Two goals deep into added time rescued an amazing win by Cambridge over 10-man Greenhithe Catimba in their Lotto NRFL second division clash on Good Friday.
Trailing 2-1 when the 90 minutes was up, the Reds threw everyone forward in a last-ditch effort at John Kerkhof Park.
With five minutes of added time played, striker Dylan Blair looped a header over Catimba’s goalkeeper Camilo Cabezas and the Auckland side’s defenders could not stop the ball from trickling across the goal-line.
Tied 2-2, the Reds put together another attack. Winger Callum MacLeod – who had tormented Catimba all game – drove hard to the byline and crossed for Blair to smash home the ball for the winner.
The goal completed a hat-trick for 21-year-old Blair and clinched a win for Cambridge that moments earlier had seemed unlikely, if not impossible.
Earlier, it was Blair who gave Cambridge a 1-0 lead when he nodded home a classic poacher’s goal from close in after 13 minutes of the game, played in warm sunshine.
The lead didn’t last long as Matias Miranda weaved through the Cambridge midfield and shot the equaliser after 15 minutes.
For the rest of the first half, the sides traded attacks and both sides were guilty of niggly fouls.
However, Catimba found themselves reduced to 10 players in the 42nd minute when referee Ashley Wilson red-carded Catimba’s Jorge Saint-Germes for a crude challenge on Cambridge goalkeeper Patrick Steele.
Despite their numerical advantage, Cambridge found it difficult to break down a well-organised Catimba in the second half and the visitors took the lead in the 64th minute through Clement Chesse.
For the remaining half-hour, Catimba defended gamely, repelling repeated Cambridge attacks and frustrating the home side and their supporters.
But it was Blair who had the final say in the result, his hat-trick providing Cambridge with a win that keeps the side in touch with the divisional leaders, and maintains the Reds’ unbeaten start to the season.
Cambridge back up with a visit to Ngongotaha on ANZAC Day this Thursday, followed by a home game against league newcomers Unimount Bohemian Celtic next Saturday (April 27). Both those games kick off at 3pm.
Main photo: Cambridge’s Josh Clarkin takes on the Catimba defence late in the match.
Saturday’s matchday sponsor was Waipa: Home of Champions.
Mascots and ball boys/girls
Today’s mascots and ball boys were provided by Cambridge’s 9th-grade boys and U-12 girls.
Lotto NRFL second division results
Cambridge 3, Greenhithe Catimba 2
Scorers: Cambridge – Dylan Blair 13′, 90+5′, 90+6′; Catimba – Matias Miranda 15′, Clement Chesse 64′.
Oratia United 4, Franklin United 1
Scorers: Oratia – Tommy Cain 26’, Matthew Banks 47’, Harry Cuthbert 61’ 90+5’; Franklin – Jack McCoy 16′.
Northland FC 0, Albany United 0
Manurewa 1, Unimount Bohemian Celtic 0
Scorer: Manurewa – Michael Hough 35′.
Metro FC 5, Ngongotaha 0
Scorers: Metro – Mario Aroca 20’ 42’, Leo Shin 63’ 84’, Josh Dayal 70’.
Claudelands Rovers 10, Onehunga Mangere United 2
Scorers: Claudelands Rovers – David Smith 3’, Henry Thompson 21’ 78’ 84’, Bailey Webster 30’ [pen] 66’ 72’, Jono Viviani 53’ 76’ 89’; Onehunga Mangere United – Alex Witteveen 18′, Max Kwan 37′.
Cambridge Reserves beat Greenhithe Catimba 3-0 in the early game.