Mark Bonner braces Cambridge United to counter a combination of styles at Harrogate Town
Mark Bonner is predicting that Cambridge United will need to dig deep into their repertoire of styles to seal the point they need at Harrogate Town to clinch promotion from Sky Bet League Two tonight (Friday, April 30, kick off 7pm).
With a five-point buffer inside the automatic promotion places and a vastly superior goal difference to fourth-placed Morecambe and fifth-placed Tranmere, it would seem fair to say that the U’s just need a draw to earn their place in League One.
They had hopes of clinching that berth at home to Stevenage last Saturday at the Abbey Stadium, but a 1-0 defeat saw their chase roll on for another week.
“I think we’ve shown fairly consistently that worry isn’t a word that enters our vocabulary too often,” said U’s head coach Bonner.
“Of course, the performance wasn’t a level that we would like it to have been.
“The two away days in the build-up to that [at Newport County and Leyton Orient] probably took their toll quite a bit with the pressure that was around those games. The performance wasn’t what we hoped for, it was a very scrappy, fairly even game that probably could have gone either way or just been a bit of a bore draw really.
“It’s disappointing we didn’t come out with that, because that point might have been crucial for us, but that has gone quite a long time ago now for us.
“We’re focused on getting the team ready, getting the squad ready to go and give a really good account of ourselves and to try to approach the game with the same type of energy and intensity that we have done.
“We've shown in the number of wins we've had that we can win in lots of different ways. We will need to dig deep into that library of skills and experiences to find a way of getting a positive result.
“We can certainly go into it confident but we know how tricky this game is going to be. We know how tricky the surface is up there, and the way in which Harrogate play.
“It’s a very in your face, aggressive style so we have to do the basics very well because they will make us defend our box and around our box.
“We also have to make sure we bring a bit of quality to the game as well. I think it’s a game we’re all looking forward to.”
The match has been moved to Friday night because Harrogate face Concord Rangers in the 2020 FA Trophy final at Wembley on Monday, with the game having been held over from last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It shows the development of the Yorkshire side after their promotion last year from the National League, and they have had a relatively smooth transition to League Two, sitting comfortably in mid-table.
Harrogate also produced an impressive performance in the fog at the Abbey in January, taking an early first-half lead before second-half efforts from Joe Ironside and Wes Hoolahan earned United a 2-1 win.
“When you come out of the National League, you don’t want to go back there because it’s such a hard league to get out of firstly,” said Bonner.
“Your immediate aim is to retain your Football League status which they have done, but the record of teams that come out of that league is quite good to stay up in that first season.
“They have probably followed a pattern when you’ve got the momentum of last season that has taken them into this, they strengthened well into January and they have had a really consistent, solid season.
“I’m sure they will have been pleased to have done that, but also be mindful that they don’t want to slow down the progress they’ve made.”
But Bonner says the aim is simple, to make sure that Harrogate are no better off in their points tally after the game on Friday.
If United can do that, then one way or the other their promotion will have been secured.
“This game is about us, that’s literally the only focus for us,” said Bonner.
“This is a massive opportunity for us to go and take a prize, and we’ve got to show up and deliver the best performance we can to give ourselves the best chance of doing that.”