The second team promoted from the Conference Premier last season was Cambridge United, and the U’s will visit St James Park on a Tuesday night in February. Oliver Roderick takes a look at United, another of the Grecians’ opponents this term.
It was a season of league and cup success for Cambridge United in 2013/14 as Richard Money led them to a Conference Premier play-off win and the FA Trophy.
They got off to a great start, going undefeated in their first 16 Conference matches, and also knocked League 2 Bury out of the FA Cup in the first round. Their early form saw them to the top two in the league, a position they would not relinquish all season.
Two Wembley trips would round off the season, and both ended brilliantly as far as Cambridge fans were concerned: Ryan Donaldson scored twice as Cambridge beat Gosport Borough 4-0 to win the FA Trophy, before Donaldson scored the winner in a 2-1 win against Gateshead that sealed promotion.
The summer so far
Perhaps the best news for Cambridge fans this summer was Ryan Donaldson’s new two-year contract, which the man who was voted man-of-the-match on both of the U’s Wembley visits last year signed at the start of July.
With Ashley Chambers joining Dagenham and Redbridge on a free transfer, Rory McAuley going to Dartford and Kevin Roberts off to FC Halifax, new additions were needed, especially given the challenges of the new division.
They signed former Manchester United player Luke Chadwick on a permanent basis after his loan spell last season, before Robbie Simpson returned to the club from Leyton Orient. Two more signings have been made since: goalkeeper Chris Dunn has come in from Yeovil and Johnny Hunt from Wrexham.
Richard Money led Cambridge United back to the Football League in his first full season as U’s boss last term.
He has played for the likes of Scunthorpe United, Fulham and Liverpool, where he was an unused substitute in the 1981 European Cup final.
His managerial career has taken in spells in Sweden, with AIK and Västerås SK, and Australia with Newcastle United Jets. He arrived at Cambridge in October 2012, leading them to promotion and the FA Trophy last season.
Ones to watch
Ryan Donaldson scored all the crucial goals on the big stages for Cambridge United last season, netting three times in total over the two Wembley visits, but he wasn’t all that prolific away from the national stadium, only scoring five times for Richard Money’s U’s last term.
Luke Chadwick is most famous for his time at Manchester United at the beginning of his career, but had the most success during his spell at MK Dons between 2009 and 2014, making over two hundred appearances for the Dons.
Cambridge have enjoyed much the better of this fixture in the past, recording 25 wins to the Grecians’ nine. United have won the last five matches going back to January 1999, the first of which was a penalty-shootout win in the Auto Windscreens Shield Southern Section fuarter-final. The Grecians’ recent record in this fixture is not impressive: they have avoided defeat in just four of the last 19 games.
Exeter City wins: 9
Cambridge United wins: 25
Martin Ling began his playing career at Exeter City, making over 100 appearances for the Grecians. He went on to have two spells as manager of Cambridge United, the first of which lasted only eight days as he had second thoughts about working with the then-chairman George Rolls. However Rolls left the club the day after that, and Ling was reinstated the following week.
Keith Bowker, Jason Rees, John Challinor, twins Garry and Alan Kimble and Justin Walker have also played for both.
Cambridge United 2-1 Exeter City, Abbey Stadium, Saturday 12th April 2003
John Turner struck in injury time to deny Exeter City a point at Abbey Stadium. The Grecians had taken the lead in the very first minute through an Izzy Iriekpen own goal, but Paul Wanless levelled things up from the penalty spot with 20 minutes to go. Turner had the final say, as he found the winner right at the death.
Cambridge are 33/1 with Sky Bet to make it back-to-back promotions by winning League 2 this season. Promotion clocks in at 9/1, while relegation back out of the Football League is also 9/1.
Cambridge return to the Football League by hosting Exeter City’s neighbours Plymouth Argyle on the opening day. You can back United at 13/10, Argyle at 19/10 and the draw at 21/10.