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Cambridge United head coach Neil Harris calls on players to ‘stand up’ to threats posed by Cheltenham Town

Head coach Neil Harris has warned his Cambridge United players that they will have to ‘stand up’ to the direct and physical approach of tomorrow’s opponents Cheltenham Town.

Statistics shows that the second-from-bottom Robins are one of the sides that have played the most long balls in Sky Bet League One this term.

They average 82 per game – only three teams have attempted more – while their average of 236 short passes each fixture is only beaten by Stevenage’s tally of 225.

Cambridge United head coach Neil Harris. Picture: Simon Lankester
Cambridge United head coach Neil Harris. Picture: Simon Lankester

Asked about the challenges that those figures will pose, Harris said: “Darrell (Clarke, Cheltenham manager) likes a 3-5-2 formation and they’ve adopted that for a lot of the season, and certainly recently where they’ve had some positive results. Unless they rip up the schedule and completely change, I’d imagine they’ll go that route.

“They signed centre-forwards in the transfer window, Matty Taylor scored last week and Joe Nuttall has come in from Oldham. You’re looking at it, that could mean changes at the top end of the pitch.

“They’ve got a healthy squad, strength in depth in the style they want to play. They’re a big, strong, aggressive squad in League One. They play forward and run forward so we have to stand up to the challenge of that.

“But then there’s not worrying about what the opposition are doing and focusing on us as well, and looking at how good we’ve been and our result last week at Shrewsbury – how well we played in spells in that.

“Even going back to the Burton game, certainly in the first 30 or 35 minutes we were really, really good.

“We couldn’t find that end product and then in the last half hour of that we dominated, we just didn’t have the invention to break down a low block. We’ve talked about that and we need to improve in areas. We look forward to the challenge of trying to do that (on Saturday).”

Harris has also been impressed by the job that has been done by his opposite number.

Cheltenham were winless and had not scored a league goal when Darrell Clarke was appointed manager in late September.

He soon guided his new side to their first victory over the U’s on 21 October, with five more following to leave Cheltenham eight points from safety ahead of their trip to the Cledara Abbey Stadium.

Harris added: “He’s a class bloke. He’s infectious, a great guy. We looked forward to seeing him.

“They had a real struggle at the start of the season, which I watched from afar and saw they picked up very few points and goals.

“But Clarkey has had an impact for sure. They’ve got a lot of work to do obviously and coming to beat us is probably something they consider they have to do.

“From results on Tuesday night and where they see themselves in the league table, draws aren’t ideal for them and winning games is key so it might alter their mindset.”

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