Cambridge lost their unbeaten run in Northern League’s second division, conceding a stoppage time goal to Unimount Bohemian Celtic.
The Reds lost 2-1 but showed tremendous grit after losing skipper Nathan Claridge to a first-half red card when the game was scoreless.
Once again, spectators at a sunny John Kerkhof Park were treated to a tense, hard-fought Lotto NRFL game decided by a single goal.
But this time, Cambridge were on the wrong end of a tight scoreline and with Hamilton rivals Claudelands Rovers winning against Northland FC, the Reds have slipped from the top of the table.
Cambridge’s starting line-up was depleted through injuries to first and second string goalkeepers Patrick Steele and Fraser Nichols, and experienced defenders Patrick Woodlock and Kieran Hills.
That gave opportunities to ‘keeper Patrick Espin, Zach Mayo and Marcelo Sosa, making his first start of the season.
Cambridge started best of the two sides and forwards Dylan Blair, Josh Clarkin and Callum MacLeod found plenty of space among the Celtic defenders.
MacLeod found the net midway through the first half but his effort was ruled offside.
With half-time approaching, MacLeod was brought down on the touchline by Celtic captain Richard Murphy.
In the kerfuffle that followed, referee Nadia Browning sent off Cambridge’s Claridge.
Despite being reduced to 10, Cambridge flew at Celtic for the remaining minutes of the half, and went ahead three minutes into added time.
Leading scorer Blair lost his marker at a corner and deftly headed the ball inside the near post.
In the second half, the younger and fitter Cambridge kept the Aucklanders on the back foot and the Reds went close with efforts from MacLeod and Blair.
But with six minutes remaining, Celtic got their first real chance of the game and Craig Todd put it away to draw level.
The goal created urgency for both teams and the final minutes of play were frantic.
The game turned in added time when Josh Clarkin was injured in a collision with a Celtic player, leaving him unable to finish the game.
Down to nine men, the Reds tried to defend a free kick but Celtic’s Eoghan Murphy got a touch and the match was lost.
Main photo: Josh Clarkin lines up to shoot during the first half.
Tribute to Clive Herbert
At the start of the game, players and spectators observed a minute’s silence to respect long-time football administrator, coach and mentor Clive Herbert, who died earlier in the day.
Herbert was the father of Cambridge’s Technical Director Ricki Herbert and was also a past chairman of Mt Wellington FC, one of the clubs that is now part of Unimount Bohemian Celtic.
The New Zealand flag flew at half-mast for today’s game.
Saturday’s match sponsor was Onyx Cambridge.
Watch Dylan Blair score his fifth goal of the season:
The following images were taken by our club’s official photographer Louis Roberts:
Lotto NRFL second division results
Cambridge 1, Unimount Bohemian Celtic 2
Scorers: Cambridge – Dylan Blair 45+3′; Celtic – Craig Todd 84’, Eoghan Murphy 90+1’.
Oratia United 4, Ngongotaha 0
Scorers: Oratia – Aidan Karazmoudeh 2’, Matt Banks 12’ [pen] 44’, Harry Cuthbert 34’.
Franklin United 0, Greenhithe Catimba 0
Manurewa 2, Onehunga Mangere United 0
Scorers: Manurewa – Michael Hough 31’ 85’.
Albany United 2, Metro FC 0
Scorers: Albany – Marc Porter 27’, Jack Beguely 87’.
Claudelands Rovers 8, Northland FC 0
Scorers: Rovers – Henry Thompson 26’, Henry Stephen 35’ 49’, George Frise 39’, Bailey Webster 45+1’ 65’ [pen], Jono Viviani 45+2’ 77’.
The Reds reserves lost 3-1 to Unimount Bohemian Celtic’s second string in their Lotto NRFL second division fixture.
Reds’ next fixture
Cambridge play at Albany United next Saturday.
The reserves kick off at 12.30pm while the main game starts at 3pm.