DIVISION ONE NORTH
Ilford 0 AFC Sudbury 0
AFC SUDBURY’S final game of 2011 on New Year’s Eve ended in a disappointing goalless draw when basement side Ilford kept their first clean sheet of the campaign to earn a share of the spoils and send the Yellows down to seventh.
Chris Tracey’s side, who played most of the second half with 10 men after skipper Sam Clarke was red carded, should have made the game safe in the first period were it not for poor finishing and a string of good saves from the home goalkeeper.
The game attracted Ilford’s first three figure crowd of the season with 104 fans attending thanks to the many AFC travelling supporters but it will not live long in their memory.
Tracey made five changes with Sam Clarke and James Baker returned after suspension while Robbie Martin, Ashley Sloots and Adam Dalby also returned.
With the wind at their backs in the first half, Sudbury had the majority of the play and numerous shots were blocked before a Kevin Hawes header hit a post and was scrambled away.
Home keeper Rob Budd made fine saves in quick succession to deny Dave Wareham and Baker as Sudbury piled on the pressure.
A rare chance for the hosts came when AFC keeper Danny Gay made a poor clearance from a backpass which went straight to Loui Hazelwood but he failed to hit the target.
Eight minutes into the second half, AFC were reduced to 10 men when skipper Sam Clarke was red carded following a clash in midfield.
Although a player short, AFC still created chances and twice fine saves by Budd denied Wareham from one-on-one chances. From the latter, penalty appeals for handball fell on deaf ears as the ball was scrambled clear.
Ilford had more of the play as the game went on but they seldom threatened to pierce a well drilled AFC defence, although a snap shot from Rob Carter hit the crossbar and went over before Tom Carter blasted another chance over.
With time running out, AFC piled on the pressure and Budd saved well from Baker before the home side almost snatched victory seconds before the final whistle from a right wing corner that flashed across the face of the goal.
AFC will be pleased at keeping their first clean sheet for six games but will be very disappointed at not scoring against a side who themselves had not kept a clean sheet all season until this match.
AFC: Gay, Henshaw, Sloots, Shinn, N Clarke, Dalby, Martin, S Clarke, Baker, Hawes (Fox 76), Wareham (Emmanuel 76). Unused subs: Howell, Wignall. B Tracey.