When Cambridge beat Shrewsbury 2-1 on Boxing Day, they hauled themselves up to nineteenth place - three points above the bottom four.
Not much has gone right since then. They have won once, drawn three times and lost ten of their subsequent fourteen games. They have scored 6, conceded 24 and not surprisingly, they now find themselves in 23rd place, five points from safety. Their only win was 1-0 at home to Oxford in mid February and given that Oxford have lost nine of their last ten games, that was not a particularly meaningful achievement. There is little to suggest that Cambridge won't be joining Forest Green in a return to League Two at the end of the season.
Manager Mark Bonner, who is Cambridge-born but has never played professional football, seems to share the pessimism:
"We looked like a team that are really struggling, [which] we obviously are. We're the "shoulda, woulda, coulda" team at the moment, we're not doing it when we're given the chance. You end up being where you deserve to be and we deserve to be where we are at the moment because we haven't proved ourselves to be good enough - the challenge is whether we can or not."
Conor McGrandles will presumably not be available because of the terms of his loan but former Charlton Academy goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov should be making his 138th appearance for them since leaving SE7 and signing for Cambridge six years ago.
The very welcome 4-1 win at Morecambe on Tuesday propelled Charlton up to twelfth place but, with just two points separating our team and Fleetwood in sixteenth, there is still a strong possibility of the club achieving its lowest finish since 1927. That record is currently held by Theo Foley's squad of 1973/74 who finished fourteenth in the Third Division despite boasting a strike force of Horsfield (19), Flanagan (11), Hales (8) and Peacock (6). That squad won 19 games and scored 66 goals in all but the problem was in defence (73 conceded). Who can forget the 0-5 at Grimsby, the 0-4 at Walsall and the home and away 3-3 draws with Shrewsbury ?
Last season we won 17 games and scored 55 to finish thirteenth with 59 points. So far this term we have 11 wins, 50 goals and 45 points with ten games left to play. Because the gap between us and Portsmouth in tenth place is nine points, the best we can realistically hope for is to overhaul Exeter City for eleventh place.
Our home game with Cambridge was a disappointing 1-1 draw, four days after the 5-1 demolition of Plymouth. Let's hope the Morecambe win isn't eclipsed in the same way. A large travelling support (including two coach loads subsidised by CAST in memory of Seb Lewis) deserve better.