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Cambridge United coach Mark Bonner predicts lots of yellow cards as rules changes bed in

After his Cambridge United side picked up four yellow cards in last Saturday’s opening day win, Mark Bonner has admitted he will not be toning down his side’s aggression amid new rule changes.

In fact, he believes those alterations being brought into the game this season will have to be softened, while still trying to serve their purpose, otherwise he has warned supporters to expect a significant increase in red and yellow cards and accompanying suspensions.

Cambridge United head coach Mark Bonner. Picture: Simon Lankester
Cambridge United head coach Mark Bonner. Picture: Simon Lankester

The first weekend of the Football League season was notable for referees carrying out new guidelines to clamp down on time-wasting and dissent as well as tougher policing on what goes on in and around the bench and technical areas.

Bonner, whose side saw off fancied Oxford United 2-0 at a packed out Abbey Stadium to get their Sky Bet League One campaign off to a flying start on Saturday, is certainly not a fan of the latter clampdown and believes the rules need to be malleable.

“I think it’s going to be tough,” he said, following yellow cards being brandished to James Brophy (11’), Jack Lankester (44’), Saikou Janneh (45’) and Elias Kachunga (90+5’).

“The instinctive bit of reacting when decisions go against you is very hard to take out of people and unless we’re very, very careful we could end up with a lot of players sent off.

“I absolutely agree with the premise that officials should be respected and cheating shouldn’t be allowed and people come to watch the ball in play so I understand all of those things.

“But there are a few rules that are definitely going to need tweaking as time goes on, around the frivolous nature of yellow cards for certain things.

Cambridge Utd v Oxford Utd: James Brophy is booked. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Utd v Oxford Utd: James Brophy is booked. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We saw it very quickly and it’s going to take some time to change behaviours, and whether the consistency lasts or this will be a three-week thing, will be the challenge for officials.”

There is one new rule in particular he has voiced his disapproval with, though he admitted he agrees with the overall ethos behind the new season clampdown.

“There’s some interesting things come in such as one person only standing in the technical area, which actually means coaches can’t do their job which is ridiculous,” he said.

“I don’t think football people made that rule up, so I think there’s some work to do on that.

“I think the premise behind all of it is right and it’ll be a real challenge. There’ll be a lot of yellow cards early on.

“We don’t want to be a nice team, we want our team to be aggressive, rock and roll, get after people, play on the edge but never be hijacked by the game, so expect more yellow cards because it’s going to happen.

“But also expect, hopefully, over time that does change behaviour a bit and makes the referee’s job slightly easier which is very, very difficult, but it needs to happen because otherwise we’re going to run out of refs as no-one wants to do it.”

The U’s were in action at League Two Sutton United in the Carabao Cup First Round South on Tuesday night, losing out 6-5 on penalties after a lively game that had ended 2-2.

Fejiri Okenabirhie got the U’s off to a good start with an 18th minute goal, before Harry Smith pulled it back to 1-1 in the 36th minute.

The U’s had the lion’s share of possession and went 2-1 up in the 60th minute when Okenabirhie hit home from the spot, but Harry Beautyman levelled it for Sutton when another penalty was awarded in the 82nd minute. Sutton had 20 shots in the game, nine of them on target, whereas the U’s managed 16 shots, including four on target. Ultimately, it was determined in a tight penalty shoot-out that saw the U’s head out the competition at the first stage,

Now they’ll turn their attention to a trip up to the Fylde coast in Lancashire to face Scott Brown’s Fleetwood Town on Saturday (August 12).

Cambridge Utd v Oxford Utd, Gassaan Ahadme scores the second goal. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Utd v Oxford Utd, Gassaan Ahadme scores the second goal. Picture: Keith Heppell

On his side getting off to a good start in the league, having famously escaped relegation on the last day of last season, Bonner said: “Yes, we’ve got to win a lot of games, haven’t we? There’s 45 to go, it’s a start, with a win, so then no-one panics.

“There’s lots to do but it’s a real good performance against a team that no doubt will be up there this season, so it’s a really good result.

“We know home results and home form will be really important to us and it’s something that we can build on.

“There’s still plenty to do, still plenty to improve, the players are still getting fit.

“New players have still got a long way to go to be ready but we’re really pleased with the starting point and hopefully we can go to Fleetwood and back it up with another result.”

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