Return of duo ensures AFC claim three points at home

LEADING BY EXAMPLE: Captain Sam Clarke bursts forward during Saturday's 5-0 win, in which he scored twice in the first half
LEADING BY EXAMPLE: Captain Sam Clarke bursts forward during Saturday's 5-0 win, in which he scored twice in the first half
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RYMAN LEAGUE

DIVISION ONE NORTH

AFC Sudbury 2 Ware 1

James Baker hopes he has put his injury problems behind him after making a match-winning return in Tuesday’s 2-1 victory over Ware.

The targetman bagged his side the three points with a real moment of quality just 10 minutes after his introduction past the hour-mark to prevent what looked to be heading for a frustrating draw against their bottom-three opponents.

After Ryan Henshaw’s 22nd-minute opener was cancelled out by a sublime free-kick from Joe Reynolds heading into the break, David Batch’s decision to bring on Baker and Michael Shinn following spells on the treatment table soon paid off as the latter started the move for the former to provide a clever finish on the turn.

“It was a perfect way to come back really,” said Baker, who returned after four games out with a hamstring injury, having been sidelined with a broken wrist for more than three months last season.

“I thought it was going too far actually, over the person’s head, but I just managed to claw it back with my foot and turn and in it went.

“Last season was a bit of a non-starter with the injury, and with Sam Clarke as well, so it would be nice if I could stay injury-free for a change.”

The game itself was far from a classic and an unchanged AFC line-up will have been hugely disappointed not to be out of sight, instead of level, at half-time.

Ben Thompson dragged a shot past the far post and Sam Clarke headed over after goalkeeper Rhys Madden failed to claim a cross before they got their noses in front.

A dangerous deep cross from the lively Payton Swatman was missed by the shaky Madden under pressure from Clarke, leaving centre-back Henshaw to tap in his second goal in successive games.

But Ware levelled after half an hour after Henshaw pulled down Ricci Crace from a long goal-kick and Reynolds curled his 22-yard free-kick into the top right-hand corner.

Matt Daniels should have restored AFC’s lead as Madden’s horror show continued, one of two weak efforts headed clear off the line while Jamie Forshaw had to go off with a knee injury just before the break.

His replacement Dave Cowley gave the Yellows more purpose in their attacks, but it was Shinn and Baker’s introduction which injected new life into a labouring performance, and with 18 minutes to go, they made the important breakthrough.

Shinn sent Daniels scampering down the left and from his cross Baker did superbly to bring the ball down and turn 180 degrees before firing into the bottom left corner with his weaker left foot.

Madden tipped over Shinn’s free-kick and Greg Crane headed wide before Baker headed clear from a late corner.

The former Braintree Town striker, who has equalled last season’s injury-hit total of five goals after leading the scoring charts in the previous two campaigns, added: “It was a difficult pitch, it was quite boggy out there with all the rain.

“They set their stall out pretty early with what they were going to do so we were just pleased to get the win really.”

AFC: Archer 6, Lewis 6, Cawley 7, Mitchell 7, Crane 7, Henshaw 7 (Shinn 7 62’), Forshaw 6 (Cowley 45+1), Clarke 6 (c), Thompson 6 (BAKER 7 62’), Daniels 6, Swatman 7. Unused subs: N’Cho, Swallow.