String of home games for new coach

Cambridge’s Josh Clarkin is outnumbered by Waiheke players but still wins the ball. Photo – Louis Roberts.

New Cambridge coach Paul Richardson will get his chance to turn around the Reds’ Northern League form with four successive games at home ground John Kerkhof Park.

The Lotto NRFL second division schedule sees Northland, Auckland sides Te Atatu and Takapuna, and old rivals Ngongotaha visit Cambridge during Richardson’s first month in charge.  And after last weekend’s gallant defeat in the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup – in which the Reds lost 3-2 to highly-rated Waiheke United – Cambridge will be looking to move up the league table.

Richardson comes into the coaching role after the retirement of Mike Woodlock, who ended his 10 years in the Cambridge dugout with the Chatham Cup match.  It was an emotional day for him, and the club’s players and supporters.  At the end of the match, players past and present formed a guard of honour to applaud Woodlock as he left the pitch for the last time as head coach.

“I’m a bit sad to be going today but we’re in good hands,” he said, acknowledging the handover of the coaching role to Richardson.  Woodlock has coached various teams at the club since joining in 2008 and has had three stints coaching the team in the Northern League.

“The last four years have been special,” he said, referring to the two WaiBOP Premiership titles won in 2015 and 2017, followed by an emotional return to the Lotto NRFL second division this year.

Saturday’s match was a classic cup tie with play swinging from end to end and no clues that Waiheke were the side among the leaders in Northern League’s first division.  Cambridge took the lead in the 25th minute when Callum MacLeod raced in from the left flank to finish a clever move that got behind the Waiheke defence.  But the Reds’ lead didn’t last long.

In the 31st minute, with Cambridge players claiming an offside, the visitors’ Jamie Lamb beat goalkeeper Patrick Steele with a well-placed shot. As the game wore on, more of the battle remained in the middle third with the sides being even.  Four minutes before the break, Waiheke took the lead when Ramiro Vilar found the net in a goalmouth scramble following a corner.

The second half was evenly balanced with both sides creating chances.  However, Waiheke converted a chance in the 53rd minute when Marko Memedovic scored to give the islanders a 3-1 lead.  That should have been enough to finish off the Reds, a team that plays its league football a division lower in the Northern League.

But Cambridge found energy and grit to fight back and in the 73rd minute, got their reward when leading goalscorer Josh Clarkin got his head to a cross to gently flick it past goalkeeper Seba Herrero and into the net.

As the clock ran down after an exciting cup tie, Cambridge went close a couple of times, giving their supporters hopes of extra time.  Unfortunately for them, the final whistle confirmed Cambridge’s exit from this year’s cup.

This Saturday, the Reds host Northland FC which is a virtual senior rep side. The game kicks off at 3pm at John Kerkhof Park.

Meanwhile, Cambridge returned from Otumoetai with a 0-0 draw in the Loaded WaiBOP Championship, a result that leaves the side third from the foot of the table but having played one or two games less than the teams above them.  This weekend, they travel to bottom-placed Matamata Swifts and a win there will do much to kick-start the team’s season.

In the Waikato A competition, Cambridge extended their unbeaten run to three games with their 0-0 draw against Waikato Unicol. Both sides are in mid-table and played some entertaining football, despite the wet conditions at John Kerkhof Park.

The Cambridge D1 team returned from Te Aroha Cobras with a 3-2 loss. Their goals came from Ben Ward and Toby Hartley.

The club’s women’s team beat Ngaruawahia United 10-0 in a Waikato Women’s B League fixture at Centennial Park on Sunday.  Scorers were Astrid Howarth (4), Rachel Hill (2), Maria Cameron (2), Sophee Ranson-Jones and Gemma Martin.  The Hill Homes Player of the Day was Maddy Burnett.

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