Cambridge’s campaign for the Northern League’s second division title remains intact despite the Reds losing a seven-goal thriller to new divisional leaders Manurewa.
While Cambridge were losing 4-3 at John Kerkhof Park, title rivals Claudelands Rovers were being beaten 3-0 at home by the in-form Metro FC who have swept into fourth place.
It means the race for promotion to division one – two clubs will be promoted – has widened to at least four sides in what’s turning out to be an even competition.
The Cambridge side that ran onto the park had a couple of surprises for home fans.
Out of the team was defender Jack Portegys, who had sustained an injury in the lead-up to the match, while the starting line-up included midfielder Levi Clark, transferring back to the club (from Melville United) where he had spent his junior and youth seasons.
Cambridge got off to a poor start, allowing Rewa to have most of the play for the game’s opening 20 minutes.
Goalkeeper Patrick Steele had made an important save, turning a shot round his post.
Rewa took the lead in the 20th minute through David Hough.
Cambridge levelled in the 29th minute when a ball into the Rewa box rattled around with Josh Clarkin and Clark both making contact before Daniel Clarkin sidefooted the ball into an empty net.
Main photo: Daniel Clarkin sweeps the ball into the Rewa net for Cambridge’s first goal.
As half-time approached, Cambridge went to sleep, allowing Rewa to score twice in as many minutes.
Troy Christophers grabbed the first in the 42nd minute and then Dylan Laing-McConnell extended the lead to 3-1 which is how the teams turned around.
Cambridge gradually started to get into the match with midfielders Harry Wick, Marcelo Sosa and Clark starting to combine well.
Just as the Reds appeared to be making a comeback, Rewa took a 4-1 lead when Christophers snared his second goal in the 65th minute.
Down 4-1 – the worst position the team has found itself this season – seemed to spur the Reds into a full assault on the Manurewa goalmouth.
Sosa converted a 69th-minute penalty after a Rewa defender was judged by referee Andy Holdsworth to have handled in the box.
A minute later, Zach Mayo cracked home a stinging shot from 12 metres to reduce the scoreline to 4-3.
The momentum was with the home side and Rewa found themselves desperately defending their lead for the last phase of the match.
They hung on and became the new division leaders. As news filtered through that Claudelands Rovers had lost to Metro, players and supporters were realising that the season looks likely to take many more twists before the title will be decided in late August.
Next Saturday, Cambridge are at home to Northern League Premier Division side Glenfield Rovers in the second round of the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup (note: earlier than usual kick off at 2pm).
Images from today’s game by the club’s official photographer Louis Roberts:
Lotto NRFL second division results
Cambridge FC 3 (Daniel Clarkin 29’, Marcelo Sosa 69’ [PEN], Zach Mayo 70’)
Manurewa AFC 4 (David Hough 20’, Troy Christophers 42’ 65’, Dylan Laing-McConnell 43’)
Franklin United 1 (Kartik Kumar 38’)
Onehunga Mangere United 1 (Rinal Prasad 89’)
Greenhithe Catimba 0
Albany United 4 (Ben Semple 38’, Marc Porter 41’, Thomson Nkoy 59’, Jack Beguely 90+2’)
Claudelands Rovers 0
Metro FC 3 (Mario Aroca 14’ 45’ 68’)
Northland FC 0
Oratia United 0
Ngongotaha AFC 1 (Ellis Breadmore 41’)
Uni-Mount Bohemian Celtic 3 (Dean Atkins 20’, Paul Landers 53’ 58’)
Cambridge Reserves 3-2 to Manurewa AFC in the early game.