Matthew Crichton: Cambridge are currently 5th in the form table having beaten Wigan and Ipswich lately - what key factors are behind your great form?
Thomas: A small, very hard working squad. Bonner often talks about taking responsibility and those players know they cannot hide in a rotation.
Thumpings away to MK Dons, Oxford, and most notably Wednesday gave us bruises our players are keen to avoid repeating. We’ve also maintained a myopic focus on weeks of football rather than a total number of required points across a season.
MC: Having been promoted from League Two, the club are in pole position to achieve a top half finish, is that beyond what you expected this season?
T: It’s 12 places above any media prediction for our season. A top-half finish is wildly over-achieving given our stature, budget, and history.
My hope was one point above the bottom four come the end of the season so to be (all but) safe well before the season’s end was a dream.
MC: Regardless of where you finish, it will be another fantastic season under Mark Bonner, what makes him such a great manager?
T: He understands the history of our club and he’s giving us moments on the pitch to grow our community off the pitch.
He’s quick to take responsibility for mistakes and slow to take credit for our achievements. The players clearly feel a loyalty and dedication to him and the image he’s designing for our team.
Not to mention a solidarity through the entire club, from ownership to the players to the fans there’s a unity we’ve not had for a long time. Bonner is a big part of that.
MC: Strikers Joe Ironside and Sam Smith both have scored double figures this year, did you expect them to produce this coming up from League Two?
T: Ironside scored plenty last year but enabled many more. The expectation in July was Ironside providing the goals required for our safety; Smith’s score has been a happy surprise, especially given how often he plays wide.
MC: Aside from those two, which Cambridge players should Sunderland fans be wary of during the match?
T: James Brophy retains the ball and wins plenty of free-kicks. Lloyd Jones likes to dribble from the back. Don’t give May space outside the box, he’ll shoot (and score) from anywhere.
MC: Cambridge’s biggest result of the season was beating Newcastle 1-0 at St James Park, what effect do you think your great FA Cup run had on your season?
T: For the fans it was a high watermark for the club. For the players it must have solidified Bonner’s message; they’re talented players who deserve to be in League One.
MC: What style of play can Alex Neil’s side expect to encounter?
T: If Harvey Knibbs plays he’ll be in his new pressing ten role, he’s been an integral part of our recent success there and an absolute pest to the opposition.
His work ethic is second to none so expect a counter-attacking display with Ironside doing the hard work to bring Brophy and Smith into play alongside him.
MC: Which eleven players do you think Bonner will select?
T: We drew a blank at home after changing half the team (one of the few times we’ve rotated heavily) so I expect us to go back to full strength.
Mitov (GK), Iredale, Jones, Okedina, Williams. Brophy, May, Knibbs, Digby, Smith. Ironside.
MC: Sunderland beat Cambridge 2-1 earlier this season, what is your honest prediction for the final score?
T: With Sunderland unbeaten in 10, it’s likely to be a tougher trip to the North East than the win against Newcastle, especially given the stakes for the home side.
We ended Ipswich’s play-off hopes earlier in April so anything is possible. We have one of the best away scoring records in the 92 so I’ll go with a score draw.