David Batch admitted injuries played a part as AFC Sudbury crashed out of the FA Cup to Suffolk rivals Needham Market on Saturday.
FA CUP THIRD
Needham Market 2
AFC Sudbury 1
AFC Sudbury’s manager was without several key players, meaning there was little he could do to change the Yellows’ attacking play after Luke Ingram had fired Needham ahead.
Former Ipswich Town midfielder Ian Westlake doubled the Marketmen’s tally three minutes from the end, meaning Jamie Forshaw’s stoppage-time penalty proved to be a mere consolation.
“We didn’t have any attacking options on the bench other than Payton (Swatman),” said Batch, who was without the likes of James Baker, Steve Spriggs and Ross Watson.
“Then we had to bring Dave Cowley off because he’s had flu for the last two or three days, so he got to 60 minutes, hit a brick wall and couldn’t run anymore.”
Sudbury generally had more possession throughout the game, but hosts Needham Market created the better chances and forced goalkeeper Alex Archer into a series of fine saves.
The first was in just the second minute when Sam Newson’s volley was pushed round the post by Archer, high to the goalkeeper’s left.
At the other end, Forshaw’s header was smartly held to the left of goalkeeper James Shea before captain Sam Clarke also found the hands of Shea through a crowd of players.
Former AFC winger Dave Wareham was next to seriously test Archer, after cutting in from the right and firing in a left-footed shot that was superbly kept out by the flying visiting custodian.
However, there was nothing Archer could do six minutes after the break when Ingram’s right-footed drive clipped Henshaw and diverted the ball into the net.
The Yellows’ best opportunities came from headers, but Shea kept out Matt Daniels and substitute Payton Swatman, who both may feel they should have buried their chances.
In between, Archer had to make two more outstanding saves — from Ingram and Newson — before denying Ingram once more.
Sudbury’s luck was summed up when Scott Mitchell’s shot deflected towards rather than away from Shea and — pushing for an equaliser — they were carved open three minutes from time.
A superb series of sharp passes ended with Newson clipping the ball in for Westlake to deftly lob the ball over the helpless and onrushing Archer.
The game appeared to be over, but AFC threw themselves a lifeline with their best move of the match — involving Greg Crane, Ben Thompson and Daniels — to win a penalty that Forshaw calmly converted.
Despite a couple of nervy moments for Needham, there was to be no dramatic leveller for Sudbury.
“Needham had a couple of good chances in the first half, but generally I felt we were better,” added Batch. “The first goal was always going to change things.”
* For player ratings and match stats see Thursday’s Suffolk Free Press.