Cambridge United gained automatic promotion from League Two last season by finishing second to champions Cheltenham and many predicted a hard season ahead when their top goal scorer (Paul Mullen - 32 goals) refused a new contract and dropped two divisions to take the Wrexham shilling. However, they will arrive at The Valley on Saturday just one place below their hosts and level on points having had a very unpredictable first half of the season.
Their results so far include a 1-5 home defeat by Lincoln and a 0-2 at home to Gillingham but they have also had a 2-1 triumph at Portsmouth and a 2-0 win up at Morecambe. They had a difficult November playing some of the top sides and lost to Rotherham, Sunderland and Milton Keynes although they did manage to hold Wigan to 2-2 at The Abbey Stadium. Nobody expected the result they secured on Tuesday when they went over to Cheltenham and munched them 0-5.
Three of those goals were scored by leading scorer Joe Ironside who is now playing at the highest level of his career after learning his trade at Halifax, Nuneaton and Kidderminster. He scored 14 in 44 games last season but the departure of Mullins seems to have given him a boost as he already has 11 in 20 this term. Mullen's replacement Sam Smith has not done too badly either with five so far. Cambridge's problem has been in defence where their 35 conceded is one of the worst in League One.
Playing behind that defence is former Charlton Academy graduate Dimitar Mitov who joined Cambridge in 2017. He has gradually established himself at Cambridge and now has ninety first team appearances and is first choice keeper. Although he didn't break into the team at Charlton he will be fondly remembered by Addicks fans for this memorable goal for the under 18s against Coventry in 2015:
We regret that we have been unable to establish how the career of the Coventry goalkeeper subsequently developed.
Our last encounter with Cambridge was nearly thirty years ago. It was a grim, forgettable 0-0 draw at Upton Park in September 1992 in front of a crowd of 5,830. The only compensation for the sparse crowd was the knowledge that the return to The Valley was only a couple of months away. Saturday should be a different experience altogether with the FILL THE VALLEY campaign ensuring a positive atmosphere and Jackson's team providing uplifting football. The gaffer said:
"The boys are buzzing, they can’t wait to play again, especially at the Valley but we will be up for it"
To avoid congestion, the club is asking fans to arrive early. To speed entry, please make sure you have the actual ticket, not a photo or screenshot of the ticket on your phone as the electronic readers cannot read photos