Two late goals ensured Cambridge completed the third win of their pre-season campaign, beating Auckland side Papatoetoe 3-1 at John Kerkhof Park.
The friendly was expected to help the Cambridge coaches draw a measure on their progress, knowing Papatoetoe was relegated from the Northern League last season, opening the way for the Reds’ promotion.
But a scrappy first hour made it difficult to make comparisons as both sides squandered chances in the heat.
Cambridge took the lead in the 6th minute when Joshua Clarkin casually slotted the ball home from close giving home supporters the feeling the game could become one-sided.
However, the visitors almost levelled a few minutes later when Cambridge ‘keeper Patrick Steele brought down a Papatoetoe striker in a one-on-one. Steele benefitted from some pre-season leniency from the referee but Cambridge conceded the free kick on the edge of the area.
Steele then easily saved the resulting direct free kick.
Two minutes later, Papatoetoe struck the crossbar and then both sides traded wayward shots with the nets rarely threatened.
Three goals in the last 20 minutes sorted the result.
First, Papatoetoe pulled level after the Cambridge defence opened up and allowed an easy shot.
Then Dylan Blair scored the goal of the game, belting home a shot from the edge of the area to give the Reds a 2-1 lead. It was just reward for Blair whose goals for the reserves in their pre-season games has him in good form and deserving of his run with the firsts.
With six minutes to go, Cambridge put the result beyond doubt when a cross was badly dealt with and the referee ruled handball by a Papatoetoe defender.
Newcomer Jason Walker coolly placed the spot kick just inside the post to make the score 3-1.
The cancellation of the scheduled match between the two clubs’ reserves (because Papatoetoe could not muster a team) meant the Cambridge coaches were able to rest some senior players and give first team opportunities to some of the reserve squad.
First team regulars Nathan Claridge, Callum MacLeod and new signing Wayne Teague were rested, while Blair and others from the reserves showed the depth of talent currently at the club.
The first team’s next friendly is on Tuesday night (6.30pm) at John Kerkhof Park when they host Hamilton Wanderers.
Match photo gallery (1)
Images courtesy of Cambridge FC’s Josh Easby.
Match photo gallery (2)
Images courtesy of Cambridge FC’s official photographer Louis Roberts.