City host Cambridge United tomorrow, a side much-fancied ahead of the big kick off but struggling in mid-table after a mediocre start.
We’ll be looking to build on seven points from the last nine but Danny faces an interesting dilemma over his team selection. With Sean Raggett suspended it is widely thought Luke Waterfall will slip into the back four, surely now refreshed from his ‘rest’ earlier in the season.
Also, Billy Knott returns from his unjust red card against Notts County and he’ll be raring to go too. Will he drop straight back into the number ten role, leaving Ollie Palmer on the bench? Or will Danny keep faith with Palmer after two solid wins and a draw?
I think he has two main options he’ll look at. Option one sees Luke drop in at centre back and Ollie remain up front for the time being. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Ollie Palmer had a great game against Barnet and although reaction to his Chesterfield display has been mixed he is thriving on a short run in the team. Also, what message would it send to the other players if Danny broke up a winning team to crowbar Billy back into the side? Do well and I might drop you anyway? That isn’t the way to foster a strong team spirit.
The other option is a bit more out of left field and perhaps unlikely, but I noted with interest in the press conference yesterday (which was a show in itself, if you haven’t watched it make sure you do) that when talking about centre half options he said ‘Michael Bostwick can play there, and Luke Waterfall’. Okay, I may be reading too much into him saying Bozzie’s name first, but it suggested to me that maybe, just maybe, Bozzie might be an option at in defence tomorrow. If so, Alex Woodyard would drop back into the holding role giving Billy a shot in midfield alongside him. It would mean Ollie Palmer retained his place but also make selection against Swindon a touch easier depending on which of Ollie or Billy played better.
Then there is the curious case of Elliott Whitehouse, a Marmite player for some but very highly thought of by those who are around the team on a regular basis. He’s driven, one of the hardest workers on the training ground and a player for whom first team chances have been limited. The likelihood is he will start on the bench, but with three games coming up in eight days, might he also get a run out at some point, something more significant than twenty minutes at the end of a game?
There is also the question of who plays out wide tomorrow. I would imagine Harry Anderson is already written on the team sheet given that he’s been our main goal provider and scorer over the past few games, but who will take the other flank? If Nathan is fit after his kick in training I suspect he’ll get the nod, a fully fit Nathan Arnold is, after all, one of the senior members of the squad. It’s also one of his former sides, something I’m sure will be at the back of the managers mind. Are players that little bit more motivated against their former sides? Not Liam Hearn, obviously, but both Terry Hawkridge for County and Nathan against Grimsby had good games and received an ovation from their former employers. I doubt Cambridge will be giving him the same reception, but you never know.
I would be very surprised to see Jordan Maguire-Drew start tomorrow after a lacklustre outing last week, but again you never know how Danny’s mind works. If JMD is expecting to be dropped and isn’t, could that be the catalyst for the swash-buckling, free-scoring winger we saw at Dagenham last season to make an appearance? I’m utterly convinced he has the potential and if anyone is going to fish it out of him it’ll be a Cowley.
Cambridge have lost four of their last five games and are without captain Leon Legge, dismissed against Wycombe last weekend. What they do have though is seasoned campaigner Jabo Ibehre, a renowned lower league striker and all-round handful up front. Could that be a factor in deciding who plays alongside Rob Dickie at the back? Ibehre has four goals to his name so far but he’s never far away from a chance and he’ll need to be carefully monitored.
Also amongst their ranks is former Imp George Maris. Maris turned a lot of heads whilst he was here on loan, but he’s goal-less in ten outings so far this season. That isn’t to say he won’t be a threat, he’s tricky on the ball and has pace to burn. If he starts on a flank our full-backs will have to be alert and aware of his movement.
The U’s are below us in the table though with three points less and a four goal swing in our favour also. That isn’t to say the game should be taken lightly, not at all. Despite losing Luke Berry to Luton they still have class throughout their squad, summer signings Ade Azeez and David Amoo have yet to make an impact, Azeez being a target for City until he followed former Partick Thistle team-mate Amoo to the Abbey Stadium.
Tomorrow will be the 39th clash between the two sides, with honours split as even as possible. They’ve beaten us on 12 occasions, triumphant on our last visit to theirs in August 2013. They last won at Sincil Bank in April 2012, beating a City side featuring Jake Sheridan, Paul Robson and Tyrone Thompson 1-0. How times change! We’ve beaten them 13 times, winning the last meeting between us in April 2014. Nathan Arnold was an unused sub for Cambridge that day, Ben Tomlinson’s first-half penalty giving us an unlikely win over the eventual play-off winners. We’ve shared the draw 13 times.