AFC Sudbury Under-18s find a way through Bowers & Pitsea in FA Youth Cup to set up Bristol Rovers tie
Good sides find a way to win and AFC Sudbury Under-18s made sure a dominant display at home to Bowers & Pitsea did not turn into a hard-luck story in their FA Youth Cup journey.
Despite hitting the post twice and the crossbar as part of their relentless pressure in the first 45 minutes of Tuesday’s home FA Youth Cup First Round Proper tie, the young Yellows found themselves trailing 1-0 at the interval.
After Freddie King and Ethan Mayhew hit the same post in the same 11th minute move and captain Lewis O’Malley rattled the crossbar as well as several other good chances going begging, Adam Wright’s speculative effort from around 25 yards in the 38th minute provided the shock moment. It skidded past Sam Wright a bit too easily in what was the first shot he had had to deal with.
Combined with the ensuring half-time break, it could have provided a turning point for the Essex visitors with something to shut up shot with.
But the home side, featuring eight players who have had a taste of action in Mark Morsley’s side, heeded their manager Danny Laws’ insistence of raising their levels.
There was no hangover from the goal and their heads remained focused in the belief their siege on Tom Ballard’s goal would eventually prevail.
In the end, it took less than four minutes of the second half for the telling moment to arrive. A sweeping passing move got Harry Critchley, on his return from a broken wrist, raiding down the left wing and from his low cut-back Kabangu fired an unstoppable effort in from 12 yards.
Ballard thwarted Critchley’s near-post shot with his legs as AFC almost got a quick-fire second, but what proved to be the winning goal followed soon after in the 56th minute. From a left-sided corner from Sam Girling first-team striker Freddie King produced a downward header that he directed past Ballard amid a sea of bodies.
It was far from a pretty goal, which he later came close to with a mesmerising weaving run from half-way ending with a poked effort just past the post, but in terms of what it achieved, it was one the son of snooker professional Mark King will treasure.
It could and should have been a bigger winning margin but the Bowers & Pitesa goalkeeper continued to shine while he was also thankful to see his goal frame come to the rescue for a fourth time from Josh Tysoe’s penalty box effort.
Up the other end, Wright had little to do and, despite the visitors being only a goal away from extra-time, the outcome of the tie never really looked in doubt.
Laws, Sudbury’s academy director of football and youth development who is now combining his duties with the first-team on matchdays, said: “I thought their character as a group was tested tonight and guess what? They came through again.”
He said he did not agree with comments afterwards from supporters who said they had been unlucky in the first half, and that addressing that at half-time provided the turning point.
“I didn’t think we played well in the first half and I told the lads that,” he said.
“I said you’re individual quality needs to get better. We can talk about hitting the post and oohs and arghs but they need to go in.
“We have not moved the ball quick enough and we have given the ball away too much for my liking, and then obviously you have got to look at the defending and the goalkeeping for the goal.
“We decided we had three or four things we needed as a group to do better to counteract what they did to beat the counter-attack which we did really well in the second half. But more importantly, individuals just played better in the second half.”
Sky Bet League One club Bristol Rovers now await in the second round proper – equalling the furthest the club have ever been in the competition – with the tie at the Memorial Ground having now been arranged for next Tuesday (November 5) with the kick-off time still to be confirmed.
AFC Sudbury: Wright, Critchley (Wooldridge 84’), Bennett, O’Malley (c), Langdrige, Tysoe (Renwick 67’), Girling, Hughes, Kabangu (Temple 58’), King, Mayhew. Subs unused: Horlock, Banyard, Blunkell (gk), Palmer.
Free Press Man of the Match: Some good performances but Freddie King proved too hot to handle for the Bowers defence and could have had a hat-trick were it not for some good goalkeeping.
* AFC Gold week 25: £100 (169) K Bloomfield, Bridport Ave, Ipswich; £10 (150) P Davies, The Close, Sudbury; £10 (298) Mrs B Nunn, Catesby Meadow, Sudbury.