AFC keep pressure on in play-offs bid

HOME DEBUT: Joe O'Donoghue, pictured in action at Harlow Town on Saturday. Picture: Harlow Star
HOME DEBUT: Joe O'Donoghue, pictured in action at Harlow Town on Saturday. Picture: Harlow Star
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AFC Sudbury 4 Soham Town Rangers 1

RYMAN LEAGUE

DIVISION ONE NORTH

AFC Sudbury 4

Soham Town Rangers 1

AFC Sudbury manager Chris Tracey hailed the impact of his front two for quickly getting his side into a winning position to turn up the pressure on the top five.

First-half goals from James Baker and Chris Bryan, the latter’s first for the club, sent the home side into the break with a two-goal cushion despite having played into a strong wind.

And despite former Sudbury striker Dubi Ogbonna pulling one back from the penalty spot, a Baker penalty within 60 seconds at the other end, before Michael Shinn’s stunning long-range strike, meant the three points were never in doubt.

“Obviously we have had a fantastic weekend and had to put the previous weekend’s unfortunate scenes behind us,” said Tracey.

“Today was a potential banana skin but having said that I can’t remember the last time Soham have beaten us at home — obviously it is a different story at their place.

“We had to get the first goal and get a foothold in it and my two strikers have come up trumps.

“Richard Howell came back in the side and was very influential with both of the first two goals and that gave us a platform.”

He added scoring so soon after Soham got back to 2-1 helped kill off their relegation-threatened opponents.

“James Baker showed his strength and we grabbed a penalty straight away when they were susceptible and 3-1 and job done pretty much,” he said.

With James Smith absent through illness and captain Sam Clarke serving the last game of his suspension, the only change was Richard Howell coming in at the expense of Robbie Martin.

The opening exchanges were even, but AFC took the lead after 17 minutes when Baker stabbed home his 26th of the season, pouncing on Dan Bircham’s spillage from Shinn’s shot.

Ogbonna rattled the crossbar from the angle of the area and Dan Cotton’s free-kick was tipped over the bar in a good spell for the visitors.

But with their next shot the home side extended their lead with Chris Bryan coolly finishing after a precise throughball from Howell put him clear in the area.

The home side refused to take their foot off the gas after the break, forcing three corners in the opening four minutes of the half, with Nathan Clarke’s near-post effort deflected wide.

Soham wasted two good efforts with Cotton and Simpson lashing over but were given hope when Ogbonna was adjudged to have been nudged illegally to the ground by Nathan Clarke, expertly dispatching into the right-hand corner himself.

But within a minute Baker won a spot kick down the other end, going down under Martin Bromwich’s attempts to stop him reaching a throughball. And Baker showed the same coolness as his opposite number to restore the two-goal lead.

Bryan fizzed a shot past the post before Shinn sent a 25-yard screamer into the roof of the net for 4-1 shortly after, coming following Bryan’s effort being parried into his path to lead a procession to the final whistle.

*FOR player ratings and match stats, see this week’s Suffolk Free Press.