A flying start and a nerve-wracking finish were the features of Cambridge’s vital win 3-2 against Northland.
The home side went into the game at John Kerkhof Park knowing a loss would send the Reds bottom of the Northern League second division.
Instead, Cambridge’s win consigned Northland to the foot of the Lotto NRFL table and lifted the Reds to eighth place.
Cambridge were clearly up for the game and attacked from the kick-off.
Tom Woutersen led the line from the start, creating space for Josh Clarkin who quickly had Northland on the back foot.
Referee Andy Holdsworth awarded Cambridge a penalty in the sixth minute which Woutersen slotted past ‘keeper Leo Jarman-Taylor.
Three minutes later, Josh Clarkin scored with a header at the far post, capping an excellent Cambridge move down the left flank.
At that stage, it looked like the Reds could run away with the match but to their credit, Northland kept scrapping for possession and looking to get forward.
Their efforts paid off in the 17th minute when Daniel Romer struck a sweet shot from more than 20 metres which flew into the Cambridge net.
Cambridge restored their two-goal margin in the 22nd minute when winger Josh Nooijen skipped through the Northland defence and deftly tapped the ball past the ‘keeper.
Despite protestations from the visitors who claimed the ball did not cross the goal line, the referee and his assistant confirmed the goal, giving Cambridge a 3-1 lead at the interval.
Tempers frayed in the second half as Northland tried to stage a fight back, and their coach James Smith was booked after the visitors’ dugout showed frustration at some of the refereeing decisions.
Northland reduced the margin to a single goal when substitute Max Thomas scored in the 76th minute.
Cambridge supporters nervously counted down the minutes as their side clung onto their lead.
Goalkeeper Fraser Nicholls and centre backs Daniel Clarkin and Jack Portegys cleared several crosses into their box.
Claims for a Cambridge penalty were turned down. A goal was awarded to the Reds – and then the decision reversed – after Josh Clarkin scrambled the ball into the Northland net.
At last, the final whistle went and Cambridge could await scores from the rest of the division.
They went in Cambridge’s favour, with the Reds climbing to eighth spot, and knowing they can climb further up the table when they travel to seventh-placed Franklin United next Saturday (August 8).
After a full round of 11 games, the competition splits into two groups of six and Cambridge’s latest win increases the side’s chances of going into the top group.
Coach Paul Richardson pointed out the Reds have already played the top four teams in the division.
Main photo: Midfielder Elliot Cooper wins a tackle against Northland.
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Photo gallery 1
Cambridge FC’s official photographer Louis Roberts was at the game – please click on image to open to full size
Photo gallery 2
Please click on image to open to full size
Lotto NRFL second division results
Claudelands Rovers 3 (Kyle Kirsten 16’, Bailey Webster 22’ – pen, Harry Chirstensen-Rose 79’)
Fencibles United 3 (Jeremy Burke 6’, Brennan Priestley 52’, James Davies 77’)
Oratia United 2 (Michael Graham 9’, Matthew Banks 28’)
Beachlands Maraetai AFC 2 (Isaac Harraway 13’ 30’)
Hibiscus Coast AFC 5 (Matthew Russell 2’, Ben Jones 3’, Conor Felstead 42’, Pete Benjatikul 45+1’, Daniel Cyra 47’)
Papatoetoe AFC 4 (Imraan Shah 11’ 31’, Meysum Shafahi 21’ 49’)
Uni-Mount Bohemian AFC 4 (Blake Martin 5’, Sean Patterson 68’ 73’, Gregor Wilson 69)
Onehunga Mangere United 0
Franklin United 4 (Jake McCoy 12’ 25’, Kartik Kumar 22’, Matthew Chant 35’)
Cambridge FC 3 (Tom Woutersen 6’ – pen, Josh Clarkin 9’, Josh Nooijen 22’)
Northland FC 2 (Daniel Romer 17’, Max Thomas 76’)
Cambridge Reserves lost the early game 3-0 to Northland reserves.