Returning players will help steer AFC clear of trouble

SO CLOSE: Returning skipper Sam Clarke sees an effort cleared off the line with the Chatham goalkeeper stranded on during Saturday's 1-1 home draw

SO CLOSE: Returning skipper Sam Clarke sees an effort cleared off the line with the Chatham goalkeeper stranded on during Saturday's 1-1 home draw

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RYMAN LEAGUE

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