AFC will not compromise style to avoid relegation
Andy Reynolds says Jamie Godbold and himself will not be sacrificing their football philosophy over the next three games to keep AFC Sudbury in the league.
The Yellows’ frontfoot passing game has seen them opened up to devastating effect in recent games with Saturday’s 4-0 home defeat to league leaders Bognor Regis Town — albeit with another sending off — the second time they have been on the wrong end of that scoreline in successive games at King’s Marsh.
The other was inflicted by relegation rivals Hendon, which has left them on a dire run of just two wins from their last 11 games, including nine defeats.
But with three games left to play in their debut campaign in the Ryman League Premier Division, and effectively five points to make up when taking into account goal difference, assistant manager Reynolds has said they will not resort to a route one approach in a last-ditch bid to keep them in the league.
A defeat at play-off chasing Tonbridge Angels on Saturday (3pm) could send Sudbury down if other results go against them.
“The easy thing to do would be to get 11 men who can lump it around, and I don’t think people at this football club would appreciate that as much as young lads going out and trying to play,” he said, having been asked about giving youth a chance in a big match with academy forward Ollie Dunlop coming in for his full debut.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Mekhi McKenzie got his first taste of Ryman League football from the bench.
“It would be a waste of money on a 3G if you are going to keep the ball off of it 90 per cent of the time.
“Those are the principles we have to stick by. We have got to and get better at it.”
Asked even if it that means taking AFC Sudbury out of the division, he replied: “Yes. We can’t fear relegation as a football club. The club won’t go extinct. None of our players are going to have to retire and get chased out of the game.
“I don’t think we can fear trying to play a certain way. I think it is what the club wants.
“I remember being a teenager and playing Sudbury and that is what they did back then.
“It is what we want to do as coaches, it is what we want to watch and we just need to sit back and get a little bit better at it.
“But we are young enough, we are immersed in football week-in, week-out enough to take lessons and, regardless of what happens in the short-term week to week, we all feel we have been better for it over the course of the season, regardless of if results show we are struggling.”
He added: “The club is further forward, we as coaches are further forward, however, over 40-odd games it looks like we are struggling but that is just the challenge of football.”
Following Saturday’s trip to Kent to face seventh-placed Tonbridge, AFC’s players have one day to recover before hosting fellow play-off hopefuls Needham Market (8th) on Easter Monday (3pm) in what could be another game capable of sending them down.
Asked if it would be a tall order to overturn the five points over their rivals (taking into account goal difference) to stay up over the next three matches, Reynolds said: ““I think the maths will look after itself. We just have to play Tonbridge and get something from that, and once the maths tells us it is impossible, then fine.
“But until then we just have to do what we do.
“We might play a team who has a man sent off; everything we hit might go in one game and we might claw ourselves out. We don’t know.
“All we can prepare is to be the best version of us and keep preparing week-in week-out and see what happens with results elsewhere.
“But we need to not rely on that, as you can’t get to three games left and pin all your hopes on it, as you clearly then have not done enough over the 46 games.”
In last week’s Free Press now departed midfielder Sam Bantick — the club’s joint top goalscorer when he left with 13 — claimed it was a fragmented dressing room that was partly to blame for where the team found itself.
But The Yellows were seen with arms around each other in the centre circle with Godbold and Reynolds after the game.
“There is a togetherness in the group, absolutely,” said the AFC number two.
“We were making sure that they saw the positives, because the positives we saw we want to make sure we see over the next three games.”
He said he ‘couldn’t know the application’ of the players in Saturday’s heavy defeat, which was in contrast to the Hendon match two weekends previously.
“You get a feel for the atmosphere of the ground and generally people will see the lads tried and left everything on the pitch,” he said.
With Tonbridge, like Needham, a point of the play-offs, it should make for a fascinating encounter.
But it will not be one that will see AFC’s position lead them to throw caution to the wind.
“Both teams will have pressure to contend with: we have to win it and they have to win it,” said Reynolds.
“You can’t just defend and hope.”
James Baker’s suspension will kick in Saturday while Joe Marsden, who had been playing at full-back, returned to parent club Leiston from his loan spell ahead of last Saturday’s game.