AFC miss out on League Cup glory

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ROBERT DYAS ISTHMAIN LEAGUE CUP FINAL: Maidstone United 3 AFC Sudbury 0: AFC Sudbury saw their hopes of lifting the Isthhmain League Cup dashed after a 3-0 defeat to Maidstone United.

Against their higher league opposition, the Yellows gave a spirited display throughout but ultimately proved no match for their hosts’ pedigree as a two goal haul from Frannie Collin after the break, followed Michael Phillips’ first half opener, in a match that also saw AFC’s Ryan Henshaw dissmissed for two bookable offences.

In what was a bright start for AFC Sudbury, a flowing move down the right hand side involving James Akintunde and Sam Clarke saw the ball played to Ryan Horne, whose well struck left footed shot was well held by Lee Worgan.

At the other end, the home side then enjoyed a series of corners after nine minutes with Jack Harris calling Alex Archer into action for the first time to tip a looping header past the left upright.

That pressure continued with Archer again tested in the 14th minute as he smartly held on to Frannie Collins’ curling 25-yard free-kick.

A lull in action then proceeded as both teams enjoyed periods of possession without being able to create an meaningful chances.

That was until the 26th minute when Michael Shinn released Ben Thompson who was only denied by a vital last ditch challenge from Maidstone’s Alex Brown.

The Stones were proving a threat from corners and came close again after 30 minutes as a partially cleared set piece from the right fell to Tom Mills, who unleashed a speculative 35-yard strike narrowly past Archer’s left upright.

After 35 minutes Maidstone came inches away from breaking the deadlock as Mills’ deep cross found Steve Watts whose looping header beat Archer but not the crossbar as it came crashing back off the woodwork.

They didn’t have to wait long to open the scoring as three minutes later a short corner routine from the left saw Archer deny Alex Brown brilliantly, parrying away his shot from the edge of the area only for the ball to sit up for Michael Phillips to head home into an empty net.

Moments later Sudbury came agonsisingly close to levelling as Forshaw’s free kick from the left found Jack Wilkinson at the far post but with a goal looking certain, Worgan did brillaintly to keep the defender’s close range effort out as Maidstone cleared their lines.

The first half ended with tempers flared as Dan Parkinson went to ground too easily in the area much to the Yellow’s discontent, as the referee booked the midfielder for simulation. The resulting coming together of players from both sides also heralded bookings for Steve Watt and AFC’s Andrew Heald.

The second half started with the ball in Archer’s net after just five minutes but the visitors were spared by the assistant’s flag as Parkinson was adjudged offside from Harris’ throughball.

At the other end, Worgan had to again be alert after 67 minutes as he held onto Jamie Forshaw’s fizzing effort through a crowd of players from the edge of the area.

After 70 minutes the Sudbury custodian’s cross bar was left shaking once again as substitue Stephen Butcher let fly from the edge of the area with a raspong shot as he came inches away from doubling Maidstone’s advantage.

The momentum continued with the home side and they tested Archer again just two minutes later as Harris charged through the centre of the field before drilling an effort into the goalkeepers arms from 25-yards out.

It was then Sudbury’s turn to have a goal disallowed after 75 minutes as Wilkinson’s corner was headed home by Henshaw, only for the referee rule out his effort for an adjudged push on Alex Brown.

The visitors refused to lay down and continued to pour forward in search of an equaliser with Wilkinson firing a low right footed effort towards the bottom left corner with his effort being comfortably saved by Worgan.

With seven minutes remaining Maidstone were handed the chance to double their advantage as Henshaw sent Zac Attwood crashing to the floor in the area leaving the refereee no choice to award a penalty and dissmiss the centre half for what was his second bookable offence.

Collin took responsibility and made no mistake from the spot firing a low right footed effort beyond the reach of Archer and into the bottom left corner.

With the man advantage Maidstone refused to rest on their laurels and should have added a third but Kieran Hughees-Mason could only drag a right footed effort wide of the left post after beating Wilkinson into the area.

And with seconds remaining Collin wrapped up the trophy in added time, racing clean through before slotting past the onrushing Archer to guarantee victory.