Cambridge snatched a 2-2 draw with a crucial goal from defender Kieran Hill in the dying minutes of a torrid Lotto NRFL match against old rivals Ngongotaha.
The draw might turn out to be important as a win to the Bay of Plenty visitors would have lifted them level on points to Cambridge on the second division table.
The match started after a well-observed minute’s silence by players and spectators, in honour of long-time supporter Hank Kerkhof whose funeral was held only hours before the game.
Once underway, both teams went at full pace, contesting every ball and scrapping for every advantage.
The Reds struck first with a well-taken goal from Callum MacLeod in the 11th minute.
Five minutes later, Ngongotaha levelled from the penalty spot with Yamil Casas sending Cambridge ‘keeper Fraser Nicholls the wrong way.
The teams went into the interval at 1-1, a fair reflection of the first half play.
Midway through the second half, the visitors went 2-1 up when Hayden Booker stole in from the left to hit an angled shot into the near corner of the Cambridge goal.
That left Cambridge with 20 minutes of play to find an equaliser but the game took a major twist.
Cambridge midfielder Jamie Woodlock and Ngongotaha goalkeeper Andrew Gibbs went for a ball outside of the penalty area and in the process, Gibbs suffered a bad leg injury. Woodlock was given a straight red, leaving Cambridge with 10 men for the rest of the match.
Play was held up for 20 minutes while Gibbs was treated and eventually stretchered off the pitch.
Once the game re-started, in failing light, Cambridge threw everyone forward and with time almost up, won a direct free kick 20 metres from the Ngongotaha goal.
Hill stepped up and with the Ngongotaha defence still sorting out their wall, he curled a beautiful shot into the roof of the net.
For Cambridge, it was another frustrating result – their third draw in their last four games – but the sharing of points suited the home side more than Ngongotaha who are struggling to clear the foot of the table.
Next Saturday, Cambridge travel to Claudelands Rovers.
Lotto NRFL second division results
Northland FC 0-1 Metro FC (HT: 0-0)
MET: Josh Dayal 55′
Albany United 1-1 Onehunga Mangere United (HT: 1-0)
ALB: Herve Kadiya 35′; OMU: David Carron 86′
Te Atatu AFC 0-2 Takapuna AFC (HT: 0-1)
TAK: Own Goal 15′, Jonathan Lewis 61′
Cambridge FC 2-2 Ngongotaha AFC (HT: 1-1)
CAM: Callum MacLeod 11′, Kieran Hill 90′; NGO: Yamil Casas 16′, Hayden Booker 55′
Bucklands Beach AFC 6-0 Papakura City FC (HT: 5-0)
BUC: Josh Smith 8′ 20′ 28′ 44′, Ben de Ruiter 30 73′
Claudelands Rovers v Franklin United – postponed due to ISPS Handa Chatham Cup
The Cambridge reserves beat Ngongotaha 4-0 in the early game.
Mascots & ball boys
Members of Cambridge’s 10th grade Valencia beat Raglan 5-3 in the morning and then supported the Reds in the afternoon.