MATCH PREVIEW: BARNET FCCambridge United will open their Sky Bet League Two account for the 2016/17 season against Barnet on Saturday afternoon at the Cambs Glass Stadium.
With the hard work of pre-season now under the belts of Shaun Derry’s side, the U’s are set for their first competitive tussle since the closing game of the 2015/16 season at Mansfield Town in May.
Friendly fixtures against St Neots Town, Newmarket Town, Ipswich Town and Aston Villa, as well as the two clashes abroad against German sides KFC Uerdingen and SG Wattenscheid 09, has allowed the U’s to get necessary minutes in the lead-up to the new campaign.
United will be hopeful of stringing together a season that would see them continue their upward trajectory from the previous four campaigns, which culminated last year, finishing 9th and within touching distance of the play-offs.
New summer arrivals have included Piero Mingoia, Medy Elito, David Gregory, George Maris, Joe Pigott, Blair Adams, Tom Dallison, Adam McGurk and the return on loan of Max Clark. All of which have added competition to the first team squad.
Meanwhile, as opening games go, Barnet pose a test as stern as they come. Having recently extended his contract with the Bees for an undisclosed period, Manager Martin Allen is set to task his side with imposing their strong style of football on the division once again this season.
A 15th place finish with 62 points in their first campaign back in the English Football League last year, saw Barnet comfortably clear of relegation danger and just six points behind the U's.
They have added the likes of Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro to their roster of players during the off season, but a renewed three year deal for striker John Akinde will surely be the summer signature Bees fans cherish the most.
A Luke Berry header ensured United got the better of the Bees in the corresponding fixture at the Cambs Glass Stadium in 2015/16, but it’s the Bees who lead the overall head-to-heads records between the sides, with five wins to the U’s four.
Manager Shaun Derry admits his side are in for a demanding encounter but is confident that whatever side he fields, the U’s will be well-equipped to get off to a positive start.
He said: “This will be a major test for us and they have had a good pre-season themselves. When you come up against a Martin Allen side, you have to be physically equipped to get on the pitch and compete with them.
“We know they have a great deal of talent with a group of players who will certainly make it a very tough day for us.
“This is what League Two is all about. We have to be ready to match anybody and with the group of players that we’ve got, I’m comfortable that we can.”
He added: “Internally we have one that competes very well against each other, which takes place on a Monday to Friday and that is ultimately how we select the side.
“The players who show a good consistency level across the week are those who put their names into the hat for selection. My mind is already made up for Saturday, and it’s been put together over the last six or seven weeks.”
Tickets for Saturday’s game are available to purchase online, in-store and over the phone by calling 01223 566 500. U’s fans can make a £2 saving off full match day prices when buying before midday tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Dylan Williams has been given an opportunity to further progress his development with a six month loan at National League South side Wealdstone.
The move allows the youngster - who signed a professional development contract with the U’s this summer - to earn valuable game time with the Stones.