AFC Sudbury booked their place in the Ryman League Robert Dyas Cup final against Maidstone United with a 2-1 victory at Ware tonight (Thursday).
Jack Cawley’s early header gave the Suffolk visitors the lead at half-time before Payton Swatman volleyed home a second after 64 minutes.
Ware piled on the pressure, but despite hitting the crossbar and forcing Alex Archer into a fine full-length save, couldn’t get on the scoresheet until Murat Karagul’s header two minutes into added time.
It set up a frantic finale but a much-change AFC side, due to a host of unavailable and injured players, hung to reach the final.
AFC had got off to the perfect start when Jack Cawley rose unchallenged to head in Michael Shinn’s deep right-hand free-kick from the visitor’s first attack, with only one minute and 40 seconds on the clock.
It left the Ware supporters questioning why their goalkeeper had not come for the ball, which had been hoisted across his six-yard box.
It was almost 2-0 moments later when AFC first-team debutant James Crisell was inches away from converting a square ball across the face of goal from Ben Thompson as the Suffolk side dominated the opening exchanges.
Ware almost equalised just past the quarter-of-an-hour mark when Kerem Bashkal fired dangerously across the face of Alex Archer’s goal with Kieran Bishop unable to time his slide to convert at the far post.
The action began to flow from end-to-end with both sets of supporters adding to the atmosphere of the occasion with AFC fans using a megaphone while Ware fans banged on steel drums at the opposite end.
The Suffolk side appeared to be denied extending their lead by the break by the woodwork on two separate occasions.
Sam Clarke’s back header from Cawley’s flicked on long throw-in definitely bounced off the top of the crossbar, while Ryan Henshaw appeared to have headed against the far post from a Shinn corner, though AFC fans behind the goal claimed it had come out off his marker’s hand.
Ware started the second half off taking the game firmly to their opponents and came within a lick of paint of equalising six minutes after the re-start when Murat Karagul’s chipped shot came off Archer’s bar before being hastily cleared.
The Sudbury number one then had to dive full length to his right-hand side to palm away a Michael Deane effort.
The home side’s woes were compounded with 64 minutes played when, from a rare counter, AFC doubled their advantage.
Crisell lofted a cross over from the left and Swatman was given time to watch the ball on to his right foot before firing a low volley inside Allan Buck’s near post.
Ware threw on their substitutes in a bid to change the course of the tie, but despite throwing everything they had at the AFC goal, they struggled to break through a dogged Sudbury rearguard.
They were given hope two minutes into an added four though when Karagul headed in Anton Kostalas’ right-wing corner.
But AFC were able to see out a nervy last few minutes to confirm their place in the final against Maidstone United, with the venue yet to be confirmed, though their opponents’ ground, with an artificial surface, seeming the most likely.
AFC: Archer, Swatman, Cawley, Shinn, Henshaw, Adams, Crisell (Kemp 74), Clarke (c), Baker (Swallow 87), Thompson, Horne.