An early goal by striker Josh Clarkin set Cambridge on their way to an important 1-0 win against lowly Papatoetoe at John Kerkhof Park.
It wasn’t the prettiest or the most convincing of their nine wins this season but it could turn out to be the key to the Reds push for promotion in the Lotto NRFL second division.
The victory – the fifth in a row – keeps Cambridge in fourth place on the table, with a game in hand over their title rivals, with the top two clubs set for promotion at season’s end.
Cambridge started superbly, immediately switching play and looking to run at Papatoetoe.
Within a few minutes of kick-off, Clarkin finished off a move with a well-directed header into the Papatoetoe net.
Above: Josh Clarkin steers the ball into the Papatoetoe net for the winning goal. Photo: Louis Roberts.
For the next 20 minutes, the Reds looked capable of over-running their visitors, forcing a series of corners that were defended poorly by Papatoetoe’s defence but rescued several times by their goalkeeper.
But as the half wore on, Papatoetoe played themselves into the game, creating a couple of chances and doing enough to show this was not going to be a one-sided affair.
In the second half, play went end-to-end and Cambridge were denied a goal by the crossbar and wayward finishing.
For the last 20 minutes, willed on by a tense home crowd, the Reds worked hard and ground out the result they needed.
Their reward of three league points means they can leapfrog second-placed Fencibles United next weekend when the Aucklanders come to John Kerkhof Park.
Fencibles lost at home to third-placed Beachlands Maraetai in this latest round of games, suggesting the last six rounds of games could produce a tight finish.
Main photo: Cambridge forward Aston Hurd (17) threatens the Papatoetoe goal from a corner.
The Reds’ next fixture, at home to Fencibles, is on Saturday July 31 (3pm).
Players observe a minute’s silence before the match to honour the memory of Ngaruawahia United president Jared Williams and Cambridge supporter Thomas O’Donnell, both of whom died in the past week.
The following images were captured by the club’s official photographer Louis Roberts. Please click on image to open to full size.
Second division results
Cambridge 1 Papatoetoe 0
Fencibles United 0 Beachlands Maraetai 2
Franklin United 3 Oratia United 1
Onehunga Mangere United 4 Greenhithe Catimba 1
Uni-Mount Bohemian 1 Hibiscus Coast 4
Northland 2 Claudelands Rovers 1
In the early game, Cambridge U-23s drew 2-2 with Papatoetoe.