Cambridge and Plymouth Argyle come into Saturday’s League Two match at the Abbey Stadium in contrasting form. The U’s have picked up just one win in their last five, failing to score in three of those matches. Meanwhile, Ryan Lowe’s side come in on the back of a 1-1 FA Cup draw against League One side Bristol Rovers and are looking to pick up a third successive win in the league.
Forward duo Jabo Ibehre and Marc Richards remain sidelined for the U’s due to injury.
Midfield pair Gary Deegan and defender Leon Davies also look to miss out.
Fellow midfielder Samir Caruthers could look to give his side and injury boost, returning from a knock which has limited him to just three appearances this season.
Predicted Line-Up (4-5-1)
Knoyle, Darling, Taft, Jones
Hannant, Roles, Maris, Lewis, Dunk
Style of Play
Regularly playing in a 3-5-2 formation, Cambridge switched to a 4-5-1 formation for last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Carlisle following injury to forward Marc Richards. Playing with an extra defender allowed Colin Calderwood’s side the freedom to be that little bit more aggressive with their attacks when committing men forward. The change lessens the defensive responsibilities of their wingers, who form a big part of how the side functions.
The U’s average a whopping 22 crosses per-game, aiming at forwards Richards and Sam Smith. Despite Richards’ lack of height at 5ft 9in, he is fairly prolific in the air whilst Smith is better with his feet. In Richards’ absence, Ryan Lowe’s side can expect a lot of crosses to be fired in at a low height.
Boasting one of League Two’s youngest squads, Calderwood’s side look to overload and dominate the midfield to allow themselves to play possession based football. At home, they are the team with the fourth highest average possession in the league, playing a lot of short passes in order to progress up field and pin their opposition in their own final third.
Of the wingers, Harrison Dunk is the more pacey and direct of the two whilst Luke Hannant is more likely to dribble past opponents. Their combined tally of three goals and assists (1G, 2A) reflects a lack of out-put, despite their creativity.
The real creativity in midfield comes in the form of midfield duo Paul Lewis and Jack Roles. Lewis has scored or assisted seven (4G, 3A) of Cambridge’s 23 league goals this season. Meanwhile Roles is a more all round player, scoring three goals but also boasting the most successful dribbles (2.71), key passes (2.29) and tackles per-90 (also 2.29). The pair both look to feed club top scorer Sam Smith, who has managed six goals so far this season. At 5ft 9in, the 24-year-old unsurprisingly doesn’t possess a great deal or aerial ability but certainly makes up for it with his impressive speed and positioning.
Star Player: Paul Lewis, CM
The standout player this season has been midfielder Paul Lewis. The 24-year-old has been an integral part of the U’s side, taking on the role of primary playmaker following Jevani Brown’s move to fellow League Two side Colchester last summer.
Not only is the former Macclesfield man creative with the ball but also physical, winning 3.5 aerial duels a game, a figure which only defender George Taft (3.9) can better at the club. In a side lacking in the way of physical presence, both he and his fellow central midfielder Jack Roles are extremely important in the formation and style that they play.
Finding consistency has been Cambridge’s achilles heel for much of the season, having won six, drawn six and lost seven of their 19 League Two matches to date.
Averaging 22 crosses per game, the second most in League Two, you would imagine that Cambridge’s wingers would have more assists to show for their efforts. Instead Luke Hannant and Harrison Dunk have registered just one assist each. Other than midfielder Paul Lewis, only forward and top scorer Sam Smith has managed to register more than one assist for the U’s. Should Smith or Lewis pick up an injury, Calderwood’s side could find themselves in real trouble in an attacking sense unless they delve into the market in January.
Prediction: Cambridge 1-2 Plymouth Argyle
Considering the form of Argyle at the moment, it’s difficult to see a very inconsistent Cambridge side getting much out of this game. That being said however, their defensive record this season has been impressive with just 17 goals conceded in 19 League Two matches.
A change from 3-5-2 allowed Colin Calderwood’s side to keep a clean sheet against Carlisle last weekend but they couldn’t find their attacking edge once more. Following wins over Bolton, Forest Green and Bradford in recent weeks I expect another impressive performance from Ryan Lowe’s side. I predict 2-1 to the Pilgrims.