DIVISION ONE NORTH
AFC Sudbury 1
Brentwood Town 0
JAMES Smith described this win as a ‘massive three points’ and revealed he sees AFC having no problems finishing in the top five to reach the play-offs.
The burly AFC centre-half hailed the work of his team-mates to register their fifth clean sheet of the season in front of their home fans which saw Jamie Griffiths’ first-half header, on his home debut, prove to be the match winner.
And Smith believes the omens for an extended season at King’s Marsh are very good.
“I do not have any fears, I think we will be in the play-offs,” said the player who won an FA Trophy winners medal with Ebbsfleet and has represented England’s non-League C team at Wembley. “If we do what we did today I cannot see us having any problems at all.
“I think if we had scored another goal it would probably have been a bit more comfortable but a clean sheet was the key – we defended well as a team.”
Bocking-based Smith, 26, who signed from East Thurrock United in January after a phone call from friend Michael Shinn, returned to the side after food poisoning along with Richard Howell, with Ashley Sloots and the suspended Ryan Henshaw dropping out.
In a scrappy first half Neil Cousins’ early strike was ruled out for offside before, at the other end, AFC’s leading scorer James Baker warmed the hands of Eliot Justham with a smart shot on the turn.
Nathan Clarke grazed the top of the bar from a Griffiths corner before the ex-Ipswich Town midfielder broke the deadlock himself five minutes before the break. Robbie Martin’s deep cross from the left wing was a perfect height for Griffiths to nod it across goal and into the far corner from his position on the edge of the six-yard box at the back post.
There was barely anything in it at this stage, but after Gay held on to former QPR and Colchester United player Kevin Mcleod’s low effort at the second attempt early in the second half AFC began to take control.
The Yellows so nearly doubled their advantage after a silky backheel from Griffiths gave Howell a clear sight of goal but his effort cannoned back off the inside of the post before being cleared.
Gay turned over from Steve Butterworth but his goal was never under serious threat again as the only other decent effort of the game saw Nathan Clarke head a yard wide from another perfect Griffiths corner as AFC held out for a vital win against a fellow play-off contender.
Smith, who revealed there is a ‘real buzz’ in the dressing room, believes the additions of Danny Charge, Griffiths and Russell Pond have come at the perfect time.
The trainee teacher, who moved to AFC after his football career stalled following the birth of his first child, said: “We have a bench now that are eager to come on and are decent players.
“It is all about consistency and if you come into a good run and are consistent defending and attacking, playing the way Chris Tracey wants us to play, I do not see any problems with us making the play-offs.”
AFC: Gay 7, Dalby 8, Martin 7, Pond 6, N Clarke 6, Smith 7, Emmanuel 7 (Wareham 90+1 6), S Clarke © 8, Baker 5, Howell 6, Griffiths 8. Unused subs: Docker, Darg, Charge, Sloots.
Free Press man of the match: Jamie Griffiths. Composure on ball and pinpoint set pieces made him stand out.
•FOR match stats see this week’s Suffolk Free Press.