RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: AFC Sudbury 0 Harlow Town 0: Cambridge United youngster Ryan Horne admits to being schooled in the dark arts at AFC Sudbury, but believes it benefits the team and himself.
The U’s reserves’ captain at just 18, Horne has quickly settled into David Batch’s starting XI since making the switch on dual registration terms with James Akintunde in late January.
But he believes between his goal-scoring debut at Tuesday’s opponents Harlow, to help his new club progress into tonight’s Robert Dyas Ryman League Cup semi-final, and this week’s goalless draw with The Hawks, he has come a long way.
“Dave has taught me really well — he has taught me real football,” said the versatile left-footed midfielder, who lives just up the road in Cavendish. “Sometimes you do have to hook it and, for me, I like to play, but nevertheless you have to learn both games.”
In Tuesday’s dour affair, which became a war of attrition between two sides desperate to not lose and battling against a pitch now so well drained it resembled a pre-season concrete surface, Horne had to roll his sleeves up and adapt his game.
And he feels the point which potentially stopped their wobble, off the back of home defeats to Witham Town (last Wednesday) and Chatham Town (2-0 on Saturday), could prove vital.
He said: “It was a scrappy game and the pitch didn’t help.
“We were on the back of two defeats though, so the most important thing was to get something and change our mindset and I think we did that.”
With Ollie Hughes (thumb) injured, Steve Spriggs started in a five-man midfield, which included captain Sam Clarke being restored to the starting XI.
The Suffolk club’s 2012/13 top scorer Leon Antoine was part of the Hawks’ attack, but found his chances limited all night due to the close attentions of his former team-mates.
Chances in general were at a premium on a bobbly pitch, with AFC having the better of the opening 20 minutes.
Spriggs and James Baker were unable to hit the target, while Michael Shinn’s free-kick curled straight into Daniel Knowles’ gratefully-accepting arms.
Alex Archer was the first stopper to be tested, using his foot to block Alex Read’s effort after working some space in off the byline.
The sandy pitch nearly assisted a goal when Joshua Urquhart’s long-range free-kick suddenly spun up off the surface and rebounded high up off Archer’s right-hand post.
There was still time before the break for Baker to break clear from a misjudged back-pass, but — with a defender catching him up — his shot flew high over the crossbar.
The second half descended into an even more scrappy affair with wayward long balls from both sides and midfields being bypassed.
As the game hit the last 20 minutes, Knowles almost got in trouble coming for a deep Clarke cross, managing to hold on to Mitchell’s header when running back to his goal at the second attempt.
Bodies were thrown on the line, notably Clarke’s manhood at a free-kick, as AFC managed to keep the visitors at bay, before the Yellows’ skipper worked a clear sight of goal in stoppage time, only to send his angled drive sailing high over the bar and leaving him cursing the effort face down on the turf.