Leader Preview: Cambridge (h)

Here’s my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

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It’s Andy  Morrell’s birthday tomorrow, and he’ll hope Cambridge will arrive bearing gifts.

We’re already enjoying our best run of results against Cambridge since the sides first clashed in April 1974. We’re currently unbeaten in nine games against them, and have accumulated five wins over them in the last three years alone.

Last season we completed an emphatic double, completing the job at The Racecourse in April despite the fact that Morrell was rotating his squad in preparation for the play-offs. Jay Colbeck got the only goal as early as the fourth minute, clinching a win which earned us our fourth league double over Cambridge, a feat they’ve never managed against us.

Indeed, they haven’t won a league game at The Racecourse since 1995, although they did come here and knock us out of the F.A. Cup in a fourth round tie in 2000. Since then we’ve won six of our last nine home games against them, and it ought to have been seven: in March 2010 we were 2-0 up with seven minutes left, but   soft last minute goal earned The Us a draw.

Our home record in this fixture is impressive. We’ve beaten them 14 times at The Racecourse, drawing 7 and losing just three times. Apart from the FA Cup loss, one of our other defeats was a low key affair, a rather drab match on the last day of the 1994-5 season when neither side had anything to play for.

Our best win over Cambridge came in October 1985, although you wouldn’t have thought so for most of the first half. There were no goals in the first thirty-eight minutes, but twenty minutes later we were 5-0 up!

Jim Steel got the ball rolling before Andy Edwards helped himself to a nine-minute hat trick either side of half time.

Nick Hencher made it 5-0 with over half an hour left and Steve Charles for a sixth, but we eased off at the end and let Cambridge pull two goals back in the final six minutes.

We’ve also enjoyed a couple of 5-0 wins over Cambridge in recent years. In April 2002 both sides had already been relegated to League Two but the match would still end up going down in Wrexham’s record book. Morrell put in an outstanding shift up front but his hard work was all for the benefit of his strike partner Lee Jones, who matched Tommy Bamford’s sixty-eight year old club record by scoring five goals in a league match.

A year and a fortnight later Cambridge came to The Racecourse again, but things had changed for the better in North Wales and Denis Smith’s side were closing in on promotion. They took a giant step towards it that day as United again fell victim to a 5-0 thumping, Jones helping himself to another along with Paul Barrett, Brian Carey, Steve Roberts and Carlos Edwards.

Tomorrow will see Joe Clarke make his hundredth career appearance, while Andy Bishop plays in his 375th league match.

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