Needham Market 2
AFC Sudbury 1
AFC Sudbury’s Jamie Godbold said he would not use the referee’s decisions as an excuse for why his side surrendered a derby they had been in total control of at leaders Needham Market on Boxing Day.
In the end, a controversial header by Billy Holland — which resulted in Sudbury players and manager remonstrating with the man in the middle and his assistant, leading to Godbold being sent off from his technical area — saw Needham come from behind in a fixture not short on talking points.
Before that 51st-minute header, the Marketmen had levelled Sam Bantick’s 43rd-minute opener from the penalty spot, via Kem Izzet, within a minute of the re-start, while the visitors were reduced to 10 men shortly after when Ryan Henshaw was sent off.
But despite having to be sent the other side of the advertising hoardings after his protests over Needham’s second goal, Godbold gave a pragmatic assessment of why his side lost.
“I don’t want to talk about the officials as I have never been one for blaming them,” he said, speaking shortly after the final whistle.
“I think we shot ourselves in the foot in the first minute (of the second half).
“It probably was a penalty and it probably was a sending off, however, the goal itself was nowhere near a goal, in my opinion.
“Referees make their decisions, but I am just disappointed with how we came out in the second half, with Marcus (Garnham) having had very little to do in the first half.”
He added: “I thought we were really good value for a half-time lead and our message at half-time was that we wanted more of the same and to just keep it tight in the first 10 minutes.
“The disappointing thing for me was that after about four minutes the score was 2-1, we had conceded a penalty and had a man sent off, and effectively it was game over.
“Overall I was pleased with the performance and really pleased with the work-rate but just disappointed with how we acquitted ourselves in that first five minutes.”
Godbold’s 14th-place side, going into the fixture, started much the better of the two and were only prevented from running up a comfortable half-time advantage by a string of excellent saves from ex-AFC goalkeeper Danny Gay.
The Needham gloveman clawed away a mis-placed header from centre-back Sam Nunn before pushing James Baker’s header around the post, while also tipping his fierce drive over the crossbar and denying Bantick.
But the latter was not to be denied two minutes before the interval, when he was first to react to Craig Parker’s shot being pushed out.
But with leaders Needham having seemingly been on the ropes, they bounced back at the start of the second period in emphatic fashion.
With not even a minute on the clock, Henshaw took out Luke Ingram in the penalty area and substitute Kem Izzet kept his cool from the spot to plant his penalty beyond Garnham’s reach.
The capitulation continued three minutes later when Henshaw was shown a straight red card after pulling back Reece Dobson from reaching Izzet’s through ball as the last man.
The Marketmen were unable to convert the resultant free-kick on the edge of the area, but they were celebrating taking the lead just two minutes later.
From Callum Harrison’s left-sided corner, Holland rose highest and sent his header at goal, with Garnham desperately clawing it out from his position behind the goaline. The referee had no hesitation in awarding it before having to intervene as the AFC Sudbury players and manager surrounded his assistant, resulting in Godbold being ordered from the dugout.
Needham should have had the three points wrapped up in the 72nd minute when they were awarded another penalty. This time Adam Tann was penalised for chucking himself at a cross and leaving Harrison nursing a head injury.
Psychology came into play as Izzet approached the spot again, with Garnham winning the second duel with the ex-Colchester United midfielder, guessing correctly that he would go the same way again.
To their credit, 10-man Sudbury did not give up and the introduction of strikers Luke Callander and Liam Wales almost bagged them a point as both went close to providing an equaliser.
In Wales’ case, he got beyond the Needham backline with his pace and when ex-AFC goalkeeper Gay flew out at his feet, he went down after kicking the ball past him. But the referee again fell on Needham’s side with his view, waving play on.
Wales sprung up and pulled the loose ball back to Dylan Williams, who agonizingly saw his shot from the edge of the area in an unguarded goal come back off the face of the post.
Callander put just beyond the far post in the fourth minute of five added on, while Joe Whight had a glaring miss before the extra for stoppages, skying over at the far post with the goal gaping.
In the end it was four mad minutes which turned the match on its head, as well as Sudbury fans’ smiles upside down.
n The Week 35 winners of the AFC Gold fund-raiser are: £100 (255) Mrs H Young, East St, Sudbury; £10 (243) Mrs S Paxton, Jubilee Rd, Sudbury: £10 (284) B Tatum, Beaconsfield Close, Sudbury.