David Batch hailed his teenagers who stepped up to book AFC Sudbury’s first final appearance since 2008.
With eight senior players unable to start the Ryman League Robert Dyas Cup semi-final at Ware on Thursday through injury or unavailability — with it being a re-arranged fixture — four under-18s all played their part in a memorable 2-1 victory.
Seventeen-year-old James Crisell, along with Cambridge United dual registered Ryan Horne were picked out for special praise by the Yellows boss, who signed a new two-year contract before kick-off.
“Tonight was pleasing,” said Batch. “I said before winning is a habit and this club have not had many cup finals to play for in the last however many years it is.
“So it is nice for the people who came out tonight and nice for us to get to that and at least have something to play for in a big game.
“Of course we did it without a lot of players; we had about seven missing!”
Josh Carus, Matt Daniels and Greg Crane were all unavailable, while Steve Spriggs, Ollie Hughes and James Akintunde were all injured.
Scott Mitchell and Jack Wilkinson’s knocks meant they were unable to start, but had to be named on the bench.
“Tonight was every single player we had,” said Batch.
“We had six senior players missing out of our squad which is why we were in a position where we had to give JC (James Crisell) a debut and he played really well, as did Horney.”
AFC had made a flying start when Jack Cawley headed them in front inside two minutes, but despite an excellent 45 minutes which also saw them go close on a number of other occasions, including hitting the crossbar, they could not extend their lead until Payton Swatman dispatched a precise volley after 64 minutes.
Ware piled forward to salvage the tie but the goal they craved did not arrive until two minutes into injury time, which proved too late to send the tie to penalties with a further equalising goal.
“I think we should have scored another one before half-time; JC on his debut just missed one in which the defender brilliantly to be fair.
“But we should have had another one so it would have been nice and comfortable and maybe we would not have had to use Mitchell and could have brought Shinn off,” said Batch.
With AFC now set to face higher-league opponents Maidstone United in a final at a venue and date yet to be confirmed, he added: “I didn’t want to say it beforehand but a team I have managed have never not finished first or second in something.
“At least that keeps going for another season — I think it is six year on bounce now since I returned to non-League.”
Ninth-placed AFC Sudbury travel to third-placed Harlow Town, who they drew 0-0 with on Tuesday, in Ryman League Division One North on Saturday (3pm).
They then travel to fifth-placed Witham Town on Tuesday (7.45pm).