It is that time in the season when owners, fans and indeed managers start to take stock of how they have started the new campaign. Tom Walker, our Cambridge United Correspondent, gives you his take on the start the U’s have made in League Two…
10 Game Review – Cambridge United
The season so far:
After ten league matches of the 2017/18 League Two season, Cambridge United sit in 10th place on sixteen points, having played ten, won five, drawn one and lost four of their games to date. The season started slowly, with two losses against Exeter and Carlisle, before the U’s picked up their first win of the season on the road at Crawley. This proved to be the last time Luke Berry, who had become such a talismanic figure for the club since his return from Barnsley, would pull on the amber and black shirt, sealing a move to divisional rivals Luton Town.
Despite the controversy which surrounded the sale of Berry, things have generally been looking up at the Abbey Stadium. Manager Shaun Derry has switched to a more expansive, attacking “diamond” formation, which has seen a forward partnership of Jabo Ibehre and Uche Ikpeazu begin to blossom, and Jevani Brown announce himself with a series of promising performances.
This new formation was first employed in a goalless draw at home to Morecambe, and then in a 1-0 victory over local rivals Colchester United, with Uche Ikpeazu’s second half strike proving the match winner. Next up for the U’s was a trip to Barnet, where they came unstuck after putting in arguably the worst performance of the season so far, and an inspired performance from Mauro Vilhete saw the home side run out 3-1 victors.
Cambridge responded well to a disappointing day at The Hive, with two impressive wins in a row, first a 1-0 victory away at Crewe Alexandra, and then a 2-1 score line at home to pre-season promotion favourites Coventry City. Shaun Derry’s men left Mansfield Town’s Field Mill empty handed after a dubious penalty decision handed The Stags a lifeline after Leon Legge had given the U’s the lead, with frontman Danny Rose giving Steve Evans’ side all three points late on. As has been a feature of Derry’s tenure in CB5 to date, the U’s again responded to defeat well in their tenth league match of the season, in which a Jabo Ibehre opener, followed by an Ikpeazu brace were enough to secure an impressive 3-0 win over League Two strugglers Forest Green Rovers.
Who has been the best player so far?
For consistency alone, it would probably have to be goalkeeper David Forde. After the sale of Will Norris to Wolves, it was imperative that a replacement of the highest quality was brought to the club – and Forde has been exactly that. After spending the 2016/17 season on loan at eventual champions Portsmouth, Forde came with a hugely impressive CV, boasting promotions and international experience, and his performances so far have not disappointed. From saving a penalty in the fifth minute of his debut (although the rebound was scored), to several match winning saves against Coventry, the Irishman is fast becoming a fans favourite, and if his early performances are anything to go by, this will prove to have been one of the signings of the summer across League Two.
Who has been the most surprising player in your team?
Jevani Brown – Signed from local non-league side St. Neots Town after a successful trial on a two year deal. Made his debut playing in the “number ten” role against Morecambe, and hasn’t looked back since. Brown has been so impressive, that many United fans simply cannot understand why it has taken so long for him to make the step up into the Football League.
His touch, trickery and vision when playing are a breath of fresh air, and it isn’t unrealistic to suggest that Cambridge may face a struggle to keep hold of Jevani Brown if he is to keep up the level of performance he has shown so far.
How have you done against expectations?
Since the Luke Berry’s departure, the performances have mostly been much closer to the levels that were expected by many in pre-season. With a strong and experienced spine in David Forde, Leon Legge, Gary Deegan and Jabo Ibehre surrounded by exciting talents in the likes of Brad Halliday, George Maris, Jevani Brown and Uche Ikpeazu, United will surely feel they have every chance of competing at the right end of the table, as they aim to go one better than last season, where they narrowly missed out on a play-off place. It must be said though, that this Cambridge United side are still very much a work in progress, and with a tough run of games including trips to Swindon Town, Lincoln City and Luton Town approaching, it remains to be seen whether Derry’s men can compete with the pre-season favourites in the long term. For now, though, things are looking up at The Abbey, and fans will hope for more of the same.