DIVISION ONE NORTH
AFC Sudbury 1
Chatham Town 1
James Baker believes the return of key players from injury will finally close the door on any thoughts of being sucked into a relegation scrap.
Skipper Sam Clarke (five months), assistant manager Micheal Shinn (six weeks) and Rhys Darg (11 weeks) all made their long-awaited comebacks on Saturday in a much improved display against mid-table Chatham Town.
But while the Yellows were left to rue a hatful of chances not being taken, Baker, who put away a first-half penalty before Garry Tilley levelled 10 minutes after the break, doesn’t believe they need to worry about what is going on behind them.
“I don’t think we will be dragged down into the bottom,” he said after scoring only his second goal of the season after his own injury-hit campaign.
“The players we have got have too much quality and if we keep the same 11 players week in, week out and keep clear of anymore injuries then I can’t see that happening.”
The club’s top scorer for the last two seasons got in plenty of good positions and had a great chance to kill the game off, putting his second-half volley straight at the keeper, as he was moved back to spearheading the attack, where he admitted to feeling much more comfortable.
“I think that is where I am best,” he said. “In the hole I don’t think I’m the greatest but I’ll do a shift for the team when needed.
“I’ve played the last few in the midfield hole but I think I am more natural with my back to goal receiving the ball.”
AFC, without the suspended Ashley Sloots, tested Chatham keeper Tim Roberts early on when Baker put Peter Maina through before he had a close-range strike from a corner ruled out for an adjudged foul on the shot stopper.
Chatham’s Jonathan Fortune somehow headed over from a good position, but the Kent side trailed at half-time to Baker’s cool penalty-kick after 43 minutes following a shove by Kes Metitri, who appeared to handle moments earlier.
In a frantic start to the second half, AFC keeper Alex Archer almost gifted the Chats an equaliser when his clearance rebounded off Garry Tilley and hit the post and at the other end Sam Clarke’s goalbound effort was blocked.
But the visitors were level after 55 minutes when Tilley was given too much space to nod on Austin Gacheru’s diagonal cross and poke it beyond Archer.
Baker’s missed volley became costly as AFC could not make their dominance count, while Archer saved with his legs from a rare Chatham breakaway.
AFC: Archer 6, Dalby 6, Martin 7, Shinn 7, Darg 7, Cutts 7, Maina 7 (Antoine 88’ 6), Pond 7, BAKER 8, Clarke (Brown 79’ 6) 7, Cowley 7. Att: 202