DIVISION ONE NORTH
AFC Sudbury 1
A Joe Maybanks strike at Mill Field on Saturday saw AFC Sudbury guarantee at least a play-off place while their title dream came further within reach after their two nearest rivals both dropped points.
While Jamie Godbold’s side stretched their unbeaten run to nine games, second-placed Thurrock lost 2-1 at home to Dereham Town while Harlow Town only took a point from their game at Maldon & Tiptree, seeing the latter drop to third after Cray Wanderers’ 5-2 win at Barkingside.
It leaves the Yellows 12 points clear from Thurrock and 18 points ahead of Cray Wanderers, while Harlow Town are on the same number of points but with two games in hand.
What that means is that AFC, with six games to play, need a minimum of seven points to win the league.
With a home tie against relegation threatened Waltham Abbey on Saturday, they look to wrap up the league sooner rather than later.
AFC manager Jamie Godbold made full use of his squad with the club’s promising youngsters gaining some minutes. With Sam Clarke and James Baker suspended, George Clarke and Jack Wilkinson both out injured, into the side came Jack Newman and Danny Cunningham, who played in an unfamiliar left-back role.
Early on, Cunningham had his hands full as Aveley’s fast raiding Michael Pindy saw plenty of the ball. However, AFC had the game’s first real effort when Maybanks’ deflected shot went wide following a Luke Callander corner.
The Millers had a series of corners and Perry Dunn’s header forced captain Marcus Garnham into a save. Sudbury countered well in the game and Maybanks was unfortunate that his lobbed effort was cleared off the line by Dunn.
However, Sudbury grabbed the winner when Callander’s long ball found Maybanks in the area. The youngster steadied himself before firing a shot that hit the nearside post, the ball then cannoned back across the goal and struck the other post before rolling over the line.
In the second half, Callander and Craig Parker combined well but the frontman’s effort was cleared. Just after the hour Ross Bailey and Liam Wales took over from two other AFC youngsters, Jordan Blackwell and Maybanks. Wales was soon in the action taking a long ball from Garnham and firing just wide.
Aveley nearly got an equaliser when Pindy raced away from the defence but Garnham came out quickly to snuff out the danger.
Late on, Wales was unlucky not to double their lead when he hit the bar after a scramble in the penalty area.
AFC saw the final minutes out and have taken another step towards promotion.
AFC Sudbury: Garnham, Robinson, Cunningham, Berquez, Henshaw, Mallardo, Blackwell (sub Wales 70), Newman, Callander (sub Gilbert 84), Parker, Maybanks (sub Bailey 70), Unused subs: French, Baughurst
Free Press Man of the Match: Danny Cunningham
Free Press Man of the Match: Danny Cunningham.