Push for promotion enters final stages

Josh Clarkin returned from a spell out with glandular fever last weekend – and was on the scoresheet after just 12 minutes.

With six matches of their season remaining, Cambridge need a streak of wins to retain their hopes of winning promotion in football’s Northern League.

The Reds are fifth on the Lotto NRFL second division ladder but can close on the leaders with a win this Saturday when Albany United visit John Kerkhof Park.

The Aucklanders – who are third on the table – are running hot as the surprise package of this season’s ISPS Handa Chatham Cup.

Albany have reached the quarter finals of football’s oldest cup competition, having upset national champions Eastern Suburbs 1-0 in the fourth round.

Their cup exploits, and the Reds’ return to winning form last weekend, has set up a thriller when the teams meet at 3pm on Saturday.

The clubs’ reserves teams play the curtain-raiser at 12.30pm while Cambridge’s third team also plays at home, hosting Tauranga City in the WaiBOP Championship (2.45pm).

Last weekend, Cambridge got their first win in four games with a crushing 5-0 victory over Unimount Bohemian Celtic on the artificial turf of Auckland’s Bill McKinlay Park.

The Reds’ push for promotion was helped by other results as Metro FC and Manurewa both lost to lower teams.

Cambridge welcomed back three players who formed the spine of the side – central defender Jack Portegys (from injury), midfielder Harry Wick (recalled to the starting line-up) and leading goalscorer Josh Clarkin (recovered from glandular fever).

Josh Clarkin celebrated his return after five weeks off with the game’s first goal when he scored after 12 minutes.

That goal separated the teams in the first half and Clarkin doubled the Reds’ lead with another goal eight minutes after the break.

Captain of the day Kieran Hill scored his first goal of the season in the 69th minute, providing enough buffer for coach Paul Richardson to substitute Clarkin.

English winger Luke Stephenson added Cambridge’s fourth goal on 75 minutes.  It was his fourth goal in his last three appearances in a first team shirt.

Cambridge’s fifth goal was claimed by busy midfielder Levi Clark, scoring his first since re-joining the club in mid-season.

In the early game, Cambridge’s reserves lost 2-0 to Unimount’s second string.

The home side, third in the Lotto NRFL second division reserves competition, went ahead after half an hour through Dan Butler and the teams turned around with the Reds trailing 1-0.

Cambridge were competitive for the second half until substitute Tom Graham sealed the game for Unimount with a goal in the 81st minute.

In the WaiBOP Championship, Cambridge withstood a second half fightback from Tauranga Blue Rovers to return home with a 3-2 win.

The previous week, Cambridge surrendered a 3-0 lead against Claudelands Rovers to lose 6-3.

So when the team went three goals up in Tauranga, they knew they would have to work hard to keep their advantage – and so it proved.

Cambridge took the lead after 20 minutes through skipper Adam Brady’s 16th goal of the season.

Wily Jason Szabo found Cambridge’s second goal 10 minutes later and striker James Cakebread made it 3-0 to the visitors in the 35th minute.

However, Blue Rovers fought back well and scored through Franz Marko and Maurice Gunfield but the final whistle went with Cambridge in front.

In Waikato Division 3, Cambridge overcame Matamata Swifts’ third team 2-1 at John Kerkhof Park with a goal in each half.

The home side led 1-0 at the interval, thanks to a 35th-minute goal from Oscar Thomas, his first of the season.

Swifts drew level in the second spell but Ben Ward found the winner for Cambridge six minutes into added time.

In Waikato Division 4, Cambridge hosted Tokoroa Rezzienation and came out winners 2-1 after leading 1-0 at half-time.

Scorers for Cambridge were Chris Hill – his 7th of the season – and Liam Storey who found the net for the first time this year.

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