Cambridge made a triumphant return to the ranks of Northern League football with an emphatic 5-2 win at the home of old foes Ngongotaha.
Playing their first fixture at that level for six years, the Reds declared themselves well and truly back with a comprehensive win in wet and slippery conditions.
New signing Chris Walker, who joined the Reds from Matamata Swifts, had the chance to score within 30 seconds of kick-off when a Ngongotaha blunder let him through but goalkeeper Andrew Gibbs recovered to force Walker wide.
Three minutes later, midfielder Joshua Clarkin scored Cambridge’s first goal of this Northern League campaign. He received the ball in space, beat his defender and coolly placed his shot across the face of the goal and inside the far post.
The opening half hour was all Cambridge, with a series of corners and attacking free kicks all presenting opportunities to increase the lead.
But Ngongotaha, with some fierce tackling, forced their way back into the game and levelled the score a few minutes before half-time when Cambridge failed to clear a corner at the first attempt.
Photo: Clarkin shoots to score the opening goal. Image: Josh Easby.
Cambridge regained the lead soon after half-time when a Marcela Sosa shot took a deflection and wrong-footed the Ngongotaha ‘keeper.
In the 65th minute, Ngongotaha levelled at 2-2 with a penalty after a Cambridge defender was ruled to have fouled an attacker.
Minutes later, Reds goalkeeper Patrick Steele prevented the home side from taking the lead with an excellent block at close range from a Ngongotaha header.
From there, the Cambridge team took control and they went ahead for the third time in the game through Daniel Clarkin who cleverly flicked on a Marcela Sosa free-kick to head over the ‘keeper.
Substitute Dylan Blair put the game beyond reach with the goal of the day, a blistering 25-metre shot that found the top of the net with only six minutes to go.
Ngongotaha, down to 10 men, struggled in the wet and conceded a fifth goal in the dying minutes when Jamie Woodlock picked up Cambridge’s final goal of the day.
Overall, it was an excellent first outing by Cambridge against their old rivals from the WaiBOP Premiership who made it difficult for the full 90 minutes.
Cambridge head coach Mike Woodlock said it had been “a really hard game” but “three points is a good start.”
Coverage of today’s game by Cambridge FC’s official club photographer Louis Roberts:
Clips from early in the game as Cambridge mount a series of attacks on the home team’s goal.