June is shaping up as the crucial month for Cambridge as the Reds strive to establish themselves in Northern League football. After a bright start to their season at this higher level of competition, the 2017 Waikato/Bay of Plenty champions are now looking for league points to clear the lower reaches of the league.
Cambridge lost 3-2 to second division leaders Takapuna on Saturday, leaving the Reds five places off the bottom but only three points clear of safety from potential relegation. However, Cambridge face three of the teams below them during the rest of June, giving the Reds ample opportunity to find form and kick clear.
Saturday’s loss was typical of Cambridge’s recent form. The team had plenty of possession, created many goalscoring chances but allowed the visitors to score goals at crucial stages of the match.
Cambridge went into the game without skipper Patrick Woodlock and striker Wayne Teague, both of whom were suspended. The league leaders struck first when Tommy Miller scored a clever goal, stroking a cross into the Cambridge net after 12 minutes.
The game took a twist 10 minutes later when Takapuna midfielder Ahmad Al-Samshi was given a straight red card after a fracas following a tackle.
Cambridge grew in confidence as the half wore on, but the visitors played well with a man short, making the home side work for possession.
After half-time, Cambridge came out strongly and put the Takapuna goal under pressure. The Reds equalised after 53 minutes when leading scorer Josh Clarkin netted for the ninth time this season, firing home from the edge of the box.
Just as Cambridge looked to be gaining the ascendancy, a rash tackle by midfielder Marcelo Sosa led to him being sent off for a second yellow card.
With both teams down to 10, the game became more of an even contest, and gradually Takapuna started to show why they are the only unbeaten team in the division. With 20 minutes to go, Takapuna regained the lead through Jack Taylor.
And then came a killer blow in the 76th minute when Matt Hawke struck to make it 3-1. Cambridge kept battling to the end and were rewarded when Josh Clarkson scored his second of the game (and tenth of the season) to make it 3-2.
But the ref’s whistle ended any hopes of a last-gasp draw and Cambridge now look forward to hosting Ngongotaha at John Kerkhof Park this Saturday.
Cambridge’s reserves fared better, beating Takapuna’s second-string side 3-1 to stay top of their competition. Andrew Taylor scored twice in the first half, taking his season’s tally to 15, and went into the interval 2-1 up. Youngster Toby Hartley scored a third for the Reds in the 82nd minute to put the result beyond doubt. Joint players of the day were Jordan Silvester and Johnny Sanchez.
In other games, Cambridge lost their Loaded WaiBOP Championship match 8-0 at Taupo.
In the Waikato A division, Cambridge beat Waipa rivals Te Awamutu 3-1, thanks to goals from Ryan Ashby (pen), Jason Szabo and Ryan Smith.
The club’s two Waikato Division D sides faced off against each other with the D1s winning 2-1 against the D2s. Leading goalscorer Dave O’Donnell scored both goals for the D1s while Ben Carter responded for the D2s.
Cambridge’s women’s team, youth teams and junior sides did not play over the long weekend but return to action this weekend.