BREAKING: Table-toppers AFC maintain title charge in style
DIVISION ONE NORTH
AFC Sudbury 5
AFC Sudbury maintained their title challenge as a Luke Callander hat-trick helped inspire the table-toppers to victory over basement-boys Redbridge.
The striker took his tally to 22 for the season adding two second-half penalties to his headed first-opener in-between Charlie Portway’s leveller for the visitors.
Captain Sam Clarke and an own goal from Stephen Good completed the scoring for the Yellows, while the visitors played much of the second-half with 10-men following Billy Drake’s straight red card for an off the ball clash with Ryan Henshaw.
The home side who came into the encounter 12 points clear of nearest rivals Thurrock at the start of play, started brightly with Callander being released into the area only to be thwarted by the on-rushing Callum Chafer.
The momentum continued with Joe Maybanks seeing a close range effort parried away with the resulting corner ending up with Jack Wilkinson lashing over from the edge of the area.
Stephen Good then sent a looping header of Marcus Garnham’s bar at the other end after 12 minutes, while the hosts again spurned another opportunity as Callander, on the stretch, headed over.
Ollie Berquez saw a powerful left-footed effort tipped away by the impressive Chafer, while at the other end Hussain Jaffa headed over at the back post after 27 minutes.
The chances kept coming and going for the hosts with Craig Parker scooping over from inside the area, while Berquez also wasted another opportunity, lashing high and wide.
However, the breakthrough finally arrived with just a minute remaining of the first-half as Callander found himself in the right spot to head home Jack Newman’s brilliant pinpoint cross from the right wing.
But for all their dominance, AFC found themselves pegged back at the interval as Redbridge hit back against the run of play in first-half added time.
Joe Gent got down the right-hand side before pulling the ball back for the on-rushing Portway who swept home a low right-footed effort beyond the reach of Marcus Garnham.
The flash point occurred with the second-half just seven minutes old as Drake received his marching orders after appearing to lead with his arm in an aerial challenge with Henshaw, which left the centre-half forced off the field and subsequently replaced.
And it did not take the home side long to make the most of their numerical advantage as just two minutes later, Clarke finished off a brilliantly incisive move between himself and Callander, collecting the ball inside the area before flashing an effort past the helpless Chafer.
AFC were gifted the opportunity to extend their advantage just two minutes as they were awarded a penalty following a handball. Callander took responsibility and made no mistake, drilling the ball down the middle of the goal.
Three soon became four for the Yellows as Callander bustled his way down the left-hand side with his low drilled cross from the byline defecting off of Good to inadvertently guide the ball past Chafer.
The momentum was fully with the home side who continued to bombard forward with Clarke rattling the cross bar with a curling effort while Maybanks was twice denied in quick succession by the busy Chafer.
However for all his heroics, the goalkeeper gifted the hosts another golden opportunity from 12-yards out after hauling down Clarke who had beaten the custodian to a through ball on the left-hand side of the area.
Callander again stepped up and despite a hand from Chafer, the striker completed his hat-trick as the ball found the bottom left corner.
Sudbury refused to rest on their laurels and saw further opportunities come and go with Callander sending a brilliantly curled effort narrowly past the post, while Maybanls and Clarke also went close to adding a sixth as AFC played out the final few minutes to wrap up another three points.
The victory takes Sudbury a step closer to the league title where they hold a 12-point advantage with just nine matches remaining.
AFC Sudbury: Garnham, Newman, Wilkinson, Berquez, Henshaw (Mallardo 55), Baker, Wales, Clarke, Callander, Parker (Robinson 45), Maybanks
FREE PRESS MAN OF THE MATCH: Luke Callander, Striker bagged a hat-trick to take his season’s tally to 22 goals.