Reds ensure safety with big win

Cambridge D1’s Mitchell Claridge rises to win a header against Te Aroha in a crowded penalty area.

Cambridge have secured Northern League football for next year with an emphatic 5-0 win against relegation-threatened Te Atatu.

The Reds needed three points from the match in Auckland to make sure the club could not finish in the bottom two places of the Lotto NRFL second division, risking relegation from the competition. And Cambridge could not have been more assertive in taking control of the match, ensuring the season’s final game on September 1 (away to divisional champions Takapuna) is of academic interest only.

Striker Callum MacLeod led the way with a hat-trick, the first of which he scored to give Cambridge the lead after 24 minutes. As the half went into added time, MacLeod sunk the hearts of home supporters with the Reds’ second goal, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead at half-time.

The Reds came out for the second half determined to keep destiny in their own hands and MacLeod quickly completed his hat-trick with a goal in the 48th minute. Midfielder Marcelo Sosa then struck a screamer on the hour to extend the Reds’ lead to 4-0.

Jamie Woodlock continued his recent goalscoring form when he added Cambridge’s fifth goal from the penalty spot with ten minutes to go. The competition table is so tight the result lifted Cambridge into sixth place with Northland, Onehunga Mangere United, Te Atatu and Papakura City still jostling to avoid relegation.

The jubilation of Cambridge’s win was offset by the disappointment of the Reds reserves’ first loss in 13 matches. The reserves lost their game at Te Atatu 3-2, despite leading twice through leading scorer Andrew Taylor.

Taylor opened the scoring early with his 22nd goal of the year and the teams turned around at 1-0. Te Atatu levelled early in the second half but Taylor regained the Reds’ lead from the penalty spot. However, the home side quickly equalised and then won the match with a late goal.

The result means the competition title will be decided in the final match when the division’s two leaders, Cambridge and Takapuna, meet at Taharoto Park, Auckland, on Saturday September 1. Takapuna will take the title with a win or a draw, as the teams are tied on 50 competition points, but the Aucklanders have a slightly better goal differential. A win will bring the title back to Cambridge.

Other Cambridge Football Club results

In other men’s games, the Cambridge D1 side lost 4-2 to second-placed Te Aroha Cobras, meaning Cambridge can only take the title if other results go their way in the two remaining rounds of competition. The win gives Cobras a two-point lead in the competition and it’s possible that the D1’s hopes of taking the title could depend on Cambridge D2 beating Te Aroha in their final match of the season.

Te Aroha took a first half lead against Cambridge with a looping longshot that sneaked beneath the D1 crossbar. The visitors went two up just after the interval, prompting a fightback from Cambridge who scored through Mitch Claridge and Scott Jenkins to tie up the game at 2-2. However, Te Aroha finished strongest and scored twice more to leave John Kerkhof Park with the win.

Cambridge’s other remaining hopes of winning silverware depend on the club’s women’s team who play the final of the Waikato Women’s Cup against West Hamilton United on Sunday. The match starts at 11am at John Kerkhof Park.

In early rounds, Cambridge overcame Matamata (5-0), Tokoroa (3-2) and Claudelands Rovers (3-1). West Hamilton reached the final after wins against Melville United (5-1), Huntly Thistle (7-2) and Waikato Unicol (9-2). Cambridge last won the cup in 2014 and were beaten finalists in 2013 and 2015.

Last Sunday, Cambridge came from behind to beat Claudelands Rovers 3-1 – a repeat of the cup semi-final score – to clinch second place in this year’s Waikato A League. Trailing 1-0 at John Kerkhof Park, Cambridge recovered in the second half with goals from Fairlie Morton and Astrid Howarth (2). Coach Andrew Taylor named Georgia Bellamy-Hill and Caitlyn Varcoe as the Hill Homes Players of the Day.

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