Cambridge face their biggest challenge of their football season this weekend with their sudden death cup tie against one of the strongest teams in the north.
The Reds face top Auckland side Glenfield Rovers in the second round of the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup which is the sport’s oldest club competition.
The match at John Kerkhof Park kicks off at the earlier-than-usual time of 2pm on Saturday.
Glenfield play in the Northern League’s Premier Division – two tiers higher than Cambridge – and will be hot favourites to win the match.
However, Cambridge have a reputation for punching above their weight in the Chatham Cup in recent seasons and coach Paul Richardson expects his players to rise to the occasion.
“It’s a long weekend, we’re playing at home and we hope a big crowd will come along to support us,” he said.
Spectators may recognise more than the usual number of visiting players.
Glenfield contain six members of the 2014-15 WaiBOP United squad that trained at Cambridge and played their National League home fixtures at John Kerkhof Park.
One of their WaiBOP team mates from that summer was Marcelo Sosa, now in the midfield for Cambridge.
Glenfield will be led by player-coach Chad Coombes, a former All White who scored a couple of memorable goals for WaiBOP United at Cambridge.
With him will be the Drake brothers, Danyon and Reid, Wade Maloney, Maksim Mamko and Alexis Varela (who also gave up time to coach kids at Cambridge).
While Cambridge has a strong recent record in the cup, the club still has not progressed past the third round in its 71-year history.
It has reached that stage – where only 32 teams remain in the competition – on 12 occasions.
The cup tie will provide a break for the Reds from Northern League competition in which their campaign for the 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 last weekend, 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.
Main photo: Chad Coombes (right) scores for WaiBOP United at John Kerkhof Park in 2014. About to join the celebration is Reid Drake. Both players are key members of the Glenfield Rovers squad due to play Cambridge. Photo: Grant Stantiall.