U’s Head Coach Mark Bonner spoke to local media prior to Cambridge United’s Sky Bet League One clash with Portsmouth on Monday (3rd January)…
On the two postponed fixtures:
“We are definitely not alone in the situation we were in. New Year's Day games are already starting to drop a little bit, and it's an intense period for rising cases, which is just reflective of the picture across the country.
“The early cancellation of the games were really helpful for us, knowing we could plan a little bit, as the same with the supporters. I got in touch with Gareth Ainsworth a couple of days before when we knew that there was a doubt just because you have to have that little bit respect, but it does throw your schedule up in the air a little bit.
“We have been able to work our way around that even though numbers have been limited and up and down with people returning at all different times from isolation. We are not yet up to the full strength of everybody back, but we have had some brilliant sessions.
“The lads attitude have been different class; they have dealt with the fact that we have had five or six sessions since the last game, and sometimes when you are training without that game in the near future, in your mind, it can affect the motivational sessions a little bit.”
On Monday’s game:
“The game will be on from our side as long as we do not have any more positive cases come up between now and then. We are preparing for the game and it is one that we are really looking forward to.
“We have got players that have isolated for seven days, others who have for 10 and some that are still isolating, so there is going to be a group that is fairly split. I went to Ipswich Town last week and sat next to Nicky Cowley from Portsmouth; they have had a similar situation at Pompey.
“I think there will be a certain amount of unpredictability within team line-ups up and down the country right now. You cannot pick or guess somebody's 11 as you don't know the situation a team is in and the effect it has had on their training sessions.
“It will certainly be the case with our team because I still don’t know it yet, so it is impossible for anyone else to. Obviously it is the same with us trying to guess Portsmouth’s on Monday.”
“Lloyd [Jones] has had a small procedure on his groin, so he will be out a little bit longer than we had hoped. He will miss this month and then we will see where he is in February, we know where he is now anyway.
“Greg [Taylor] has been out and running, he is enjoying being back on the grass and with the football at his feet this week. He is not in group training yet, but he is coming along nicely and he is making brilliant progress.
“Liam O’Neil is back in and around training sessions a little bit more. We are also hopeful that we can get Wes [Hoolahan] back up to speed quite soon. Shilow [Tracey] is going to be missing until February.
“We are slowly building ourselves back up, but obviously there is a little bit of time before we can get everyone back fit and available.”
On making it to the half-way point in the season:
“It is really all about points at this stage, positions will just look after themselves in time. Obviously, it is so close at the moment and the cushion to the bottom four is always an interesting number, but in the end, if we do what we have got to do, it will become irrelevant what anyone else does.
“Our focus is always on our next little blocks of games. The number of points that we take from them, and if we are on track to where we want to be, and to be honest, we are bang on track for where we would need to be.
“There has probably been a few games in which we deserved a few more points than we have taken, looking back to the Wigan game. I think we should never not win that game. The Sheffield Wednesday game we were ahead in, the Crewe game also, yeah we equalised late on, but we were the dominant team in that game.
“We are not far away, If we can add those little bits to our game. More importantly, I think, the progress that we are making, we know that we are on track for success but we want to push to be better in the second half of the season.”
“It is quite tough in terms of knowing their team line-up. They have not played for a long time, longer than us because of the games that have been cancelled, but if you look at the previous games that they played in, they are incredibly difficult to score against, and have a brilliant clean sheet record.
“They have ground out some brilliant results and are playing well so if they go into Monday’s game with the same sort of style that they have been playing, we know how hard it will be.
“Any side managed by Danny and Nicky are always really tough opponents, they are top coaches at this this level and it will be a real challenge for us. I think the atmosphere in the game will be brilliant and that will spur everybody on, so I'm looking forward to it.”