Cambridge celebrated their long-awaited return to football’s Northern League with a comfortable 5-2 win against old foes Ngongotaha on Saturday. The Reds didn’t have it easy, though, as the home team twice fought their way back into the match as heavy rain made conditions difficult at Stembridge Road.
Cambridge’s Josh Clarkin opened the scoring after only four minutes but Ngongotaha levelled in the 43rd minute through Yamil Casas. Jamie Woodlock put Cambridge ahead in the 53rd minute but Casas equalised again, from the penalty spot. Cambridge then gradually took control and added goals from Daniel Clarkin, Dylan Blair and another from Jamie Woodlock.
Head coach Mike Woodlock was delighted with the first day victory, given the difficult conditions and a Ngongotaha side that battled hard. “It was a really hard game. But three points is a good start,” he said.
Cambridge supporters now look forward to the Reds’ first home game of the campaign, a local derby against Hamilton’s Claudelands Rovers on Good Friday.
Rovers lost their season opener 4-1 to Franklin United but are now coached by former All White Mark Cossey so will be competitive this season. “We want all our supporters to get along to the game – we need their support,” Woodlock said.
The match at John Kerkhof Park kicks off at 3pm on Friday, with the two clubs’ reserves teams playing the curtain-raiser at 12.30pm.
Cambridge go into the reserves match in strong form after they romped to an emphatic 8-0 win against Ngongotaha’s second string. The Reds coasted to a 3-0 lead within 25 minutes and then dominated possession to ensure their easy win. Striker Adam Brady continued his excellent pre-season form with four goals, while Andy Taylor (2), Alex Mukaka and Jonathan Sanchez got the rest.
Reserves coach Mike Taylor said he was pleased with the team’s performance though there were areas which needed work. “This team will only improve,” he said. “Quite frankly, if we keep going the way we’re going, we’ll give this league a nudge.”
Friday’s opponents Rovers lost their opening game 5-1 at Franklin United on the weekend.
Cambridge’s return to the Northern League means the club is now competing in the fourth tier of the sport’s competition, behind the National Premiership, the Northern Premier League and the Northern League first division.
The Reds earned promotion to division two as the Waikato/Bay of Plenty champions last season, having been relegated from the Northern League in 2012.
The club has invited players from its unbeaten 1993 Northern League squad to attend the Good Friday derby against Rovers to mark the 25th anniversary of that achievement.