Stevenage v Cambridge United preview

Shaun Derry. Photo: Cambridge Evening News

Shaun Derry. Photo: Cambridge Evening News - Credit: Archant

Boro host Cambridge United on Boxing Day and a win could lift Darren Sarll’s men into the League Two play-offs.

The Comet caught up with Cambridge News journalist Michael Vaughton for the lowdown on Stevenage’s opponents.

Manager Shaun Derry has turned things around since a troubled start to the campaign. What has changed and was he ever close to the sack?

Things have certainly improved pretty dramatically for the U’s after not winning any of their first eight league games this season.

They were three points adrift at the foot of the league at that stage, so to now be inside the play-off places has taken real belief from the players.

Everyone has played their part, but the goalscoring form of Uche Ikpeazu and Luke Berry has been a key element as has the increased attacking intent the team now plays with. The team aren’t playing with the handbrake on and are really causing opponents problems.

Derry certainly needed the victory at Newport, which ended their winless league run, but nobody in the club hierarchy ever made any noises that his job was on the line.

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As it stands, if they were considering his position then they have been rewarded for putting the faith in him.

Will Norris may be a familiar name to some of our readers for his time at Royston Town. Just how good a keeper has he become?

Norris has rapidly developed into a really strong goalkeeper and is really reliable between the sticks.

He obviously hit the headlines earlier this season when he saved two penalties in added time at the end of the match to secure a 2-1 win over Accrington, but his all-round game is solid and gives confidence to the defenders in front of him.

He is good at claiming crosses and also produces good reflex saves.

Mark Roberts also seems to have reclaimed his place in the side this season. Is he back to being the swashbuckling defender Boro fans grew to love?

It was starting to look as though Roberts did not have much of a future at United, but he has worked tremendously hard on the training ground to show Derry he should be in the starting line-up.

His partnership with fellow centre-back Leon Legge has really blossomed in recent months and now you can’t imagine him not being in the team at heart of the defence.

He has also weighed in with some important goals since reclaiming his place in the side, getting the winner against Yeovil and also netting and claiming an assist in the FA Cup replay success at Dover live on BT Sport.

Who is the danger man to watch out for on Boxing Day?

As mentioned previously, the form of striker Uche Ikpeazu has played a huge part in United’s resurgence and the Boro defence will know they have been in a game after facing him.

He had to work hard to get match fit after missing pre-season following his arrival on a free from Watford.

He’s big and strong so gives back fours a physical test, but he also has plenty of skill and the ability to dribble past players.

He has scored six goals in 20 appearances so far, with only 10 of those being starts.

It looks as though his finishing is improving as well, with the clever lob against Crawley and toe poke against Crewe showing he has the talent to be a top League Two player.

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