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FA Youth Cup exit to Bristol Rovers leaves disappointment above pride for AFC Sudbury academy chief Danny Laws




AFC Sudbury’s under-18s were hailed as ‘absolutely magnificent’ by Bristol Rovers’ coach for their display in a 2-1 FA Youth Cup defeat – but Danny Laws said disappointment, rather than pride, was their over-riding emotion.

The young Yellows departed for the Memorial Ground on Tuesday lunchtime looking to make history by taking the club to the third round proper – where the Premier League club’s academy sides come in – for the first time.

In the end it was a case of coming desperately close but being thwarted by a stand-out goalkeeping performance combined with some clinical finishing at the Football League club.

Bristol Rovers 2 AFC Sudbury 1 - Freddie King celebrates pulling a goal back for SudburyPicture: Steve Screech (21008850)
Bristol Rovers 2 AFC Sudbury 1 - Freddie King celebrates pulling a goal back for SudburyPicture: Steve Screech (21008850)

Freddie King did poke home a corner in the 65th minute to set up a grandstand finish in reply to Zain Walker’s 20-yard curling effort seven minutes in, and Kieran Phillips’ fantastic free-kick just after the hour mark. But despite a late header by Lewis O’Malley seriously threatening an equaliser, home ‘keeper Harry Thomas-Barker refused to be beaten for a second time.

“I thought about the pride thing but the trouble about using that word is it’s saying ‘haven’t you done well to get that far’,” said academy director Laws.

“I would say the over-riding emotion is disappointment as this is a totally different emotion to when we took Swindon to extra-time three years ago or went close against Cambridge last season.

FOOTBALL - Suffolk U18 Midweek Cup final - AFC Sudbury v Walsham Le Willows..Pictured: Danny Laws....PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (9985505)
FOOTBALL - Suffolk U18 Midweek Cup final - AFC Sudbury v Walsham Le Willows..Pictured: Danny Laws....PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (9985505)

“We have never dominated a professional club like we did last night, and I include Boreham Wood in that as they were a professional outfit.”

He added: “Actually, we did far better than just getting there, we did deserve to do a bit more, but I do not want to take anything away from Bristol Rovers. They found a way to beat us and had two outstanding individuals.

“The pride factor comes in more about our football club and where we are at with striving to do things in the right way.”

He praised the travelling support who helped fill up the players’ coach and the hospitality of the opposition, and said the groundswell of supportive messages from around the county before and after had been heart-warming.

Bristol Rovers 2 AFC Sudbury 1 FA Youth Cup - Sudbury man-of-the-match Harry Critchley is taken outPicture: Steve Screech (21008822)
Bristol Rovers 2 AFC Sudbury 1 FA Youth Cup - Sudbury man-of-the-match Harry Critchley is taken outPicture: Steve Screech (21008822)

Harry Critchley, who gave the Gas’ defence a torrid time and drew several saves, was named man-of-the-match by the visiting fans.

COACHING CHANGES AT AFC SUDBURY:

* Meanwhile, Laws revealed in the wake of his new first-team matchday dugout duties, girls academy coach Jamie Souza will manage AFC Sudbury Reserves in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North alongside Gavin Peters. Their first game in charge will be at home to Mulbarton Wanderers on Saturday (3pm), with Laws having been set to take charge of Friday's CNet Training Suffolk Senior Cup tie at Ipswich Wanderers before it was postponed.

Souza knows the AFC Sudbury Reserves' academy players well from being Craig Power's assistant with the promotion and cup-winning AFC Sudbury A team in the Essex & Suffolk Border League last season.

"He is an ideal person to take charge," said Laws.

Meanwhile, the internal coaching changes at AFC Sudbury Academy will also see previous U15 EJA coach Sam Warnes begin assisting Power to replace Souza's role with the now renamed AFC Sudbury Sports side, made up of first-year scholars.


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