Cambridge might be out of this year’s ISPS Handa Chatham Cup but they did their fans and retiring coach Mike Woodlock proud with a spirited display before losing 3-2 to Waiheke United.
This was a classic cup tie with play swinging from end to end and no clues that Waiheke were the side among the leaders in Northern League’s first division. The cup atmosphere, and a wet day, ensured anything was possible in this first round fixture at John Kerkhof Park.
Smarting from their 8-1 loss last week at Franklin United, the Reds showed determination from the start and were quick and committed to winning possession.
Cambridge took the lead in the 25th minute when Callum MacLeod raced in from the left flank to finish a clever move that got behind the Waiheke defence.
But the Reds’ lead didn’t last long.
In the 31st minute, with Cambridge players claiming an offside, the visitors’ Jamie Lamb beat goalkeeper Patrick Steele with a well-placed shot.
As the game wore on, more of the battle remained in the middle third with the sides being even.
Four minutes before the break, Waiheke took the lead when Ramiro Vilar found the net in a goalmouth scramble following a corner.
The second half was evenly balanced with both sides creating chances.
However, Waiheke converted a chance in the 53rd minute when Marko Memedovic scored to give the islanders a 3-1 lead.
That should have been enough to finish off the Reds, a team that plays its league football a division lower in the Northern League.
But Cambridge found energy and grit to fight back and in the 73rd minute, got their reward when leading goalscorer Josh Clarkin got his head to a cross to gently flick it past goalkeeper Seba Herrero and into the net.
For the final 15 minutes, the Reds tried everything. Going wide, going up the middle, going long … mixing their approach to keep Waiheke on the retreat.
As the clock ran down after an exciting cup tie, Cambridge went close a couple of times, giving their supporters hopes of extra time.
Unfortunately for them, the final whistle confirmed Cambridge’s exit from this year’s cup.
A grateful crowd and the Cambridge players formed a human funnel to see coach Woodlock off the pitch for the last time.
Woodlock said he was touched by the gesture and was proud of the way the players had performed in the match.
Before the match, Woodlock said he hoped a good Cambridge display would kick-start the team’s league season in the same way a positive cup performance against Western Springs last year saw the Reds mount a long unbeaten run, cumulating in the WaiBOP Premiership title.
Woodlock certainly got what he wanted in terms of a strong outing from the Reds – it’s now up to them whether they can convert it into a run of league form in the Lotto NRFL second division.
Photo: Cambridge ‘keeper Patrick Steele takes care of a Waiheke cross.
Cambridge 2, Waiheke United 3
Cambridge – Callum MacLeod (25), Josh Clarkin (73).
Waiheke – Jamie Lamb (31), Ramiro Vilar (42), Marko Memedovic (53).
Saturday’s ISPS Handa Chatham Cup match was sponsored by Vigour Physiotherapy.
Our coverage includes Josh Clarkin’s goal and a post-match interview with retiring coach Mike Woodlock:
Images supplied by Cambridge FC’s official photographer Louis Roberts