AFC Sudbury will have to make do without long-serving skipper Sam Clarke again when divisional rivals Aveley visit in the Emirates FA Cup Preliminary Round on Saturday (3pm).
The Yellows’ captain fantastic — who is just four games away from breaking the club’s appearance record — was hoping to come through a late fitness test on a recurring calf injury in time to play a part in Saturday’s Bostik League season opener, the 1-1 home draw with fellow relegated side Canvey Island.
But manager Jamie Godbold has revealed the injury has flared up again, with the club taking on board new medical opinion to give him a few weeks rest before training on it again.
“We thought he had progressed ready for Saturday, but after a warm-up he wasn’t ready and I think the sensible thing for us to do is just to give him a couple of weeks off, re-asses him then, and hopefully have him back for the long-term, rather than trying to force him through games at the moment and then having a season where he is in and out because we haven’t looked after him,” said Godbold.
“The supporters of Sudbury know what he is like: he is the worst person to be around when he is injured. He is desperate to be involved (in the FA Cup) but the sensible thing is just to give him a bit of time off and I think we will benefit from that in the long run.”
With injuries including Clarke’s in mind, Godbold made two fresh signings on the eve of Saturday’s game, with Jeremiah Kamanzi, an ex Brentford professional who played a part in Maldon & Tiptree’s Division One North campaign last season, which ended in a play-off defeat, joining tall striker Louis Blake through the door.
The manager stressed both are effectively on trial at the club though, having only turned up at the club at the end of pre-season, with no friendlies left to look at them in.
“We are still making a decision,” he explained. “I was hoping to look at Louis for half-an-hour tonight (in the abandoned game at Maldon & Tiptree).
“He came with us almost two weeks too late to have a look at him.
“With Jerry (Jeremiah) I think he got injured and they (Brentford) withdrew a contract for him and he was at Maldon last season, and came off the back end of the pre-season.
“He came in and did really well, and with the likes of Sam Clarke and Joe Wright injured, it made sense to bolster the squad, and we will see how he gets on in the next few weeks as well.”
AFC have not failed to make it past their first hurdle of the FA Cup (their league status meant they were did not come in until the next round last season) since going out on penalties to Lowestoft Town in the 2008/09 season.
But their manager is hopefully this season can see them go more than just a two or three games in, and create something really memorable.
“The FA Cup is the FA Cup and we obviously want to go far in the competition,” he said.
“Every year it is someone else’s turn to have that run through the competition, and every year you hope that is going to be you and your team.
“We are looking forward to the game, and I think the call-off tonight makes us every more hungry and excited for it. We want to kick-off our season with our first win, and hope it is Saturday.”
Of Saturday’s opponents, who finished a few places outside the division’s play-off places in 7th last season, Godbold said: “I don’t know how different they are to last season. They have a new ground, are under new management and will have new players are well.”
Adam Mills opened his account for his new club in his first competitive game on Saturday to give AFC an unbeaten start in a 1-1 draw, and looked lively in Tuesday’s first half at Maldon & Tiptree, before the floodlights halted the match.
But it was at the back where the manager was really impressed, with teenager Alfie Carroll, a natural full-back, slotting in at centre-half alongside Julian Smith.
“I thought Julian Smith and Alfie Carroll were excellent at the back, under the circumstances, with Tyler (French) pulling out with illness on the day,” he said.
“It left us having a bit of a reshuffle and having to put two or three players out of position.”
He added of Saturday’s display with his new-look side: “I had mixed feelings really. Having seen some of our performances we have produced in pre-season, I guess there is always that first game bit of nerves, but on the upside we scored in the 88th minute and go unbeaten.
“I think there is a lot more to come from this group of players, and to come away from it with a point is okay.”
Teenager Jack Newman is set to have the captain’s armband in the absence of Clarke when the teams come out for Saturday’s cup match, with Godbold pleased with how he stepped up to the role on Saturday, having been third in line, with Tyler French the recognised vice-captain ahead of his withdrawal.
“I think Jack is a born leader and he has those qualities,” he said.
“He speaks to people in the right way and he is good with referees. He was a natural replacement Saturday and I think he deserved to lead the team out tonight (Tuesday).”
The AFC boss revealed he had never been part of a situation like the one which unfolded on Tuesday evening, when the floodlights at Maldon & Tiptree’s Park Drive went out and failed to all come back again, following the half-time whistle, with the game having been evenly poised at 1-1.
He said: “When you start a game you obviously want it to finish, but there is no point being too disappointed I suppose. You cannot control things like that.”