DIVISION ONE NORTH
AFC Sudbury 1 Waltham Abbey 0
by Pat Arbon at The MEL Group Stadium
NATHAN Clarke’s goal after 10 minutes sealed victory for Chris Tracey’s team on Saturday to make it three consecutive league victories without conceding a goal.
But from then on defences dominated and chances were at a premium, although the visitors, who are the second highest scorers in the league, went close in the closing minutes but the hosts held out for a hard-fought win.
Tracey made one change from the side that started in the 1-0 away win at Waltham Forest on Wednesday evening, with the fit again Adam Dalby returning to the defence at the expense of player/coach Jack Wignall.
There was a surprise on the bench with the return of striker Kevin Hawes, who was leading scorer during the 2008/09 season. The Essex-based forward has re-joined the club with the hope of boosting the goalscoring tally.
AFC started positively and after a couple of half-chances they took a 10th minute lead when central defender Nathan Clarke rose at the far post to head powerfully home from Michael Shinn’s left wing corner.
AFC were dealt a blow after 20 minutes with a hamstring injury to Rhys Darg who had scored a goal in each of the previous three games. He was replaced by new signing Hawes who, like his attacking partner, got little change out of a solid visiting rearguard.
Midway through the opening half, the visitors came close when AFC failed to clear a left wing corner and Dan Harvey forced keeper Danny Gay into a good block and Nathan Clarke made a last ditch clearance.
AFC had to make another change at the start of the second half with midfielder Robbie Martin feeling unwell. He was replaced by Danny Emmanuel.
On the hour, Sudbury’s James Baker had a shot deflected and from the resulting corner Ryan Henshaw volleyed over the bar.
The home defence had to soak up pressure as the visitors piled on the pressure and they went close but efforts from Tom Laxton, Steve Cawley and Jack Friend failed to hit the target.
AFC had a good chance to make the game safe in the final minute when substitute Jemel Fox broke clear but he shot wide with only the keeper to beat.
It almost proved to be an expensive miss as four minutes into stoppage time the visitors piled on the pressure and they came close to an equaliser seconds before the final whistle but Gay made a fine save to deny Cawley.
AFC Sudbury: Gay, Dalby, Sloots, Shinn, N Clarke, Henshaw, Martin (Emmanuel 46), S Clarke, Baker, Darg (Hawes 20), Wareham (Fox 73). Unused subs: Howell and Lorimer.