AFC Sudbury 2
Whitton United 3
AFC Sudbury’s Jamie Godbold suggested they paid the price for letting thoughts of individual glory go above their team ethic in their cup semi-final.
Lower-league opponents Whitton United set up a date with either Lowestoft Town or Leiston (playing last night) in the county cup final after Miles Powell’s injury-time winner made AFC pay for a failure to put away a hatful of chances at the other end.
After their Robert Dyas Isthmian League Cup defeat at Grays Athletic last month, Godbold’s only defeats since taking over as manager on January 17, it leaves the Yellows with just the league to focus on.
But their manager believes this less-than-impressive display should serve as a warning to his players, if they are to fulfil their play-off ambitions.
“I just felt that people were wanting to be the hero with it being a semi-final and wanting to get in the final third so many times.
“I think they saw their name in lights and perhaps put their name ahead of AFC’s.
“It is a learning curve and I hope we learn from it, but this should not detract from the run we are on in the league.”
James Baker returned from a three-match suspension to captain the side at neutral ground Needham Market with Sam Clarke having been forced out with a heavily bruised ankle.
With Marcus Garnham cup-tied along with midfielder Craig Parker, teenager Luke Avenell, the penalty hero in the league cup, handed a first start in goal.
After exerting early pressure, underdogs Whitton, 11th in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, took the lead in the ninth minute with a sumptuously-worked free-kick after Josh Kerridge had conceded a foul 30 yards out.
Liam Bevis played a short checked pass out left to Miles Powell and Chris Williams met his low centre after a clever run across the area with a powerful shot that gave Avenell next to no chance.
Ryman League promotion-chasers Sudbury, who had looked shaky at the back after starting in a 3-5-2 wing-back formation with Baker on the left of centre-halves Kryan Clements and Ryan Henshaw, looked to provide an instant response but Josh Kerridge saw their best effort tipped around the post by former AFC goalkeeper Liam Jones.
They finally got back on level terms eight minutes before the break when, following another attack down the right-hand side, the ball broke kindly for Jordan Blackwell in the area to fire an angled drive into the far corner.
But just four minutes later it was from another Bevis free-kick, in a similar position, that Whitton re-took the lead against the run of play with Avenell guilty of not holding on to his shot from a routine dive and Jordan Dye reacting quickest to tap home.
AFC began the second half with real purpose and it took only six minutes before they were back on level terms, Tyler Kemp heading home Ben Robinson’s deep cross at the far post.
Both sides could not find a crucial third, with Sudbury dominating and Whitton dangerous on the counter as the game headed into extra-time.
But AFC ultimately pushed too hard and left the back door open for Williams to slot home in the 113th minute to seal the tie.
AFC Sudbury: Avenell, Robinson, T Kemp, Kerridge, Henshaw, Clements, Blackwell, Berquez, Rymer, Baker (c), Coley. Unused subs: Kemp, Mallardo, Ray, Chester, Brazitis.
Free Press Man of the Match: Ben Robinson.
n The week 46 winners of the AFC Gold fundraiser are: 100 (186) Miss L McCarthy, Springfield Rd; £10 (203) Mrs D Farnell, Hanover Ct, Sudbury; £10 (277) R Reed, Waltham Rd, Boreham.