In fact, since the beginning of the 2022 calendar year, the U’s have conceded just one goal – that coming in a 2-1 victory over Portsmouth for Cambridge United in a Papa John’s Trophy contest at Abbey Stadium.
While Bonner is excited about the addition of Sam Sherring in on loan from AFC Bournemouth, it’s the combination of veteran leader Jack Iredale and the well-travelled Joe Ironside that mixes nicely with the blossoming Sam Smith that has allowed the U’s to remain unbeaten in their last four matches, including a 1-0 win over Premier League Newcastle United in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Considered one of the “mainstays of the U’s defence”, Jack Iredale does all the little things and “dirty work” that is the backbone of any good defensive unity in professional football.
The Scotland native began his career in the Australian A-League with Perth Glory in 2016. He would go on to play with ECU Joondalup of the A-League (2017), Greenock Morton in his home country of Scotland (2017-19) and a loan spell with Queen’s Park in Scotland (2017-18) before finally marking his arrival into the EFL with Carlisle United in Sky Bet League Tow for the 2019/20 season.
He would play in more than 25 games for Carlisle United, scoring three goals in the process. Iredale landed at Abbey Stadium in August 2020, signing an initial two-year deal with the U’s.
This season for the U’s, the former Australian U17 National Team member has played and started in 31 matches for the U’s. He has scored one goal and assisted on three more goals for the club. Iredale is the leader in deliveries into the box for the U’s, having contributed with 105 crosses altogether. He has a team-leading 44 interceptions in defence, and a team-best 37 tackles won.
Considered a veteran and well-travelled footballer since signing his first professional contract with Sheffield United in 2012, Joe Ironside has played with as many as 11 different clubs since graduating from the Sheffield United Youth Academy. He has spent time on loan with teams such as Harrogate Town and Hartlepool United while still under contract at the Blades, but eventually made a permanent move away from Sheffield in 2015 signing with Alfreton Town in the Vanarama National League North.
From 2017-19, the high-scoring striker registered over 40 goals in just under 95 appearances across all competitions for Kidderminster Harriers. He would go on to join Macclesfield Town for the 2019/20 season, before ultimately signing with Cambridge United in August 2020. In his first season with the club, Ironside was second highest goal scorer, netting 14 across all competitions.
This season, under head coach Mark Bonner, the Middlesbrough-born man is tied for third in Sky Bet League One with 13 goals scored. He has also amassed three assists, while averaging 0.46 goals per game. He has 23 shots on target this season, allowing him an average of 42.6 shots on target, added with a 0.90 shots on target per game ratio. He is also averaging 0.48 goals per shots on target – also a team-high in that department.
Last week, Ironside collected both of the U’s goals against Lincoln City and Newcastle.
Sam Sherring joined Cambridge United just a week ago, arriving to Abbey Stadium on loan from parent club AFC Bournemouth. The Dorchester-born defender spent 12 years in the Bournemouth Youth Academy from 2007-19, eventually inking his first professional contract with the Cherries in 2019.
He would immediately make a loan move to Weymouth for the remainder of the 2019/20 season, followed by a loan spell at Torquay United for the 2020/21 season (helping the club to a Vanarama National League play-off final) in which he played in two Emirates FA Cup matches for the club. He would play in 42 games and score three goals in his one year with the club. After serving a loan stint with Accrington Stanley the following season, Sherring completed a loan move to Cambridge United in January 2022.
He made his debut over the weekend in the club’s 1-0 win over Lincoln City.
Born in Manchester, Sam Smith spent 10 years in the Manchester United youth system until moving to Reading Football Club for his final two years of youth football.
The forward signed his first professional contract with Reading in 2016, later being loaned to several clubs such as Oxford United (2018-19), Shrewsbury Town (2018), Cambridge United (2019-20) and Tranmere Rovers (2020). With Oxford United, Smith scored his first goal for the club in a 3-0 Papa John’s Trophy win over Fulham U21’s.
In all, Smith played in eight games and netted one goal for Reading, before moving to re-join Cambridge United in July 2021.
Smith has scored seven goals for the club so far, as well as recording one assist. He has 20 shots on target through 45 shots overall for the season, allowing him a 44.4% shots on target average. He is producing 1.03 shots on target per game to go along with his 2.3 shots per game overall. His last goal came as the opener for the U’s eventual 5-0 win over Cheltenham Town on December 7.