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‘We know it will challenge us in lots of ways’ - Mark Bonner anticipates tough trip for Cambridge United to Oxford United in League One

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Oxford United v Cambridge United (55104818)
Oxford United v Cambridge United (55104818)

Mark Bonner wants Cambridge United to produce a repeat performance of their trip to Oxford United last season - but with a more ruthless approach in both areas.

The sides drew 1-1 on the opening day of the League One campaign in 2021, and then in February, the U’s delivered a good display despite being beaten 4-2 at the Kassam Stadium, as the hosts twice came back from a goal down to eventually earn victory, with two goals in the last 18 minutes being decisive.

“The home game last year was a great occasion because it was the first time back since promotion with fans in the stadium, it was a brilliant atmosphere,” said United head coach Bonner.

“It is so hard to judge games in the early part of the season, particularly game one because anything can happen anywhere so you can’t look into those first games too much, much like our game last weekend.

“You just want to take results where you can, so that was important.

“I actually thought the away game was a really good game, and I thought we played really well. What we weren’t able to do was contain them for long enough, or make our moments of quality count enough; and the timing of the goals we conceded hurt us.

“In the main, I thought it was a really good performance from us last time. We will have to be as good with the ball, and more clinical this time around and we will have to defend brilliantly.

“We know they make you defend, we know how much they will dominate the ball and how big they will make the pitch and the struggle and challenge that will give us.

“We will have to be as well prepared as we can, and physically you know when you play the top teams away from home on big pitches you’ve got to commit to the game and give absolutely everything.

“The ability to make five changes will probably come in handy for us at the weekend.”

While United were starting their campaign with a 1-0 win over MK Dons, with Harvey Knibbs on target, and followed it up with a 1-0 success over Millwall in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night, thanks to Liam O’Neil’s goal, Oxford began their League One campaign with a 1-0 defeat at Derby County.

Manager Karl Robinson has so far made six summer signings for Oxford, and had a further boost with Cameron Brannagan, who scored twice against United in February, signing a new contract.

“They obviously had the really positive news last week of Cameron Brannagan extending his contract, which was a big plus for them - obviously he was on the verge of moving at some point,” said Bonner.

“But he is a big player for them and a real success in the team.

“Karl has been quite open in saying that they are still looking to add to the squad.

“They’ve got one or two injuries at the moment, they’ve added a couple in wide areas but they are certainly looking for three or four by the sounds of things in terms of additions to the squad.

“Whether or not they happen for Saturday or we don’t know about them until Saturday, we will have to wait and see, but in the main we know roughly the squad that they’ve got to pick from going off the Derby game last week, which we’ve spent a fair bit of time on.

“We know how tough it will be, we found that ourselves when we went there last year.

“We know the top team that they are and the expectation that is on them. You look at our games on paper at the beginning of the season, it’s a tough run.

“We know what to expect, we know it’s a big pitch, we know it will challenge us in lots of ways but it’s one to try to go into and look forward to off the back of a good start so far.”

Read more:

Sam Smith among players set for fitness tests ahead of Cambridge United’s trip to Oxford United in League One

‘It’s the hardest team I’ve had to pick’ - Cambridge United boss Mark Bonner after Millwall victory

Greg Taylor over the moon to make Cambridge United return in Carabao Cup win over Millwall

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