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Mark Bonner sets Cambridge United task of laying down marker for season against Carlisle United in Sky Bet League Two



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Mark Bonner will be taking charge of Cambridge United in a league game for the first time since being appointed head coach. Picture: Keith Heppell
Mark Bonner will be taking charge of Cambridge United in a league game for the first time since being appointed head coach. Picture: Keith Heppell

Mark Bonner wants Cambridge United to set out their intentions for the season with a strong performance in the opening Sky Bet League Two game of the season against Carlisle United on Saturday (September 12).

In a sign of the times, the U’s have already had two competitive fixtures before the league campaign gets under way - and they defeated Birmingham City in the Carabao Cup and Fulham under-21s in the EFL Trophy.

But the bread and butter begins at the Abbey Stadium this weekend, against the Cumbrians who have had the polar opposite to United in their first two competitive games - a 3-0 defeat to Oldham Athletic in the Carabao Cup and a 3-1 loss to Fleetwood Town in the EFL Trophy.

“It’s one of those situations early in the season where it’s tough to completely judge somebody,” said U’s head coach Bonner.

“Obviously we’ve got good knowledge of them playing towards the back end of last season in terms of the style which their new manager likes to play. But they have had a big change around of players from last season to this.

“They have played two competitive games so far and will be disappointed with the result side of things, and I’m sure they will make themselves a harder team to score against this weekend then they have in the last couple.

“We know we’re going to have a challenge on our hands. They’ve got some athletic players and good experience in the team as well, and if everybody is fit and available, we know they’ve got a threat on counter-attacks and an aggressive side to their defending.

“We will have to be good to take the points, but that is where we want to start - we want to start with a performance that shows the level we can get to and returns the points.”

United have been composed in their matches to date, including the final pre-season game against Ipswich Town, but Bonner anticipates that the clash with Carlisle will be a far more different affair.

He is expecting more of the frenetic, hurley-burly type of match usually associated with League Two.

“There is no doubt that there is less control in our league than there has been in the games we’ve seen recently - against Ipswich, Birmingham and Fulham, who are very possession-based teams, slow build-up play and then looking to penetrate and go fast as they get higher up the pitch,” said Bonner.

“We know that the games in our league can be a little bit more open, a little bit more end to end with transitions from one team to another, with a few more counter-attacks.

“Sometimes they can feel that bit more frantic, or a little bit more aggressive than the games we’ve played in the last couple of weeks.

“We know with Carlisle, Newport and Morecambe over the next seven days, the games will look different and we need to ready ourselves for that to defend in a slightly different way and to make sure we carry a threat ourselves.”

Adam May will be available for selection, having recovered after being forced off with a head knock in the 2-0 win over Fulham under-21s, but Harry Darling is not quite ready to return.

Bonner added: “We arrive at the end of a busy and short pre-season with pretty much everybody available to select and fit, and really eager to get involved and get us started.”

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