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Bantick the hero as Sudbury make club history



AFC Sudbury 2

Gosport Borough 1

Sam Bantick’s 92nd-minute winner against National League South Gosport Borough sparked wild scenes as AFC Sudbury reached the FA Trophy second round for the first time in their history.

After The Yellows had seen their half-time advantage from Rob Eagle’s 35th-minute opener wiped out by Chris Flood’s close-range finish six minutes into the second half, substitute Bantick prevented a long Tuesday night trip to Hampshire for a replay in the dying embers of the game.

The attacking midfielder picked up Dylan Williams’ pass in the area before cutting expertly inside a desperate challenge before rifling an unstoppable shot into the far corner.

It was just reward for a superb team display against a side who had reached the final of the FA competition just three years ago and finished ninth in the Vanarama National League South last season.

Bantick, who signed permanently for AFC in the summer from Concord Rangers, having played for both clubs following a loan spell in Suffolk last season, revealed there was an extra motivation for his late strike.

“I do not think many of the boys fancied going up there (Hampshire) on a Tuesday night! The main thing was obviously we did not want to lose the game, and I am obviously delighted to get the win,” he said.

“If I am being honest I thought we were the better team. I cannot remember them having too many clear-cut chances and we had more of the ball. I think we deserved the win.”

He added: “I was frustrated to be on the bench but when you look at it from the bench you are looking at where you can make an impact and I thought they were slow at the back and there to be got at.

“I just said to myself that if I got a chance I would have a shot at goal and hopefully it would go in, and it did. I am over the moon.”

Jamie Godbold made four changes to the side which had exited the Alan Turvey Trophy Ryman League Cup on Tuesday at AFC Hornchurch, with James Baker coming back in to lead the line.

In the lashing rain it was the hosts who looked the higher-league side as they used the ball better than their opponents, playing some neat football which worked several openings.

After Ryan Henshaw was on hand to block a Warren Bentley angled drive after the wideman took too heavy of a touch on the through ball early on, Erkan Okay, on his home debut, headed over, before Craig Parker saw his shot pushed out by goalkeeper Ellis Grant.

Parker headed an Eagle cross straight at The Boro number one before Joe Oastler fizzed a powerful effort just over at the other end.

But AFC’s neat approach play was rewarded shortly before the break when Henshaw’s raking pass out of the back went over Baker’s head before Williams used his pace to latch on to it and, after committing Grant to leave his line, pulled it back for Eagle to steer into a gaping goal ahead of a desperate challenge.

It was no less than the home side deserved heading into half-time. But they were soon caught out at a quickly-taken set-piece as Gosport got back on terms in the 51st minute when Tom Bird’s deep free-kick was pumped into the far post and beyond Garnham. Henshaw just about won the race to it but he failed to hook it clear, with Flood gleefully taking advantage of the loose ball to roll it into the back of the net.

The goal galvanised the National League South outfit, who began to pin AFC back as a scrappy period of the game played out.

After big striker Ben Wright made a mess of a good chance at one end, Okay choose the wrong option at the other, trying to pick out a pass when the impressive Eagle had teed him up.

Bantick entered the fray in the 72nd minute, shortly before Williams dragged a good opening wide with Eagle again instrumental in the build-up.

Tyler French’s excellent whipped cross was just touched away from falling into Eagle’s path by Grant, while soon after Bantick put fellow substitute Luke Callander in on goal only for the offside flag to go up.

It was clear AFC were not prepared to settle for a draw and take their chances in a replay, and they came close to a winner in the final minute of normal time when substitute Jordan Blackwell, with his first touch, slid Aidan Austin’s pass at goal, only to see Grant block with his feet.

The home side looked to cash in on their momentum by leaving a three-pronged forward line-up when they lost possession.

And they got their reward in the second of three minutes of added time as Bantick danced around a challenge in the area before converting with a powerful effort that arrowed into the far corner to the delight of the home crowd and his team-mates, whom he soon disappeared among in the ensuing celebrations.

n The week 33 winners of the AFC Gold fund-raiser are: £100 (162) M Senior, Ash Grove, Gt Cornard; £10 (192) T Crofton, Essex Ave, Sudbury; £10 (330) M Hanniver, AFC Sudbury.

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