DIVISION ONE NORTH
AFC Sudbury 3 Aveley 1
Sam Clarke revealed the mood in the dressing room following Saturday’s club record seventh straight league win at step four level was tingeing with disappointment.
But the AFC Sudbury captain said that was certainly a good thing — showing the standards the players and management are now imposing on themselves in their strive to achieve promotion.
The Yellows had gone into the game hoping to be top of the tree at Christmas by taking advantage should Cray Wanderers, who they beat in Essex on Tuesday, slip-up and suffer a second consecutive home defeat.
A delightful 18th minute curling opener by Joe Maybanks got the club’s second highest attendance of the season (283) warmed up for the occasion, before Craig Parker’s far post header (25 minutes) and Luke Callander’s 17th of the season (36 minutes) looked to have turned the game in a procession to the finish line, with the hosts 3-0 and crusiing at the break.
But Cray, 1-0 up at half-time at home to Barkingside, soon kicked into life to bounce back from their AFC humbling to wipe out any lingering thoughts of the Suffolk contenders leapfrogging them by Chrismas, the Essex side eventually winning 4-0 while AFC’s performance level dipped significantly after the restart. Despite enough AFC chances to add a couple more, Aveley ‘won’ the second half 1-0, thanks to new signing Michael Pinder coming off the bench to head home a 76th minute goal that proved nothing more than a consolation goal, come the final whistle, but with the swagger firmly absent in the second 45, there was more than a whiff of disappoitnemnt at the party being halted inside and outside the dressing room.
Skipper Clarke said: “In the first half we were really pleased and we came in at half-time happy, obviously 3-0 up. But I’ve just come out of the changing room and everyone is really a bit disappointed with the second half performance, and that is a good sign.
“Although we have got the three points and done our job everyone is not happy with the way we played second half.
“Jamie said we will assess that Tuesday and go from there.”
Clarke thought the display tailing off was down to both themselves allowing their foot to come off the gas, despite manager Jamie Godbold’s half-time warning on this, and the Millers, who emerged extra early for the re-start, being reinvigorated by a few choice words in their own team talk.
“They got a couple of half chances early on and that just seemed to give them a bit of a lift and we struggled. But we got the three points and we’re very happy with where we are sitting at Christmas,” said Clarke.
“It (the record) is a good achievement but things like that do not really bother me.
“I would rather win the league and go up and not break records like that.
“As a group of players, we just want to be sitting where we are now at the end of January and we will then set another target after that.
“We’ve got a great squad and every game is winnable, so there is no reason why we can’t make it eight, nine or 10 wins on the trot now.”
An unchanged side had been named by Godbold after the club’s most pleasing result of the season, the 2-1 victory at Cray the previous Tuesday.
And they carried on where they had left off in Essex, with early chances for Callander showing he was in the mood, before he turned provider on a swift counter-attack for Maybanks, who finished sublimely from 20 yards.
It only took another seven minutes before there were further home celebrations: Parker profiting from Spencer Harrison’s disastrous header across his own six-yard box after James Baker had initially looked to win the ariel duel from Jack Wilkinson’s right-wing free-kick.
The feelgood factor went up a notch with some delightful ole passing moves soon culminating in an unmarked Callander slipping the ball under James Marrable from Parker’s centre following a deep ball out to the right wing from Ryan Henshaw.
There had been a few half chances at the other end, but Marcus Garnham went into the interval having not had to make a proper save.
The second half never lived up to the first for AFC, with Aveley much more in the game than in the first 45 minutes as they looked to get a foothold back into the match.
It eventually came a little too late, in the 76th minute when substitute Pinder marked his first appearance, from the substitutes bench, with a headed goal at the far post from Abs Seymour’s hanging cross.
Before that, Callander had bundled in a fourth goal from a corner, only to see it ruled out for a foul in the box.
Jordan Blackwell, who was lively all afternoon, was unlucky not to get the goal his performance deserved, twice going close to adding to the scoreline with Marrable turning one goalbound effort 10 minutes from time round his left-hand post.
Home defender James Baker was the first player from either side to be shown a card, his yellow for a handling the ball coming in the 87th minute to demonstrate what a clean game of football it had been.
Captain Sam Clarke also went into the official’s book, for a foul, before the winning record at step four was confirmed. It was comfortbale in the end, but a reverse of the home performances in each half would have left a much warmer glow about it.
AFC Sudbury: Garnham, Robinson, Wilkinson, Berquez (Bailey 63), Henshaw, Baker, Blackwell, S Clarke (cpt), Callander (Newman 78), Parker, Maybanks (G Clarke 57). Unused subs: Liam Wales, Stefan Mallardo.
Free Press Man of The Match: Jordan Blackwell.
Referee: Rob Hyde.