Hard words at half-time from the Reds coaching staff prompted a dramatic turnaround as Cambridge came from behind to easily win their ISPS Handa Chatham Cup tie by 6-2 against Papakura City.
After a hapless first half, Cambridge trailed 2-1 at the break but the side came out steaming in the second spell, scoring twice within 90 seconds of the restart to take the lead for the first time in the first round cup clash at McLennan Park.
That spell turned the game with the Reds finding the net five times in the second half and depriving Papakura of any real chances to add to their score.
Cambridge started the match as favourites to beat Papakura, relegated from the Northern League last year and now playing in the Auckland Conference.
But the Reds were badly out of sorts for the first half-hour, allowing the home side to take the lead through a long-range speculator from Munit Krishna.
With 45 minutes played, Cambridge levelled when Dylan Blair scored his sixth goal of the season, nipping between a defender and ‘keeper Josh Shackleton.
While the Reds lined up for the restart, Papakura’s Luke Chapman saw Cambridge ‘keeper Patrick Steele off his line and struck a perfectly placed shot from the halfway line which flew into the net.
Referee Pat Barrett signalled the goal and blew for half-time.
The Reds, smarting from their half-time stir-up led by coach Paul Richardson, seemed a more determined outfit as play resumed.
Within 30 seconds, substitute Kyle Stead – playing his first game since returning from college football in the United States – found the net.
From the kick off, Cambridge immediately won possession and a ball into the box found big Josh Clarkin who steered his shot past the ‘keeper to put the visitors ahead 3-2.
From there, Cambridge took charge.
Zach Mayo extended the lead in the 57th minute and he struck again in the 70th minute, with the goal of the game, a well-struck volley (see main photo) after Josh Clarkin cleverly set up the shot for him.
With four minutes to go, Aaron Huesser completed the rout with a well-taken goal.
Cambridge now go into the second round draw for New Zealand football’s oldest cup competition – it started in 1923 – and keen to extend the club’s recent fine record in the competition.