DIVISION ONE NORTH
Soham Town Rangers 3
AFC Sudbury 1
by Russell Claydon at
Julius Martin Lane
AFC Sudbury’s 10-game unbeaten run came to an abrupt end at bogey side Soham Town Rangers on Boxing Day, on a day where league leaders Needham Market had slipped up earlier in the day.
It was a missed opportunity for Chris Tracey’s side, who could have closed the gap on the then leaders to three points.
But after a bright opening few minutes, they never recovered from conceding an early penalty before two strikes either side of the break came ahead of Ryan Henshaw’s scant consolation.
Soham, without ex-AFC striker Dubi Ogbonna due to a knee injury, raced into a lead after just seven minutes from the penalty spot.
Player/manager Andy Furnell seemed certain to score at the second attempt following a good block by Sudbury keeper Danny Gay, but the referee pointed at the spot after the ball diverted round the post via the hand of Steve Adams, surprisingly leading to only a yellow card. From the spot kick, Dan Cotton gave Gay no chance, planting a fierce shot low inside his left-hand post.
The home side had taken the lead against the run of play and were lucky to still be ahead after quarter of an hour, when Kevin Hawes dragged his left-foot shot 10 yards wide of Dan Bircham’s right-hand post from a good position on the edge of the area.
AFC boss Chris Tracey, who had his captain Sam Clarke and top scorer James Baker both suspended, saw his side go 2-0 down when Cotton smashed in his second from just inside the area.
With 22 minutes gone, a throw-in deep into Sudbury’s half on the left saw neat interplay end with the ball being laid off to Cotton by Simon Flanz, and the former drilled it with venom into the bottom left-hand corner.
Dave Wareham was exploiting space down Soham’s left-hand side of their three-man midfield to send in plenty of crosses, but found them going too deep for an AFC recipient to do anything more than head back across goal into empty space.
A cross from the other side almost saw Martin Bromwich deflect past his own goalkeeper after Ryan Henshaw whipped in a low delivery.
It was the only shot AFC could count on the Soham goal in the opening 45 minutes, with Henshaw volleying well over from 20 yards as the half drew to a close with the visitors pressing for a way back into the game with Gay saving at the other end from Cotton.
Adam Dalby replaced Steve Adams as Sudbury moved to an adventurous three at the back after the break and Richard Howell stung the hands of Bircham straight from the kick off as they signalled their attacking intentions.
Michael Shinn sent a free-kick from 28 yards over the bar before Soham extended their lead on 53 minutes via their own set piece. Cotton hit a piledriver that Gay could not hold on to and Scott Carter was alert to poke the ball into the net.
Nathan Clarke headed over from Shinn’s corner, Richard Howell hooked the ball over when free from eight yards and Dave Wareham’s cross-cum-shot was just wide of the far post as Sudbury went for broke at the other end.
The goal the Yellows craved finally came via an outstetched boot from a deep Shinn free-kick on the left. From a curling delivery, Henshaw timed his run to perfection and poked beyond Bircham after 64 minutes to give the visitors hope.
But it was the Greens who then came closest to scoring, with Gay appearing to have saved from an acute angle from lively Peterborough United loanne Seymour-Shove, though the referee confused the crowd and Soham bench when he signalled for a goal-kick.
Shinn almost set-up a grand finale when his half volley fizzed two yards over the Soham bar with 15 minutes reamining, but it was the Greens who were to enjoy their Boxing Day evening the most.
AFC: Gay, Henshaw, Fox, Shinn (c), N Clarke, Adams (Dalby 45), Darg (Emmanuel 50), Brown, Hawes, Howell, Wareham. Unused subs: Sloots, Nicoll, Ben Tracey.
Free Press man of the match: Micahel Shinn.