DIVISION ONE NORTH
AFC Sudbury 1 Redbridge 1
IT MAY have not been at all pretty, but AFC Sudbury manager Chris Tracey was delighted to grab a point from fellow play-off chasers Redbridge on Saturday.
With the Yellows trailing to a first-half strike, fellow promotion hopefuls Redbridge had the game seemingly sewn up when Dave Wareham tripped Joe Gardner in the box with seven minutes remaining.
But James Robinson’s audacious attempt to chip the spot-kick spectacularly backfired as it bounced off the crossbar and Nathan Clarke rescued a point for the home side with two minutes from time.
“It is a point gained rather than two points lost and keeps us in the mix,” said Tracey, after what he admitted was a turgid game with both sides cancelling each other out for large periods of play.
“I think the first 10 minutes we started off okay, but once they scored that really did put us on the backfoot.
“We struggled to get any fluency and why that was I don’t know but sometimes you have to grind something out.
“Fortune smiled on us with their penalty taker and it was a fantastic strike by Nathan.”
Despite AFC having the better of the early chances, it was the Motormen who took the lead 20 minutes in when a mistake by Robbie Martin was punished.
Perry Burns was given too much room on the right wing to get his shot away and it was turned on to the post by Danny Gay before James Robinson lashed home the rebound.
Nathan Clarke came close when he headed just wide with goalkeeper Joe Wright caught in no-man’s land from Michael Shinn’s free-kick, but it was an all-too-rare opportunity.
AFC forced Redbridge into their own half but were unable to register a decent effort on goal in the opening 45 minutes, with Nathan Clarke making a great saving challenge at the other end to thwart Burns when through on goal.
The home side seemed to signal their intentions after the restart when Adam Dalby’s dangerous cross was palmed out by Joe Wright.
But it was a false dawn as a lack of creativity from the Yellows, coupled with a sturdy Redbridge rearguard, breaking up play with mounting fouls, meant home chances were at a premium.
Up the other end, Robinson fluffed two glorious opportunities to double his side’s advantage, firstly miscuing after Gay had punched a corner into his path and then chipping a penalty on to the crossbar after Wareham brought down Gardner.
The penalty miss suddenly gave a misfiring AFC a much-needed lift and with time running out, talismanic defender Nathan Clarke smashed home a dramatic late equaliser, sparking wild celebrations that saw Gay running the length of the pitch to join his team-mates.
Substitute Jon Docker pumped in a deep free-kick and Baker fired a shot into a defender which ended up in the path of Clarke who put everything he had behind it to send it like a rocket into the roof of the net.
AFC: Gay 6, Dalby 7, Martin 5 (Charge 67 6), Pond 7, N Clarke 8, Smith 7, Emmanuel 5 (Wareham 76 6), S Clarke 6, Baker 5, Shinn 6 (Docker 84), Griffiths 6. Unused subs: Henshaw, Howell.
Free Press man of the match: Nathan Clarke – saved AFC at both ends.
* FOR match stats, see this week’s Suffolk Free Press