League Two ‘party spoilers’ Cambridge United and Morecambe set to do battle at the Abbey
Mark Bonner is not anticipating a repeat scenario of Cambridge United’s early season trip to Morecambe when the sides clash at the Abbey Stadium tomorrow (Good Friday, 3pm).
The U’s made the trip to the Mazuma Stadium for the second league game of the campaign, and departed with a 5-0 victory.
But tomorrow’s match will pit the league leaders against a Morecambe side on a good run of form, and just five points behind United with a game in hand.
Bonner has repeatedly emphasised that United and Morecambe are spoiling the party this season, with few outsiders tipping either club to be in such lofty positions.
“I think I said in the build-up to the last game that they won’t be the team that they have been in the last few years,” said the U’s head coach.
“Derek (Adams, Morecambe’s manager) was building a squad that was stronger than what they’d had and you could tell the way they were going to go about their business.
“Our result against them was probably a surprise last time, and the game won’t look like that this time for certain.
“Their results recently have been very strong, really consistent. They’ve made it clear that they are trying to win the league, so they’ve got an ambition about them that they haven’t had recently.
“Certainly, at the beginning of the year, you only have to look at the external guesses and predictions that are out there, and no-one had either of us in the positions that we are.
“From an external point of view, yes we’re the surprise packages, but I’m sure internally, like ourselves, they will have had some targets that they wanted to blow the myth that they are a small club that couldn’t compete. They have certainly done that.
“We expect a really tough game but we’re in good form ourselves, and it’s a game that we’re really looking forward to and a weekend we’re looking forward to as well to build on the decent results we’ve had recently.”
As the fabled ‘business end’ of the season approaches, United have a two-point lead at the top of the table, with just eight matches remaining.
Bonner has steadfastly refused to be drawn into discussion about targeting promotion throughout the campaign, but admits that as the games countdown, internally, they have been discussing what may be required.
“Who doesn’t look at the fixtures and try to work things out,” he said.
“You have to allow yourself to do that because you need some sort of target, but in the end you can’t really control that too much.
“Your previous data for the season is your usual guide of where you’re going to end up, but what you’ve done won’t dictate what you’re going to do.
“We’re in a period of action so we’ve got to deliver results and performances, and contribute towards wins.
“Very rarely are predicted tables what they turn out to be. From our perspective it is very normal to go through that process and you’ve got to allow those conversations and that thought of what could happen.
“We’ve done that all year, the way we’ve broken down periods and blocks of games and tried to target things.”
What makes it particularly difficult this season is the inconsistency of the division.
There has always been an element of that in League Two, but it seems to be more so than ever this campaign.
A cluster of clubs are narrowly separated at the top of the table, while you can probably go down to 13th-placed Bradford City as still having a chance of reaching the play-offs.
“I think there are just more teams in it than ever and the gap between the top is tighter than ever,” said Bonner.
“Even at this stage of the season, going into Easter weekend, there are still a lot of teams that could finish top, and a lot of teams that could get in the top seven.
“You expect it to drop and shift again this weekend because that’s how it goes. I think it’s always been a league that is sometimes difficult to get on consecutive long runs.
“There are very few teams capable of doing it. Bolton have been unbelievable with the run that they’re on, there are very few teams capable of doing that.
“We’ve won three on the bounce, and it’s only the second time we’ve done that this year in the league. Creating winning runs is really hard.
“There is an inconsistency to the league, and part of that is because it’s quite even and well-balanced so anyone can beat anyone.
“There is a bit of mentality there and a consistency that becomes really important.”
He added: “I’ve not really been surprised by it. We always knew this year would be a little bit different from the start of it, and the fact it has been quite wide open with so many teams in it hasn’t really surprised me.
“It makes for a really exciting finish to the season when there is so much that can happen still and so many positions can change between now and the end.”