Reds end season with a thriller

Action from Saturday’s main game which saw visitors Metro clinch promotion.

Cambridge have finished their 2019 Northern League football season in a respectable fifth place after a frantic finish to their last game.

The Reds almost caused an upset when leading Metro FC for much of their match at John Kerkhof Park with the Aucklanders desperately needing the win to seal promotion to next year’s Lotto NRFL first division.

Metro snatched two late goals to win the game – and promotion – in the dying minutes of a tense and entertaining game.

Cambridge came out of the dressing rooms with obvious confidence, knowing the result would make little difference to their final standing in the competition.

Their first attack earned a corner and from the resulting set-piece, leading goalscorer Josh Clarkin neatly headed the Reds into the lead after only three minutes. That put an edge into the game with Metro gradually working their way into contention.

Cambridge survived a couple of strong Metro attacks late in the first half. At the break, Sarah Jones – one of New Zealand’s top referees – was replaced by her assistant after she was struggling to recover from a ball struck into her face, leaving her with suspected concussion.

In the second half, both teams increased their intensity and no one was holding back on their tackles. Five players were given yellow cards in the second spell as the tension built.

Word filtered through from Auckland that Manurewa were leading Oratia United – and if scores stayed the same there and at Cambridge, Manurewa would earn promotion, not Metro. Eventually, with seven minutes remaining, Bradley Rathbun snared the leveller for Metro.

At the same time, updates from Auckland had Oratia and Manurewa locked 4-4. As the final whistle approached, Walid Omar Hassani sent the visiting Metro fans into raptures when he found the net in a goalmouth scramble.

The Aucklanders spent the remainder of the game, including five tense minutes of added time, defending as the Reds pushed forward, trying to find one last goal for the season.

In the early game, Cambridge’s reserves ended their season with a narrow loss when they conceded in the 88th minute to provide visitors Metro FC with a 2-1 victory. The loss was a bitter pill for the Reds as their form since mid-June has been much-improved and their last six games decided by single goal margins.

Cambridge took the lead through Devon Andrews in the 25th minute. However Metro’s Sam Adeyinka found an equaliser just four minutes later. Both teams generated chances in the second half but Metro’s captain Kieran Sulikosky scored the winner with time almost up. The result means Cambridge finishes 10th in this season’s reserves competition.

In the WaiBOP Championship, Cambridge’s third team lost their match at Papamoa 6-1 after trailing 3-1 at the break. Cambridge’s goal came off a Papamoa defender in the 20th minute.

The side plays their last game of the season tomorrow when they host Tauranga City at John Kerkhof Park (12.30pm).

In Waikato Division 3, Cambridge lost 4-2 to Melville United Old Boys at John Kerkhof Park. Cambridge took a 2-0 lead in the first half, thanks to a penalty scored by goalkeeper Paul Macann. The other came from leading scorer Miguel Peterle. Macann also saved a penalty but his efforts were in vain when Melville poured on the pressure in the second half to take the win.

In Waikato Division 4, Cambridge beat Claudelands Rovers Newbies 1-0, thanks to a goal from Cole van den Beuken. It turned out to be the only win for a Cambridge senior men’s team at the weekend.

While Cambridge’s winter season is all but finished, the club faces a busy spring and summer as the host for regional and national events. On Sunday September 15, Cambridge hosts the first of six National Women’s League fixtures featuring WaiBOP (who represent the Waikato/Bay of Plenty) against other leading provincial sides. Auckland will be the first opponent, following by Southern a week later.

On Saturday September 21, John Kerkhof Park will host the finals of the Waikato Secondary Schools competition. Cambridge’s annual 5-a-side competition begins on November 13, running every Wednesday till February except for a holiday break.

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