With the club now seemingly bidding to stave off an instant return to Ryman League Division One North, AFC Sudbury’s Andy Reynolds believes the return of a quartet of key players could not come at a better time.
The Yellows go into a home double header against Kingstonian (Saturday, 3pm) and Worthing (Tuesday, 7.45pm) with the four key first-team players returning to action.
After missing Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Burgess Hill Town, due to playing a trial game with Premier League Crystal Palace, teenage defender Tyler French was set to return to the squad for last night’s trip to Leatherhead, only for the game to be postponed.
The defeat in West Sussex at the weekend saw AFC drop to within two points of the Ryman League Premier Division relegation zone. But assistant boss Reynolds is hopeful of welcoming back Jordan Blackwell, Erkan Okay and Jack Wilkinson in time for Tuesday, which he believes will provide some much-needed flexibility to the squad at a key time.
“Jordan, Erkan and Jack are three players who have played lots of games for Sudbury,” Reynolds said, ahead of last night’s game.
“Each one of them are very different types of players but each one of them contributes to the squad in a positive way.
“We don’t feel we’re in a massive scrap. We’ve got three or four players on the sidelines for us who, when they come back are as good as new signings.
“They will bring more flexibility in to the squad and could be back for Worthing on Tuesday potentially, if not the Saturday after.”
While Sudbury are set to be buoyed by the returns of Blackwell, Okay and Wilkinson next week, one player who will not be returning to the squad this season is Dylan Williams.
The midfielder, who missed Saturday’s defeat at Burgess Hill through injury, has returned to his parent club Cambridge United after his loan spell expired following the weekend.
The 19-year-old impressed Sudbury fans during his three-month loan spell at The Wardale Williams Stadium, scoring four goals in 22 appearances, with the pick of those goals arguably the 25-yard strike in the 1-1 draw against Lowestoft Town last month.
“Dylan’s been great in his spell for us,” Reynolds said.
“He’s a good lad and now he’ll be trying to establish himself in the Football League with Cambridge.
“With loan players, in the back of your mind you know they’re not yours and at some stage they will be going back to their club.
“Dylan’s had the opportunity to play, progress and develop and now he’s going back to test himself a bit higher.”
With Williams one of four players missing for AFC at the weekend through injury, it was a youth-inspired squad which manager Jamie Godbold and his assistant Reynolds took to Burgess Hill.
Wayne Blackman, 19, played 90 minutes, while academy youngsters Joe Wright, Ollie Dunlop and Toby Mitchell were all named on the bench for The Yellows.
“It is part of what we want to do,” explained Reynolds.
“We want to give young players opportunities, it’s what the club is all about.
“They’re learning at the harsh end of the league and how to win games and be ruthless. They will continue to be in the team if they are good enough.
“Wayne Blackman was one of our best players on the pitch on Saturday and it’s up to him now to find that consistency.”
AFC were without the services of promising defender French for the Burgess Hill game, with the academy starlet instead playing for a Crystal Palace youth side, in one of two games as part of his trial with The Premier League Eagles.
French was due to play the second, and final game, of the trial on Monday, but now has to wait after Palace elected to use some of their senior squad for the game, following their first team’s 4-0 home defeat to Sunderland at the weekend.
Reynolds is hopeful that a tug-of-war will not develop between AFC and Palace over when French now plays his second game of the trial, with the Sudbury assistant keen to get him back involved with his first-team squad.
“We’re now in quite an important part of our season,” Reynolds said.
“As part of the trial with Palace, Tyler plays two games with them and we hope there’s not going to be any clashes or conflict with Palace over when the second game will be.”