John Kerkhof Park hosted an historic game of football when the region’s first over-35s men’s league got underway with a match between two Cambridge sides.
WaiBOP Football have tried many times to launch a competition for older players but in the past, enthusiasm for the concept has not been backed by entries from clubs.
This year, it’s different and the league has attracted nine teams and sufficient interest to suggest it’s here to stay.
Main photo: The two Cambridge Over 35 teams before kick off.
Waikato Over 35s
Cambridge’s two teams went into the first round fixture with vastly different preparations.
The team known as D1s, coached by Ben Feaver and Harry Bomans, has been around for many years, with many of the team used to playing together.
The second Cambridge team – known simply as Cambridge 2 – have been together less than a month and are still learning to remember each other’s names, let alone set-piece moves.
In drizzle, the two teams parried for half an hour with the D1s comfortably on top.
Ironically, the first goal of the competition came from a 19-year-old – one of three under 35 players allowed in each squad. Left back Oscar Thomas drilled an angled shot from 25 metres and it skipped across the wet grass like a pebble across a pond, taking goalkeeper Adrian Walworth off-guard and finding the corner of the net.
Photo: Scorer Oscar Thomas awaits the arrival of teammates to celebrate the first goal of the Over 35s season.
Once they had taken the lead, the D1s found their groove and went 4-0 up by the break with a pair from Miguel Peterle and another from Marciano Stiaque.
In the second half, Cambridge 2 pulled back a goal with a penalty by player-coach Nick Sickelmore.
For the D1s, the scoring was completed by Mariano Castellon.
Images from the Over 35’s match – click to open to full size
Waikato Division 1
Cambridge lost their season opener 2-0 to last season’s Division 1 champions, Claudelands Rovers, at John Kerkhof Park.
The goals aside, the teams were fairly even for most of the game but the damp conditions contributed to constant changes in possession.
Both teams will improve now the season has started.
Cambridge coach Chris Petropoulos said: “Although we lost 2-0, the boys gave it their all, and towards the end of the game we had a few really good chances but couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net. It was a good learning curve for us as we will be playing at a higher level this season.”
The Player of the Day award went to John Ward for an excellent all-round game in defence
Cambridge’s Alex Ball challenges for possession in the Division 1 game against Claudelands Rovers at John Kerkhof Park.
Waikato Division 4
Cambridge’s Division 4 team have started the 2021 strongly with a comfortable 5-0 win in cold, wet and windy conditions at Claudelands Rovers.
Going into the game with an unbeaten pre-season campaign, the Cambridge side’s season had the perfect start when Shane Gray found the net after 10 minutes.
Kieran Barnes doubled the lead with a header from a Rory Ford corner, and Jack Harman made it 3-0 with a low drive struck from outside the box.
In the second half, Gray completed his hat trick with two more goals. The second was a peach as he dribbled past three defenders and slipped it past the ‘keeper in the bottom corner.
Lotto NRFL second division
The Reds won their local derby against Claudelands Rovers by 2-1 to climb to sixth place on the second division table.
Goalscorers were Ewan Donald and Aston Hurd.
In the early game, Cambridge’s U-23 reserves lost 2-1 to Claudelands Rovers.
Scorer for Cambridge was Willem Dikmans.
Cambridge won their top-of-the-table clash with Hamilton Wanderers 4-2, despite trailing by two goals at the interval.
Scorers for Cambridge were Adam Brady, Haydn Roil (2) and Tom Woutersen.