Cambridge have finished their 2019 Northern League season in a respectable fifth place after a frantic finish to their last game.
The Reds almost caused an upset when leading Metro FC for much of their match at John Kerkhof Park with the Aucklanders desperately needing the win to seal promotion to next year’s Lotto NRFL first division.
Metro snatched two late goals to win the game – and promotion – in the dying minutes of a tense and entertaining game.
Cambridge came out of the dressing rooms with obvious confidence, knowing the result would make little difference to their final standing in the competition.
Their first attack earned a corner and from the resulting set-piece, leading goalscorer Josh Clarkin neatly headed the Reds into the lead after only three minutes.
That put an edge into the game with Metro gradually working their way into contention.
Cambridge survived a couple of strong Metro attacks late in the first half.
At the break, referee Sarah Jones was replaced by her assistant after she was struggling to recover from a ball struck into her face, leaving her with suspected concussion.
In the second half, both teams increased their intensity and no one was holding back on their tackles. Five players were given yellow cards in the second spell as the tension built.
Word filtered through from Auckland that Manurewa were leading Oratia United – and if scores stayed the same there and at Cambridge, Manurewa would earn promotion, not Metro.
Eventually, with seven minutes remaining, Bradley Rathbun snared the leveller for Metro.
At the same time, updates from Auckland had Oratia and Manurewa locked 4-4.
As the final whistle approached, Walid Omar Hassani sent the visiting Metro fans into raptures when he found the net in a goalmouth scramble.
The Aucklanders spent the remainder of the game, including five tense minutes of added time, defending as the Reds pushed forward, trying to find one last goal for the season.
The whistle went.
Metro players celebrated their promotion to division one. The Reds congratulated them and can be satisfied with another fighting performance, and a season that delivered the club’s highest rankings in the Northern League for more than a decade.
The Reds thank the junior players who today led the teams onto the pitch and provided ball boy/girl duties.
Lotto NRFL second division results
Oratia United 4 (Mark Withers 39’, Matthew Banks 49’ 67’, Own Goal 62’)
Manurewa AFC 4 (Kew McSkimming 43’ – PEN, Philip Paul 48’ 56’ 69’)
Cambridge FC 1 (Josh Clarkin 3’)
Metro FC 2 (Bradley Rathbun 83’, Walid Omar Hassani 87’)
Claudelands Rovers 4 (Jono Viviani 13’, Jacob Robb 20’, Henry Stephen 71’, Own Goal 89’)
Uni-Mount Bohemian Celtic 1 (Dean Atkins 79’)
Ngongotaha AFC 2 (David Elliott 88’, Harlem Simiona 90’)
Albany United 5 (Jack Beguely 16’ 71’, Josh Eastmure 34’, Marc Porter 45’, Milan Elie 78’)
Greenhithe Catimba 2 (Nicolas Mauricio Fetter 57’, Matias El Ganame 64’)
Onehunga Mangere United 4 (Charlie Heather 35’, David Carron 49’, Alex Witteveen 67’ 75’)
Franklin United 1 (Kartik Kumar 18’)
Northland FC 4 (Jonathan Fletcher 1’, Brett Plant 24’ 65’, Mark Prowse 74’)
What the results mean
- Albany United were crowned champions of the 2019 LOTTO NRFL Division Two.
- Metro FC join Albany in next year’s first division.
- Ngongotaha finished bottom of Division Two and are relegated to the WaiBOP Premiership.
- Franklin United were relegated to next year’s AFF/NFF Conference League.
- Beachlands Maraetai AFC and Papatoetoe AFC have been promoted to next year’s LOTTO NRFL Division Two.
- Fencible United and Hibiscus Coat have been relegated from the first division and will play in next year’s Lotto NRFL Division Two.
Cambridge lost 2-1 to Metro FC reserves in the early game.