Cambridge supporters must have lost track of how many Reds victories have been won in the final minutes of their Lotto NRFL second division fixtures.
But they’ll remember this win with relief after leading scorer Josh Clarkin grabbed the winning goal with only two minutes left on the clock at John Kerkhof Park.
His goal delivered Cambridge their 2-1 win against a determined Northland FC who are fighting hard to avoid relegation from the Northern League.
Cambridge went into the Lotto NRFL second division match knowing a win would secure Northern League football next season and, in theory, still give the Reds a mathematical chance of winning promotion if the form of rival teams takes a dive.
The sides played out an even first half in which most of the play was restricted to the middle third.
Northland produced the best chance of the half, forcing Cambridge ‘keeper Patrick Steele to pull off a spectacular double save as he blocked one shot and then fended away the follow-up strike.
After turning around with the game scoreless, Northland took the initiative by forcing a string of corners.
From one of these, in the 64th minute, ‘keeper Steele could not cleanly take the cross and the ball strayed over the line for an own goal.
Northland continued to defend with passion while Cambridge started to patiently build attacks, having replaced the spine of the side with the substitution of Jack Portegys (ankle injury) and holding midfielder Harry Wicks.
The home side clawed their way back into the game when a corner was half-cleared by Northland, only for substitute Marcelo Sosa to chip the ball back into the box for Daniel Clarkin to head home in the 74th minute.
From there, the balance of the game shifted clearly in the Reds’ favour and the home supporters got behind their team.
In the 88th minute, Josh Clarkin kept his cool to beat a defender and then round goalkeeper Shane Stanners to tap the ball home from six metres, giving his side the lead for the first time in the match.
Cambridge ran down the clock for a victory that keeps the club on track for their highest Northern League finish in 17 years.
Most of the Cambridge side produced decent displays but defender Kieran Vollebregt will relish the win – he played the full 90 minutes, making his first appearance in the starting line-up after impressing off the bench. He turned 17 last month and looks promising for next season.
The Reds’ next game is on Saturday August 17 (3pm) when Onehunga Mangere visit John Kerkhof Park.
Main photo: Zach Mayo takes the ball past the Northland defence.
Today’s matchday sponsor
Lotto NRFL second division results
Played Friday August 9:
Metro FC 2 (Bradley Rathbun 50’ – PEN, Josh Chemis 62’)
Manurewa AFC 2 (David Hough 8’, Kieran Nevey 13’ – PEN)
Played Saturday August 10:
Claudelands Rovers 5 (Daniel Maronga 17’ 82’, Jono Viviani 19’, Kyle Kirsten 52’ George Frise 59’)
Ngongotaha AFC 1 (Own Goal 10’)
Greenhithe Catimba 0
Unimount Bohemian Celtic 4 (Richard Murphy 26’ 46’, Allan Forsyth 31’, Sean Patterson 73’)
Franklin United 1 (Lance Kraakman 20’)
Albany United 2 (Jack Beguely 34’, Marc Porter 45+2’)
Oratia United 3 (Mark Withers 70’ 80’, Harry Cuthbert 75’)
Onehunga Mangere United 2 (Fauzul Ahmed 48’, William Burdon 81’)
Cambridge FC 2 (Daniel Clarkin 74’, Josh Clarkin 88’)
Northland FC 1 (Own Goal 64’)
Cambridge beat Northland FC 2-1 in the early game.