A fourth defeat in a row which makes our good run of form when Mark Venus initally took charge look like something of a blip. We’ve got a few decent players who could form a good team, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to fit them together into a side that can win games on a consistent basis.
Against MK ‘Dons’ last week, we were, in a sense, the better side. We looked on top for long periods of the game, took more shots and slightly edged possession. However, our one shot on target came from 30 yards out and required a defensive howler from the opposing side and a lack of presence at the back probably cost the two goals MK ‘Dons’ scored.
For Mark Venus, he appears to be living one of the shortest managerial life-cycles of any Coventry City manager. From coming in and correcting some of the errors of the Tony Mowbray-era, he seems to have lost a sense of purpose that generally happens in the final months of a manager’s reign. Just over two months since replacing one manager, it’s looking like we’re going to have to do it all over again.
This FA Cup tie against Cambridge looks to be about avoiding further embarrassment than it is a chance to put a run in the cup together. Given our poor form and Cambridge’s own good form, this would be one of those cup ‘upsets’ which wouldn’t be much of an upset at all. Yet, if we do win, all we’ll have done is beaten a side in the division below.
In terms of team selection, Lewis Page and Dan Agyei have been made available by their parent clubs for this fixture. With Jamie Sterry and Marvin Sordell returning from suspension, and the slight chance that Chris McCann could return from injury, there’s a pretty strong squad for Venus to pick from. Although, the Ben Stevenson’s three-game ban leaves a hole in that holding role in front of the defence.
Last Time We Met
Cambridge United are not a side who we’ve tended to face, there have been just six competitive meetings between the two sides and the last happened when I was -4 months old, also in the FA Cup. Cambridge United won a Third Round Replay against the then-top-flight Sky Blues, which doesn’t seem like a great omen heading into this game.
How Are They Doing?
Cambridge United were one of the promotion favourites in League Two heading into this season but started the season in terrible form, taking nine games to record their first victory. Unlike Tony Mowbray, Cambridge manager Shaun Derry stayed in the job and has overseen an improvement in form that now has the U’s 11th in the division and just two points away from the play-offs.
Uche Ikpeazu in attack has been an important figure in Cambridge’s form over the past few months. His best spell prior to this season came while at Crewe in League One in 2014/15 but had struggled to recapture that form until recently. Standing at six foot three, Ikpeazu is a massive physical presence but also has a decent turn of pace on him which will make him even more of a handful for Willis and Turnbull.
Cambridge will have energetic and goal-scoring players operating just behind Ikpeazu in the form of Luke Berry and Piero Mingoia. Berry can play centrally or out wide and had a decent spell with Barnsley in League One a few seasons ago before making a surprise decision to drop down a level to re-join Cambridge. Mingoia is an out-and-out winger with tremendous energy and great delivery who has consistently been a top drawer performer at League Two level. They also have the pacey and direct Harrison Dunk currently among the subs who can cause problems on either the left-wing or from left-back.
In goal, Will Norris is looking like one of the best young goalkeepers below Championship level at this moment in time. Norris has gained a reputation for being a specialist when it comes to saving penalties, having saved five already this season, and provides a platform of defensive solidity that has made Cambridge a ruthlessly efficient side of late.
Furthermore, Shaun Derry is a rather cynical manager who knows how to frustrate teams with not only well-organised defending but through niggly fouls and time-wasting. Against an inexperienced side such as ourselves that has aspirations of playing passing football, it’s an approach that is likely to prove fruitful. Be prepared for a very frustrating Sunday afternoon should Cambridge get the game’s first goal.
This is a fixture where you would imagine that our League Two hosts will be feeling confident about their chances. Cambridge are defensively solid, energetic and have a physical presence about them, two of those three things are what we lack. Furthermore, we have been poor away from home for much of this season which makes it even harder to see us winning this game.
I think this will be a 2-0 loss.