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Opposition Lowdown: Mark Bonner’s Cambridge United

Reading’s last game before an international break sees the Royals travel to Cambridge for some Monday night football. Join us as we take a closer look at the opposition.

Lincoln City v Cambridge United - Sky Bet League One Photo by Andrew Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images


Cambridge finished in 20th place in League One last season, one place and one point above the relegation zone in their second season back in the third tier. They secured their League One status on the final day of the season after a 2-0 win at home to already relegated Forest Green Rovers.

Cambridge currently sit 11th place in the league after three wins and two losses in their first five games. Two of those wins have come at home, with victories against Oxford United and Bristol Rovers at the Abbey Stadium, with their other win coming away at Fleetwood Town.

The two sides last faced each other in the league during the 2001/02 season, when Reading won 1-0 at the Madejski Stadium after a goal from James Harper, before playing out a 2-2 draw at the Abbey Stadium, where Dave Kitson scored against the Royals. The two sides also faced each other in the first round of the League Cup in 2002, with United winning 3-1 at home.

The boss

Mark Bonner: Bonner was appointed permanent Cambridge manager in March 2020, following a caretaker period after the sacking of Colin Calderwood. Having not had a career as a professional footballer, Bonner started his coaching career in Cambridge’s academy, before joining Southend’s youth setup.

He later returned to academy coaching roles at Cambridge, before then taking up a first-team coaching role in 2018. He became Joe Dunne’s assistant later that year and then became caretaker manager following Dunne’s departure. He became Colin Calderwood’s assistant in 2019 and finally got his chance as first-team manager following his sacking in 2020.

His first full season with Cambridge was a huge success with the club finishing second in League Two and securing promotion back to the third tier. Bonner is one of the youngest coaches in the league at 37 years old and favours an attacking style of football.


Cambridge saw 10 players leave the club on free transfers this summer, including forwards Sam Smith and Harvey Knibbs, who both signed for the Royals. Other notable departures include forward Joe Ironside, defender Lloyd Jones and goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov.

Seven players have come through the door of the Abbey Stadium with goalkeeper Jack Stevens (Oxford), midfielder Jordan Cousins (Wigan Athletic), winger Sullay Kaikai (MK Dons) and forward Elias Kachunga (Bolton Wanderers) all signing on free transfers. Left-back Danny Andrew also signed, joining from Fleetwood Town. United have made two loan signings with forwards Gassan Ahadme and John-Kymani Gordon joining on season-long loans from Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace respectively.

Midfielders Jordan Cousins and Adam May are both expected to miss out on Monday evening’s game as they recover from thigh and knee injuries.

Expected line-up

Stevens, L. Bennett, R. Bennett, Morrison, Andrew, Digby, Thomas, Lankester, Kaikai, Kachunga, Ahadme

Key player

Gassan Ahadme: Forward Ahadme joined Cambridge on a season-long loan from Championship side Ipswich this summer. The Spanish-born striker started his youth career at Norwich City, but never made a first-team appearance for The Canaries.

He had loan spells with Real Oviedo B team and Portsmouth, before securing a permanent move to Burton Albion in January 2022. He scored five goals in half a season for Burton before joining Ipswich Town that summer. Ahadme rejoined Burton on loan last January, scoring another four goals for the club.

He will be the main man in attack for United this term as they look to replace Smith, who scored 14 goals for the club last season. Ahadme already has two goals to his name so far this campaign. He generally plays as a striker, and is a good runner who is also strong in the air.

One to watch

Jack Lankester: Attacking midfielder Lankester joined Cambridge in June 2021, signing from Ipswich Town. He started his youth career at The Tractor Boys and made his debut for the club in 2018. After a work-experience loan with Bury, he went on to make 30 appearances for Ipswich, scoring two goals.

Lankester joined United for an undisclosed fee in the summer of 2021. He has represented Cambridge 82 times to date, scoring six goals and registering five assists. Lankester usually plays in the number 10 role, but can also play on the wing.

He is a strong dribbler who likes to run at defenders and has one goal to his name so far this season after scoring against Oxford United on the opening day.