No margin for error as Cambridge United prepare for Portsmouth test
U's boss ready for end of season run-in
Cambridge United will be out to be party-poopers in the first match of a “three-game season” that will define their 2016/17 campaign.
Shaun Derry takes his squad to Fratton Park to take on Portsmouth, who are back on home turf for the first time since winning promotion from Sky Bet League Two last weekend.
The U’s have three matches left in order to try to reach the play-off places, with tomorrow’s trip to Portsmouth followed by games at home to Crawley and away to Wycombe Wanderers.
The 1-0 win over Exeter last weekend left United one point outside the top seven, and Derry, a former Portsmouth player, is looking for more of the same this weekend.
“We’ve had a fantastic result on Monday, a cup final for us – and you have to approach each and every game like that,” he said.
“This weekend is going to be a different type of atmosphere, more of a carnival atmosphere down at Fratton Park and we have to pay our respects to everybody down at Portsmouth.
“They were expected to get promoted, but even though your expected to get promoted, to actually go and get it is a different thing.
“I want to say a big well done to everybody down there. But we go down there with an agenda of our own, we have to make sure that we’re not part of that party.
“It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be close to 20,000 fans there this weekend and all singing and dancing.
“Sometimes when you go down to an atmosphere like that it can galvanise the opposition and we’re hoping that is definitely the case for us.”
Derry has no doubt that his squad will be up to the challenge though.
“In terms of making sure the players are on it, the respect I have for our guys is through the roof,” he said.
“Throughout this season, we’ve had a lot of highs, a few lows, like any other team, but within the group everyone has kept their composure and I think that’s been brilliant.
“As we go towards the end of the season with three games to go, the margin for error, there isn’t one, it’s as simple as that.
“Those that keep their composure, keep their unity and all the information that we’re going to give them throughout the week, if we can put that into practice with no margin for error then we give ourselves a fantastic chance.
“But if you look at the group of teams from 13th upwards, I think we’ll all be having the same chat. It’s a crazy end to the season.”
And that is why the U’s boss believes that the run-in has become a mini season in its own right, with the campaign able to be broken down into segments.
“It’s turned into a three-game season, and when you put it as brutally as that, I think that perhaps tells you what this season’s been all about,” he said.
“Whether as a player or in my time as a manager, I look at parts of the season and how important they are.
“Clearly we didn’t have the best of starts, but it’s been an incredible rise since those first eight games.
“And through the middle of it, we’ve been able to put in some long unbeaten runs and get a lot of points on board and it’s given us that chance to be where we are.
“But now it’s a three-game season and we’re in it with about seven or eight other teams. We have to make sure we come out in that top seven, that’s our objective.”
He added: “We’re going to try our damnedest to be in that top seven, but whatever this season brings, there’s been a lot of highs and we don’t want it to end yet.”