RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: AFC Sudbury 1 Romford 3
Jack Wilkinson told of the burning frustration in the home dressing room after profligate finishing put a big dent in their play-off hopes.
The recent recruit from Haverhill Rovers, who made his sixth AFC appearance on Saturday in just two-and-a-half weeks after a mad run of fixtures after the wet weather ceased, admitted he was one of those who should have found the back of the net.
As it was, the 22-year-old Hadleigh-based left-sided player put his second-half header wide with goalkeeper Aaron Omand stranded in a number of golden opportunities from which the home side simply could not provide a golden touch to.
It made it seven league games without a win for the Yellows, who fell three points further adrift of a top-five play-off spot after Nick Reynold’s header and Paul Clayton’s sweeping finish gave Romford a 2-0 half-time lead from the East London side’s only two efforts at goal.
Payton Swatman gave real hope of a different outcome when he profited from a dropped Sam Clarke shot, but AFC continued to be wasteful in front of goal and Tom Richardson made sure of three points in injury-time.
“We peppered the goal and it is just a shame we didn’t score more,” said Wilkinson, who could not follow up from his first goal for the club in the 1-1 draw at Harlow Town the previous Saturday. “We made the keeper work a couple of times but not enough and the result showed that.
“I maybe should have scored — he (Omand) has palmed it away after it has whizzed across.”
The planning officer at Babergh District Council admitted he is happy to play wherever he is required, after starting at left-back and spending the second half on the left of a three-man attack.
“It is part of my role within the team — if the manager wants to play that I will do my best wherever I am played,” he said.
Ryan Horne, celebrating penning his first professional contract at parent club Cambridge United ahead of the game, returned to the starting line-up along with Greg Crane, James Akintunde and Payton Swatman for Matt Daniels, Scott Mitchell and Andy Heald.
After withstanding early pressure, Swatman — playing off front pairing James Baker and Akintunde — went close when curling over the bar before the visitors took the lead 16 minutes in.
Cambridge United youngster Akintunde showed good pace to cut out a throughball, but then sliced it away for a corner, from which Reynolds planted his header beyond Alex Archer from George Woodward’s delivery.
The hosts almost equalised straightaway from their own corner, Clarke seeing his goal-bound header cleared by a covering defender, while the skipper went close again with a fizzing half-volley.
Top scorer James Baker then had his head in his hands after he made a mess of finishing off a perfect Akintunde cross, his sliced shot lacking power and easily cleared off the line by Joe Oates.
AFC continued to threaten with Akintunde fashioning his own chance before Steve Adams’ header clipped the crossbar on its way over and Shinn’s long-range drive was only denied by a fingertip save to Omand’s right.
Against the run of play, Romford doubled their advantage three minutes before the break when a bouncing ball over the top caught out the Sudbury defence with Shinn and Ryan Henshaw unable to clear before Paul Clayton swept home.
There was still time for Swatman to miss another golden chance at the other end, lifting his shot from Horne’s cutback over the bar.
The chances kept coming for the home side after the re-start as Baker forced Omand into good save, while Wilkinson headed wide and Henshaw’s bicycle kick flew just the wrong side of the post.
It finally took a big error from Boro’s number one to let AFC back into the game when he somehow dropped a routine save from Clarke’s long-range effort and Swatman had followed in to gobble up the unexpected loose ball.
David Ottley almost reinstated the two-goal advantage when his curling free-kick rattled the crossbar, while Eddie Hart rounded Archer before kicking straight at the keeper having waited for support to arrive.
David Batch reverted to a 3-2-5 formation in a desperate bid to recover the match.
But it was the visitors who struck two minutes into four added to seal the win, with Richardson chasing a long ball into the corner and Crane missing his tackle, allowing him a clear run before curling in with Archer stranded.
With Wilkinson yet to taste a home win, he added: “It is disappointing. You want to get a result wherever you go but on your home turf it is all the more annoying.”
This was the kind of game you would think AFC needed to win if they were to fulfil their hopes of a play-off place.
But it seems they have hit turbulence at just the wrong time.
* For player ratings and match stats, see this week’s Suffolk Free Press print edition.