RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: AFC Sudbury 2 Wroxham 1
First half goals from Joe Maybanks and substitute Jack Newman saw AFC Sudbury inch ever closer to confirming their first ever Ryman League title this afternoon (Saturday, April 2).
In front of 308 supporters, Jamie Godbold’s side got themselves well in control with two goals inside 18 minutes in a dominant first half.
Despite a promising start, The Yellows’ performance did not live up to the first 45 minutes after the break but 19th placed Wroxham never really looked like completing a comeback, even after substitute Gavin Lemmon’s eye-catching 78th minute strike.
Godbold made four changes to the side who disappointingly lost 2-0 at home to Waltham Abbey last time out, with captain Sam Clarke and James Baker both back from suspension starting along with Ollie Berquez and Joe Maybanks.
Danny Cunningham, Jack Newmann, Liam Wales and Ross Bailey were the quartet who dropped to the bench.
The revamped XI got off to a flying start with two goals inside the opening 18 minutes against a Wroxham side who had won three of their last five.
After nullifying the first Wroxham attack, Jordan Blackwell showed great vision to create the first.
The youngster stretched his legs down the left-hand side, cutting a darting run inside before threading through a wonderful low pass for Maybanks to pick up, having run along the back of the defence, before cooly sliding into the bottom right-hand corner.
Skipper Clarke had to limp off before the quarter-of-an-hour mark was up after sustaining an injury with a tigerish tackle that almost led to Maybanks scoring a second, the Braintree Town loannee lifting a bouncing ball over the bar under pressure.
But a decent home crowd, basking in the April sunshine, did not have to wait long to celebrate a second.
And it was Clarke’s replacement, Suffolk Under-18s midfielder Jack Newman, who provided it, sidefooting home after Maybanks’ cross from the right had been passed straight into his path.
Blackwell and Maybanks both went close to connecting with crosses from each other in good positions within minutes.
But Wrxoham, who had registered three wins from their last five, including one draw, went a lick of paint from pulling one back when Nick Davey’s dipping volley came back off the bottom of the post and Marcus Garnham soon had to be alert to block an effort in the box from Stephen Taylor.
Blackwell and Callander both went close to getting the hosts a third, which would have been no less than the dominant hosts deserved, but it remained 2-0 at the break.
With Harlow holding a slender 1-0 lead at home to Tilbury and bottom side Redbridge goalless at home to second-placed Thurrock at the break, wrapping up the title on home turf looked to be a possibility.
Goalscorer Maybanks was withdrawn at the break with George Clarke coming on, but AFC picked up where they left off at the restart with Blackwell forcing Elliot Pride into a save at his near-post within seconds of the kick-off.
Craig Parker had a chance to add to his 22 league goals so far when he pounced on a loose ball in the box, but lashed his half volley over.
George Clarke wasted a good chance when getting the ball stuck under his feet after latching onto Callander’s cute back-heel throughball from the half-way line before Garnham was called back into a rare moment of action to block from Jack Garrod’s deflected shot.
It was the beginning of the visitors’ best spell of the match, with Michael Sommerfield curling a central free-kick over the crossbar and James Baker having to make a good challenge in the box to block another route to goal after Hinton’s nimble footwork set up a chance.
Davey also sent an effort sailing over the bar before The Yachtsmen almost paid for a defensive mix-up at the other end, Aarron Taylor’s backpass seeing Pride scrambling across his goalmouth before conceding a free-kick after gratefully jumping on it as it went just wide of the far post.
Callander fired it past a crowd of players into the net, but the goal was disallowed, due to it being an indirect kick.
The goal Wroxham had threatened in a more balanced second half arrived in the 78th minute when substitute player/coach Gavin Lemmon produced a moment of quality that Garnham had no answer to when he sent a low shot into the bottom left-hand corner from all of 25 yards.
The visitors huffed and puffed for an equaliser, but the result never really looked in danger with Garnham comfortably behind an effort from Taylor, while Garrod curled a free-kick well over.
Blackwell fired in from the edge of the area at the other end, but the whistle had already sounded for a free-kick against the home side.
With Thurrock comfortably leading 4-0 there was no chance of the title being confirmed, though it took an injury time goal for Harlow Town to reclaim the lead in a 3-2 victory to prevent it going into next weekend as a two-horse race.
Jamie Godbold will have been pleased with how his side responded to losing at The Wardale Williams Stadium last time out, though one remark overheard about the weather mirroing AFC’s performance with the brilliant sunshine replaced by murky overcast conditions for the second period rang true.
AFC SUDBURY: Garnham, Robinson, S Mallardo, Berquez, Henshaw, Baker, Blackwell, S Clarke (c) (Newman 15), Callander, Parker (Wales 75), Maybanks (G Clarke 46). Unused subs: Bailey, Cunningham.
Free Press Man of The Match: Jordan Blackwell. Showed his quality to set up the first goal and was unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet himself.
* For video reaction from the AFC Sudbury camp, log onto this website from 1pm on Monday.