Do you count them as fierce rivals? Aggy neighbours? Or are Cambridge United a team that you love to hate for no obvious reason? It’s fair to claim they’ve played almost as big a role in Boro’s recent past as any other side out there. And that’s for better and for worse. Are they really worth a mention in the same breath as Hitchin Town, however? Or as Barnet? Hmm – we’re not certain about that. It could just be that we were in the same place at the same time…
… and we both stood in each other’s way of what we were trying to achieve.
What started out as one of our famous cup scalps of the 1990s has turned into quite a tete-a-tete with Cambridge United. Epic league battles of note include them dumping us out of the 2008-9 Blue Square Premier playoffs after extra time and us returning in the following term to kick the snow out of ’em. It was so much fun that we picked it back up again when the Us joined us in the Football League. And who can forget the 4-0 win at their place that you can say kept us up once the 2019-20 season was finally resolved?
If we wanted more, we got it the next season; Boro’ doing the league double over the Us. It came at a price though. Our friends from up the road were promoted to League One. And, in doing so, it robbed us of a guaranteed six points going into the 2021-2 season. Bit harsh that, lads…
The team we know today came to life in 1912 as Abbey United. At that time, there was already a Cambridge United in town. But that club didn’t outlast the First World War, and eventually gave the current club a free run at the name. It doesn’t seem like there is much to report in their early years either. After knocking around in local amateur leagues and the like, it wasn’t until turning pro in 1949 that things started happening.
The first of those ‘things’ was the change of name; ditching the Abbey and choosing Cambridge in 1951. By this time, they’d dabbled in the United Counties League – but then opted to join the Eastern Counties League. Inside six years, the Us had gained promotion to the Southern League and started to establish them as one of the better non-league sides in the land. Need proof? The two Southern League titles in the late 1960s will have to do.
The second of these crowns came in the 1969-70 season; their last as a non-league side. In 1970, they were admitted into the Football League through the election system. Bradford Park Avenue lost out.
Why do we know the Us?
Their path, by and large, was an upwards one in the years that followed. Up and down between Divisions Four and Three to start with, the Us reached Division Two in 1978. After tumbling back to Division Four after two straight relegations in the mid-1980s, they came back strong; making their way back to the second tier in 1991. It could’ve been even better a year later when they got to the playoffs. But they were hammered by Leicester City in the semis.
Had they won and then beaten Blackburn in the final, they’d have been in the first-ever Premier League line-up. Makes you think, don’t it?
And, with that failure in the playoffs, came the end of their golden era. Relegation the following season saw them back in the third tier, though there wasn’t a total collapse in standing. The Us did return to the fourth tier in 1995 – if only for four seasons. And it was during that period that we first came across them. After seeing our way past Carshalton Athletic in Round One, the FA Cup Round Two draw sent us to the Abbey Stadium.
How to get to Cambridge United – Travel Information – Distance: 33 miles
For what is one of our shorter trips, head north on the A1(M) to Junction 9. Here, take the A6141 to Baldock and join the eastbound A505 towards Cambridge and Royston.
Once you reach Royston, take the northbound A1198 for nearly four-and-a-half miles. You should reach a roundabout right about now. If so, take the third exit for the A603. If not, we say Google is your friend. Stay on the A603 to go across the M11 and enter the ‘burbs of Cambridge.
The A603 kinks left as you come into Cambridge. Shortly after it does, take the second exit at the roundabout for the A1134. At the next roundabout, it’s a left onto Trumpington Road and then right very quickly after for Lensfield Road and the A603 once more.
After a mile, take the third exit at the roundabout onto Newmarket Road (A1134) and be sure you have Premier Inn and Travelodge to your right. You’ll also pass a retail park, before swinging round to the right. This is when you’ll be confronted by the ground. Woop!
You can’t park at the Abbey Stadium and the advice is to use the matchday Park and Ride service. This is from the Newmarket Road site (CB5 8AA) and costs fans £2.50 a head to get to and from the ground. If you’re going with kids, however, you’ll have to pay a normal £3 fare. This does mean that one kid goes free with you.
Other options include parking opposite the ground in Ditton Walk and Ditton Fields.
Services to: STEVENAGE
It’s a bit of a walk from the station to the football ground – and it’s likely to take you more than 30 minutes to do it. When leaving the station, turn right out of the main entrance.
You should arrive on the bend of Devonshire Road, where you need to turn right. Stay on Devonshire Road; passing the Devonshire Arms (left) and then turning right for Mill Road to cross back over the railway. Continue past the Earl of Beaconsfield and The Sea Tree.
Turn left onto Sedgwick Street; this becomes Cromwell Road after about a third of a mile, but continue regardless. And, at the roundabout, bear left and remain on Cromwell Road for a further 0.4 miles.
Once you get to the junction with Coldhams Lane, cross over into the recreation ground; turning left to follow the path of the small waterway on your left. If you’re on the right track, you’ll soon see the larger Coldham’s Brook join you from the right.
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