-to-head with 14 wins to 8 with 8 draws. Crewe’s biggest win came in a 3-0 victory at the Abbey Stadium in October 1986 while Cambridge’s biggest win came at the same ground the following season with a 4-1 win. Last season saw the Alex win the corresponding fixture 2-0 whilst the game at the Abbey Ground finished goalless.
Who are the officials for the game?
The officials for this game see David Rock as the man in the middle where he is assisted by Natalie Aspinall and Alix Pashley with David Hunt being the fourth official. We have yet to be refereed by Rock as it is his first season as a Football League referee.
How would you describe your transfer activity this summer?
I, along with many other United fans, are content with Colin Calderwood’s first summer of activity. A major shake up was needed, especially in the striking department, that’s been sorted thankfully. There’s plenty of options in the middle of the park now, which is great to see, and the signings of full-backs Dan Jones and Kyle Knoyle (both currently injured) has ensured that the squad is good enough to compete with anyone in this league on their day. The problem is, they’re currently on a small rut.
Which position is the one that you should improve the most from the squad you currently have?
It definitely would be to strengthen in the winger department, which would allow United to change formation during the game should they require it and feel it is necessary. However, Calderwood is set on playing wing-backs with 3 in the middle, so it was unlikely that an exciting wide player like David Amoo was going to be replaced. On those terms, there’s plenty of options in this squad as it is. It’s just a case of if they’re going to fire or not.
What do you think the team will be for the game?
Calderwood has stuck to a front two of Marc Richards and loanee Sam Smith (not that one unfortunately) as of late, which some fans have questioned considering Andrew Dallas has impressed when given the opportunity and is a permanent figure at the Abbey. Other than that, it could very well be the same team which went down 1-0 at home to Forest Green Rovers last weekend. With Tottenham Hotspur loanee Jack Roles back in the fold, I’d fully expect him to play a part in this game.
I’ll say: Mitov, Davies, Taft, Taylor, Darling, Hannant, O’Neil, Carruthers, Lewis, Richards, Dallas
How would you set-up to nullify your team?
As previously stated, the wing-back system has proved intriguing to say the least. It’s refreshing to see this approach in comparison to the diamond we’ve all been accustomed to in the past few seasons, which wasn’t easy on the eye. Injuries to the first-choice Knoyle and Jones has paved the way for young Leon Davies and the omnipresent Luke Hannant to step in. They’ve made good accounts of themselves for a side who genuinely look comfortable in defence. The protection of Liam O’Neil, Paul Lewis and Samir Carruthers in the middle of the park has proved effective too.
However, it’s no coincidence that United seem to look shakier every time O’Neil gets substituted for an attack-minded midfielder. It’s happened many a times this season, which has frustrated fans. Like the case with last weekend’s match, we create the chances, they’re not taken, then we rue them when good opposition capitalise, take their chances and see off a game professionally.
Who is the danger man for this game?
It’s hard to pinpoint a certain standout player for United as they all bring different assets to the table and have all impressed me thus far this season. However, the acquisition of Samir Carruthers from Sheffield United is very impressive, it’s a real coup. He provides security in the middle of the park and can cut open the opposition efficiently. He’ll be a key figure this season and against the Railwaymen this afternoon.
What do you think is a realistic aim for United this season?
Realistically, I believe we’ll finish roughly 14th. I don’t think we’ll flirt with the play-offs, nor do I think we’ll look in real trouble come March/April. It would be an improvement and would lay the foundations for a 2020/21 campaign where United can really kick on and give it a go.
In terms of today’s game, it’s a tough one for us. Crewe Alexandra are my dark horses for this campaign, I like the way David Artell has set you up, you’re playing attractive football and have a good set of hungry, young players who are rapidly progressing.