EMIRATES FA CUP SECOND QUALIFYING ROUND: Ebbsfleet United 5 AFC Sudbury 0
Football is invariably a game of small margins - just ask AFC Sudbury after they were hit for five away at higher-league Ebbsfleet United in the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon.
Had James Baker’s first-half header not been cleared off the line or Jack Newman taken his chance during the second half to reduce the arrears, the Ryman League Premier Division side could have left Kent with a positive result in tow.
But as it was, for all of their spirit and determination, Sudbury were on the wrong end of a scoreline that nobody would have predicted when the players headed to their respective dressing rooms at the break.
The major reason as to why the scoreline remained level after 45 minutes laid with visiting goalkeeper Marcus Garnham, who produced a catalogue of saves to frustrate the Vanarama National League South hosts.
With Adam Tann and Ryan Henshaw forming Sudbury’s central defensive partnership, Baker was shifted over to left-back and it was from that area of the pitch that Ebbsfleet carved out their first meaningful chance in the 14th minute.
After keeping the ball in play, Fleet’s Darren McQueen cut inside but Garnham was equal to the low shot.
Captain Danny Kedwell and Dean Rance were then both off target, while up the other end Sudbury’s holding midfielder Ryan Auger worked Fleet goalkeeper Jonathan Miles with a free-kick that squirmed through the wall.
The final five minutes of the first half saw Garnham take centre stage as he twice denied the lively Sam Deering either side of turning behind Sean Shields’ shot aimed at the near post.
And Garnham’s heroics were almost rewarded in the shape of the opening goal deep into stoppage time. Baker’s glancing header from Auger’s corner beat Miles all ends up, but Shields was alert on the post to hook the ball clear.
Shields’ influence on proceedings grew after the restart with his lengthy run and shot in the 48th minute once again calling Garnham into action.
The number three’s increasing involvement meant that when the home team eventually broke the deadlock in the 54th minute, it came as no surprise Shields was a leading figure. His in-swinging cross from the left tempted Garnham off his line, yet on this occasion the Sudbury keeper’s judgement let him down.
A stretching Kedwell pounced and managed to turn the ball across the face of goal for McQueen, who moments before had been denied one-on-one with Garnham, to fire home from close range.
McQueen - in the starting line-up as a replacement for injured ex-Hull City striker Aaron McLean - went on to score his second goal of the afternoon with 65 minutes on the clock. On this occasion he capitalised on some hesitant defending by Henshaw to guide the ball beyond an advancing Garnham.
With the odds now stacked firmly against his side, Godbold turned to the last round’s four-goal hero Luke Callander from the bench and the physical frontman made an instant impression. Henshaw’s switch of play from right to left found the substitute and he played in Newman, but his shot from close range was tame and easily collected by Miles.
It was a moment that opened the floodgates as a rampant Fleet struck three further goals in the last nine minutes.
Jack Powell was first to get in on the act when he turned in Kedwell’s low cross from six yards out, before substitute Stuart Lewis scored a quickfire brace - the latter of which caused controversy with Sudbury adamant that Henshaw had been fouled in the build up, only to be left furious by the lack of a referee’s whistle.
Sudbury: Garnham, Furlonge (Newman 66), Wilkinson, Tann, Henshaw, Baker, Auger (Callander 66), Clarke, Wales, Eagle, Greene
Man of the Match - Sam Clarke: It was an energetic display from the skipper, who got forward well on occasions when Sudbury looked to counter-attack. The only blot on his copybook was an early caution.