RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH: AFC Sudbury 1 Needham Market 3: AFC Sudbury’s David Batch said the club will be appealing Ryan Henshaw’s red card but accepted the better side won in Monday’s heated derby.
There looked to be only one outcome at half-time, with the hosts ahead against the league leaders through Lawrence Yiga’s strike and the visitors seeing their captain Kem Izzet sent off.
But AFC went off the boil as a stirring second-half display saw Needham pin them back with Luke Ingram equalising from the penalty spot before Ian Westlake put them ahead 12 minutes from time.
It sparked a crazy climax to the match which saw Sudbury self-destruct with Henshaw and Ryan Maxwell both being sent off within two minutes of each other, and Sam Newson’s injury-time goal followed by a further dismissal as the red mist descended over Craig Pope.
“I thought in the first half we played really well,” said Yellows’ boss Batch.
“In the second half it completely swung around and went the other way.
“To be fair, in the second half they were better than us, even when it was 11 versus 10 in our favour.”
But Batch felt questionable decisions on both sides turned the game into a farce.
“I thought their sending off was really harsh,” he said.
“With the penalty decision, where you get a decision where not one player appeals for it, that is pretty tough.
“Maxwell’s was a stupid sending off as he is on a yellow card and it is a challenge he shouldn’t have gone for.
“Popey’s I didn’t see it but clearly something has happened and that is ridiculous as well.
“With Henshaw’s one, I feel really sorry for Ryan as I think the referee has had a complete disaster.
“Their centre- forward has hit Ryan in the face as the goal has gone in and as he has walked past him, Ryan has just shrugged him out of the way and when they have subbed their player he has apologised and said he should have been sent off for that.
“Then the referee has come over and given Ryan a yellow card and then a red card and Ryan has said ‘I haven’t been booked’ and the referee panicked and gave him a red card.
“So we shall be appealing that one.”
With Lee Flynn suffering from illness, 16-year-old centre-half Stefan Mallardo, signed from Leiston Reserves in the summer, started at left-back.
After a minute’s silence for former AFC player Adie Haye, Needham squandered a great early chance when Sam Newson broke clear and rounded Alex Archer, only to slice his shot off balance.
At the other end, Sam Clarke saw his fierce drive parried before the hosts took the lead 22 minutes in.
Following a free-kick, Pope’s shot deflected into Yiga’s path on the edge of the area and he drove low past Phillips with the help of a deflection.
Henshaw and Jake Reed went close to adding to the lead, while Archer had to tip over from Needham’s Daryl Coakley.
But the visitors’ task got all the more difficult after 32 minutes when Izzet received his marching orders for a second yellow card after using his arm to halt Kris Newby’s breakaway in front of the home dugout.
James Baker saw a header ruled out with Yiga offside, while Needham almost equalised when Luke Ingram’s looping shot bounced back off the crossbar.
The dominant home side closed the half with Reed somehow unable to convert Newby’s cross before Shaun Phillips had to turn a Mallardo drive around the post.
They were soon made to rue those missed chances with Needham awarded a penalty just three minutes after the restart when Henshaw and Newson tangled, with Ingram calmly rolling in the spotkick.
A rare AFC effort saw Newby denied by the legs of Phillips, while Archer had to come to their rescue against the 10 men twice with good close-range blocks from Chris Hogg and Westlake, while also tipping a Danny Cunningham effort around the post.
The inevitable Needham goal finally arrived on a swift breakaway though, as Newson darted down the right and crossed for Westlake to head home.
Immediately after Henshaw was eventually shown a straight red for an off-the-ball incident with Cunningham to even up the numbers.
But just two minutes later, Maxwell mis-timed a tackle on Westlake to receive his second yellow card.
As AFC chased an equaliser, they were caught on the break three minutes into added time as Newson beat Yiga to a long goal-kick and clipped it past the onrushing Archer.
Pope was also immediately dismissed in the aftermath after knocking his man to the ground, sparking an unsavoury ending to a hugely forgettable day for AFC as both sets of players had to be pulled apart.