RYMAN LEAGUE PREMIER DIVISION: AFC Sudbury 2 Wingate & Finchley 2
After initially coming from behind to lead 2-1 at the break, AFC Sudbury could not find the winning goal their performance certainly deserved tonight.
A stunning strike from Craig Parker half-an-hour in had levelled Reece Beckles-Richards’ 12th minute opener for visiting Wingate & Finchley before Ryan Henshaw converted a loose ball in first-half stoppage time to give the hosts a deserved half-time lead.
But despite numerous chances they could not find a third and were made to pay in the 71st minute when Rob Laney scored against the run of play.
Substitute Luke Callander and Hewshaw both rattled headers against the crossbar in stoppage time, but Sudbury had to settle for a point which continues their unbeaten start to life in the Ryman Premier League after four games.
Home manager Jamie Godbold made three changes from the side who won 1-0 at Merstham on Saturday.
With Stefano Mallardo having picked up a calf injury in Surrey, Ryan Henshaw came back into the defence with Adam Tann filling it at left-back, with Jack Wilkinson (hamstring) still out injured.
Liam Wales, who scored the winner from the bench at the weekend, was rewarded with a start ahead of Luke Callander while Sam Bantick returned to the midfield in place of Jack Newman.
In muggy conditions sloppy defending by the hosts allowed Wingate & Finchley to take the lead with the first effort of the match in the 12th minute.
The visitors were allowed too much room to progress unchallenged through the middle of the park and Rob Laney slipped Reece Beckles-Richards beyond the defence and into the area and the number nine slotted the ball under Marcus Garnham.
Rob Eagle and James Baker failed to test goalkeeper Shane Gore before the hosts got back on terms on the half-hour mark.
After a fine series of passes, Aaron Greene brought the ball down running towards goal and flicked it across the edge of the area to the on-running Parker, who took it on first-time, rifling it into the top corner from 20 yards.
Wingate’s Ahmet Rifat came together with the goalscorer five minutes later, with Rifat seemingly aiming his head towards Parker who had stepped out of reach. But referee Paul Quick decided to give both players a yellow card, while Rifat was subbed before the interval.
Summer signing Eagle missed a glorious opportunity to put The Yellows ahead, lashing over a loose ball in the box well over from 10 yards out on his favoured left foot, while Ben Robinson went close with a cross-cum-shot that went just wide of the far post.
But the hosts were rewarded with the goal their endeavours had deserved on the stroke of half-time when Bantick’s dangerous free-kick from deep on the left was fired in at goal and Wingate failed to clear it with the loose ball breaking for Henshaw to slam home.
Bantick fired over from the edge of the area and Greene inches wide of the far post after a Bantick ball into the box had eluded Wales as AFC continued to play on the frontfoot in the second half.
Wales went desperately close to extending the lead when he curled just over the far post.
But a breakaway at the other end saw Wingate get back on level terms in the 71st minute with Laney’s clever scissor kick converting Luke Ifil’s right-wing cross after it bounced up, firing into the bottom left-hand corner.
It shocked the home side who were left hanging on as the visitors seized upon their new momentum with only a block by Baker denying Steve Wales’ piledriver.
Ex-Brentford Development player Greene was moved up front and from a flurry of late corners in stoppage time first Callander and then Henshaw headed against the frame of the goal as AFC went desperately close to a third straight victory.
Frustration was the feeling which hung in the air for the home side at the final whistle but the point maintains their unbeaten start to the season and leaves them in fifth place after four games, ahead of a busy schedule that will see Enfield Town visit on Saturday (3pm) before they travel to Lowestoft on Monday (3pm).
AFC Sudbury: Garnham, B Robinson, Tann, Eagle, Henshaw, Baker, Bantick (Blackwell 89), Clarke (c), Wales (Callander 70), Parker, Greene. Unused subs: French, Newman, C Robinson.
Free Press Man of The Match: Sam Bantick.
* For post-match reaction and a preview to the Bank Holiday weekend’s games, see Thursday’s Suffolk Free Press.