AFC skipper is raring to go as Sudbury look to stop rot

INJURY RETURN: Sam Clarke, right, who returned to action for the first time since August             MSFP-31-07-12 BC 055
INJURY RETURN: Sam Clarke, right, who returned to action for the first time since August MSFP-31-07-12 BC 055

Sam Clarke can’t wait to start influencing AFC Sudbury’s season on the pitch after making his long-awaited return to action on Tuesday evening.

The club captain played his first minutes since sustaining a fractured arm at Harlow Town on August 27 in a hastily-arranged home friendly with Walsham-le-Willows.

Clarke was delighted to get 72 minutes under his belt against the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division leaders and now hopes to quickly cement his spot back in AFC’s starting XI.

“It was good to play — the main feeling was relief,” he said. “The arm has 100 per cent healed and it is just about getting the match sharpness now.”

With Chris Tracey’s side currently on a run of three straight league defeats, having conceded 13 goals in those games, Tuesday’s 4-1 reverse to a lower league side did nothing for confidence ahead of hosting fellow mid-table side Chatham Town on Saturday (3pm).

But Clarke insists the main thing was getting players back out on the pitch, with assistant manager Michael Shinn (knee) and fellow midfielder Ben Bowdtich (hamstring) also making returns, though the latter worryingly only lasted 43 first-half minutes.

“We approached it totally as a fitness exercise as we had not got to do anything for a few weeks,” he said.

“The result is what everyone sees, but as a team it was a chance for Lurch (Chris Tracey) to have a look at a few people in a few positions and for players who needed minutes to get some.”

The midfield general is set to make only his fourth appearance of the season when Kent side Chatham visit on Saturday, with club groundsman Danny Crosbie hoping Tuesday’s game hasn’t too badly affected an already boggy pitch, following the snow melting.

Clarke said: “I am not sure what Lurch will do, but I will be available for selection.

“He might not start me because he thinks I am not ready.”

The Chats beat Needham Market 1-0 in Suffolk on Tuesday to record their third win in their last four games and Clarke is expecting a tough game, with an early home goal seen as key.

“They will be well organised and hard to break down,” said the Yellows’ skipper.

Clarke had hoped to return from his arm injury in late October, but found himself having to wait until last week to be given the all clear.