'It's a must-win game' – U's Szmodics on trip to Cambridge
PUBLISHED: 06:00 29 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:48 29 March 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Sammie Szmodics pulls no punches with regards tomorrow’s East Anglian derby at Cambridge United – it is quite simply a ‘must-win game’ for the League Two play-off chasing U’s.
Szmodics is the leading scorer with 12 goals this season, and he would love to add to that tally to help steer the U’s promotion bandwagon back on course after what has been a very disappointing last seven weeks.
John McGreal’s have dropped out of the top seven, having been installed in either the play-off zone or the automatic third promotion slot (for a few weeks), on the back of just one win in seven fixtures.
Szmodics scored the opener in that one win – a 3-0 home success over Newport County from three weeks ago – although that does seem a very, very long time ago.
Since then, the Essex club have lost three on the bounce, conceded eight goals and scored none, at the hands of Forest Green Rovers, Exeter City and most recently Tranmere Rovers.
The gap is now four points, from seventh-placed Exeter (who also have a game in hand), so the U’s are in desperate need to stop the rot at the Abbey Stadium tomorrow.
“This season we have tried not to get too high with the wins, and too low with the defeats, although it is hard not to feel too low sometimes,” explained Szmodics.
“I look on this weekend as a must-win game for us. It’s a massive game.
“Unfortunately for us, we have hit a bad patch of form at just the wrong time this season. Results have not been going our way recently, and although every club goes through a similar bad patch, we need to stop it by getting three points this weekend.
“I look on it as a great game for us, because there’s no better place to go than Cambridge away.
“We have had a thousand fans there in the past, and I am sure we will have that sort of support again this weekend.
“It was a great feeling to score in front of those away supporters two years ago (84th minute equaliser in a 1-1 draw in March, 2017), when coming off the bench as a substitute in my comeback from injury.
“I’d like to score again this weekend, and this time hopefully it’s a winning goal.
“I know results have not been good, but we have not been playing badly over the last few weeks.
“We haven’t been scoring enough goals – well, we haven’t scored any in the last few games – but these results have hidden what have been some good performances,” added Szmodics.
Certainly, the U’s cause has not been helped by a glut on injuries in recent weeks, to their chief central midfielders.
In fact, only Ben Stevenson has remained fit among the main senior central midfielders, and even he has had to contend with a sore groin at times.
Tom Lapslie finally returned to action against Tranmere last weekend, although he was clearly struggling for fitness after a five-week lay-off with a hamstring injury.
Harry Pell is set to miss the rest of the season with his hamstring injury, which is a big blow to the U’s promotion hopes, while fellow midfielder Brandon Comley is expected to be sidelined for another two to three weeks with a knee problem.
Added to that, attacker Frank Nouble serves the third of a three-match suspension at Cambridge, for his red card for dissent late on in the 3-0 home defeat by Forest Green Rovers.
Keeper Rene Gilmartin (knee) and centre-half Tom Eastman (calf) both missed the 2-0 defeat to Tranmere last weekend, and both are against expected to miss out against Cambridge.
But it is Pell’s absence that is potentially the biggest setback for the U’s.
“Everyone knows that I get on really well with Pele (Pell)), both on and off the pitch,” explained Szmodics.
“He offers some terrific banter in the dressing room. Some players often feel very low when they are out injured, but that’s not the case with Pele. He keeps his spirits up and helps with morale in the camp.
“I’m disappointed for him, and disappointed for the team, because he has been a massive part of what we have so far achieved this season.
“But we want to win promotion even more, for Pele. He still has a big role to play, in the dressing room,” added Szmodics.