Cambridge City eager to get going as season starts with FA Cup clash against Biggleswade United
When the Isthmian League, North Division season was cut short in March, it was just as Cambridge City had got on a roll.
They had gone seven games unbeaten in all competitions, and kept seven clean sheets – which is now the blueprint Robbie Nightingale will seek to emulate in the 2020/21 campaign.
“March 11, the last competitive game, we finished with a 0-0 draw against Maldon & Tiptree, the champions-elect, and were looking forward to mounting an assault on the play-offs with 10 games to go,” said the City boss.
“We had left ourselves a lot to do, but the form we were in and the games we had against mid to low-table sides we fancied our chances.
“We’ve been chomping at the bit for weeks. We’ve kept them busy doing stuff, 5k and 10k challenges, and keeping them ticked over through the off-season part.
“We now want to crack on and try to achieve something as a group. As it’s gone through pre-season, the games have come thick and fast, and we are now at the point where we’re days away from the start of it all.
“We can’t wait. We’re desperate to get going. We’ve got a good group together and it can’t come quick enough.”
Continuity has been the theme of the summer.
In line with that run of results coming out of last winter, the priority has been to keep the same squad.
It has largely been successful, with the only departure being striker Arel Amu, who has made the decision to test himself at a level higher with St Ives.
“We’re disappointed to lose him because we wanted to keep everybody, but we have brought Ryan Ingrey in permanently now and he is somebody that we’re hoping will give us a little bit more,” said Nightingale.
“He has won this step with Royston, played this step at Bath, so we’re expecting good things from Ryan. The nucleus of the team is all the same.
“We have brought in Miles Smith and Stevan Shaw, and we’re trying to sign Ryan Richfort.
“He has been at Chelmsford all pre-season, but had been at Stortford, Margate, Leatherhead, Crawley and is still only 24. He has come in and played a few friendlies and really stood out.
“We are starting afresh but everything we did towards the end of last season is where we want to be – the team shape, how we play, nothing changes.
“The things that got us a lot of that were teamwork and desire, so that’s a massive thing that we have spoken about. It just feels like we’ve carried on from where we finished.”
It has been a busy summer with nine pre-season matches, and last Saturday ended a long wait to play in front of their own fans.
Not only has the pandemic prevented supporters at matches until the weekend, but City had also not been at home between February 8 and March 11, when the season was halted.
It was a welcome return as well, with Ryan Ingrey getting the only goal against Barton Rovers, ideal preparation for their FA Cup, first qualifying round match against Biggleswade United this Saturday (September 12), according to Nightingale.
“It was a nice dress rehearsal to what we’ve got coming up, against a really strong Barton team from the equivalent level,” he said.
“It has hopefully set us up nicely for Biggleswade on Saturday. We need to turn up and play our best football if we’re to get anything from the game.
“They’ve got good pace and experience, are only the level below us and have aspirations of stepping up through the pyramid.”
Pre-season plans have been hindered with Tom Gardiner having to quarantine after a trip to Spain, Tommy Rigby and Isaac Maynard missing matches and Luke Knight and Nathan Olukanmi suffering injuries.
But it has given the likes of youngsters Danny Prince-Jones, Callum Adams, Collins Nwakor and Bradley Gothard the chance to impress.
“They have come in, been a part of it and done really well,” said Nightingale.
“We’ve got a group we’re happy with, and if we need to dip into the younger group then we know we can as they are under the club this year for the first time in a long time.
“They will train with us on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it’s almost like having another team with us. There are some talented young boys in there, and they deserve an opportunity to make the step up.”
Nightingale is just eager to get started now, with the matches likely to come thick and fast – beginning with the FA Cup and then the first Isthmian League, North Division match on September 19.
“Saturday can’t come quick enough, that’s the top and bottom of it,” he said. “We’re desperate to start the league again, and I think having fans in has created a buzz.
“We’ve become quite close with Tim (Rapley), and the people running the ladies and it’s been quite nice.
“It’s been a difficult time, but it’s been a good way of communicating and getting to know people a lot better.”
He added: “Thankfully, football is back and it’s something to look forward to.”
Cambridge City's Isthmian League, North Division fixtures
19 - Tilbury FC (H)
29 - Dereham Town (A)
3 - Felixstowe & Walton Utd (H)
7 - Soham Town Rangers (H)
10 - Coggeshall Town (A)
24 - Grays Athletic (H)
27 - Brentwood Town (A)
31 - Canvey Island (H)
7 - Basildon United (A)
14 - Witham Town (H)
21 - Heybridge Swifts (A)
28 - Maldon & Tiptree (H)
5 - Aveley (A)
12 - AFC Sudbury (H)
19 - Gt Wakering Rovers (A)
26 - Histon (H)
28 - Bury Town (A)
2 - Hullbridge Sports (H)
9 - Romford (A)
16 - Brentwood Town (H)
23 - Grays Athletic (A)
30 - Coggeshall Town (H)
6 - Soham Town Rangers (A)
13 - AFC Sudbury (A)
20 - Gt Wakering Rovers (H)
27 - Basildon United (H)
6 - Canvey Island (A)
13 - Heybridge Swifts (H)
20 - Witham Town (A)
27 - Maldon & Tiptree (A)
3 - Aveley (H)
5 - Histon (A)
10 - Romford (H)
17 - Tilbury (A)
24 - Dereham Town (H)
1 - Felixstowe & Walton Utd (A)
3 - Bury Town (H)
8 - Hullbridge Sports (A)