Pond goal keeps hope alive for Sudbury

AWAY WIN: Adam Dalby and Nathan Clarke (background) keep an eye on the ball on Saturday. Picture: Harlow Star
AWAY WIN: Adam Dalby and Nathan Clarke (background) keep an eye on the ball on Saturday. Picture: Harlow Star

Harlow Town 0 AFC Sudbury 1

RYMAN LEAGUE

DIVISION ONE NORTH

Harlow Town 0 AFC Sudbury 1

RUSSELL Pond’s super strike late in the first half earned Chris Tracey’s team a hard-fought victory on Saturday to leapfrog their opponents into sixth place and keep their play-off hopes alive.

With skipper Sam Clarke sitting out the first of his two-match ban and defender James Smith unavailable through illness, Tracey was forced to make changes.

Michael Shinn took over as captain and Ryan Henshaw made his first start in seven games in a reshuffled defence that included Joe O’Donoghue, a recent signing from the youth set-up at Leyton Orient, making his debut.

Dave Wareham returned at the expense of Jamie Griffths who dropped to the bench that included Afolabi Obafemi, another recent signing from Orient’s youth team.

Harlow went into the game on the back of three consecutive victories and they started brightly. In the fourth minute AFC keeper Danny Gay made the first of many fine saves to keep out an effort from Luke Marshall.

Harlow enjoyed plenty of possession and Jeff Hammond headed wide from a good opening before Gay denied Bertie Brayley with a fine save at the expense of a corner.

AFC looked dangerous on the break and they broke the deadlock after 35 minutes when the hard-working James Baker did well to hold the ball up and set up Pond, who finished clinically from the edge of the area.

Harlow enjoyed plenty of possession in the second half and they came close to an equaliser on the hour when David Cowley hit the crossbar from a direct free-kick.

Two minutes later Brayley was denied by another fine block from Gay and the loose ball fell to Cowley whose shot was blocked by a last ditch challenge from Henshaw at the expense of a corner which came to nothing.

Another Harlow corner was partially cleared and when the ball came back in and Brayley looked certain to equalise but again Gay denied the Harlow striker with a superb block.

With time running out, AFC came close to doubling their lead but substitute Griffiths was denied by a flying save from the home keeper.

But Pond’s goal, his first for the club, proved enough to clinch three vital points from a match in which they battled hard throughout and was great entertainment for the many AFC fans among the crowd of 231.

AFC Sudbury: Gay, Henshaw, O’Donoghue, Pond, N Clarke, Dalby, Martin (Emmanuel 75), Shinn, Baker, Bryan (Obafemi 84), Wareham (Griffiths 63). Unused subs: Howell and Nicoll.