Squandered lead hits AFC Sudbury’s play-off hopes

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RYMAN LEAGUE

DIVISION ONE NORTH

AFC Sudbury 3

Waltham Forest 3

AFC Sudbury’s play-off hopes are diminishing after they were held to a third consecutive draw on Saturday when basement side Waltham Forest came from two goals down to earn a share of the spoils with a last-minute strike.

Once again, AFC’s inability to hold on to a winning lead proved costly.

In their last three games they have been ahead no fewer than five times, but on each occasion they have allowed their opponents back to share the honours.

Manager Nicky Smith made two changes from Potters Bar, midfielder Michael Shinn returned from suspension in place of Ryan Henshaw and Robbie Martin got the nod ahead of Tom Webb.

Sudbury had by far the better of the first half-hour and Forest survived several goalmouth scrambles, with only the crossbar denying Tom Devaux.

But it was Forest who took the lead against the run of play after 32 minutes when a fierce shot from Josh Bennett rebounded off the woodwork into the path of Richard Shittu, who netted from close range.

Forest’s lead lasted only four minutes as the hosts piled on the pressure and scored three goals in a seven-minute spell to take a 3-1 half-time lead.

Leading scorer James Baker started Sudbury’s recovery with a powerful header from Martin’s cross and then Dan Emmanuel finished off a fine move to put the hosts ahead before Martin seized on a defensive mistake to set up Dave Wareham, who doubled Sudbury’s lead.

Sudbury started the second half like they had finished the first and twice visiting keeper Sidney Anguilley was forced to tip over.

Another effort was scrambled away before Forest reduced the deficit after 53 minutes when the home rearguard failed to close down the dangerous Bennett who cut inside and unleashed an unstoppable 20 yard shot in to the roof of the net.

On the hour mark AFC were forced into a change when Emmanuel was injured in a strong challenge and was replaced by Josh Turner.

A minute later AFC had a good chance to restore their two-goal advantage when Dave Wareham cut in from the left. But he fired over when the best option would have been to pass to a team-mate in front of goal.

It proved an expensive miss as from then on Forest had the better of the game, but they seldom looked like forcing an equaliser until they were awarded a controversial free-kick in the 89th minute when Jemel Fox was penalised near the right corner flag. He appeared to win the ball cleanly, but Robert Carter headed home at the far post from the free-kick to earn his side a point and put a severe dent in Sudbury’s play-off hopes.

AFC Sudbury: Howe, S Wareham, Fox, Shinn, Devaux, Sinfield, Emmanuel (Turner 60), Clarke, Baker, Martin, D Wareham. Unused subs: Henshaw, Webb, Whittaker and Lawrence-Bayly.

l WEEK 50 winners in the AFC Gold fundraiser are: £100 B Tatum (479), Beaconsfield Close, Sudbury; £10 D Rego (251), Kentish Town, London; £10 Mrs D Mitchell (232), Tudor Road, Sudbury.