Baker bags point for Yellows as AFC match title hopefuls

TOP SCORER: James Baker ends the year with 13 goals (seven league) after his goal on Saturday earned Sudbury a point against Thurrock
TOP SCORER: James Baker ends the year with 13 goals (seven league) after his goal on Saturday earned Sudbury a point against Thurrock

Second-placed Thurrock came from behind to earn a point at a wet and windy MEL Group Stadium in an exciting Ryman One North encounter on Saturday.

With numerous games postponed because of heavy rain, a win for the visitors — who entered the match on the back of three victories — would have taken them to the top of the league table going into the Christmas period.

Traditionally games on the last Saturday before Christmas have poor attendances, but this was not the case at this game with an above average crowd of 241 braving the elements — and they were rewarded with top-class entertainment.

Tricky wide player Dave Cowley was restored to AFC’s starting 11, as was defender Josh Carus.

Sudbury had the strong wind at their backs in the first half which they dominated in terms of possession, forcing 11 corners to none from the visitors.

But they were unable to seriously trouble Andy Walker in the Thurrock goal, although midway through the half the keeper had to be at his best to keep out a close-range header from James Baker.

The second half opened in dramatic fashion when, after just 21 seconds, Sudbury opened the scoring with a superb finish from Baker.

The striker was involved in the build-up down the right when he sent Steve Spriggs away and the winger’s pass into the box found Baker, who beat the visiting keeper with a fine finish into the corner of the net.

The weather was at its worst with heavy wind and rain when Thurrock equalised just after the hour-mark.

From their first corner, home custodian Alex Archer did well to parry the ball away, but Lewis Spence was on hand to head home from close range.

Almost straight from the restart, visiting custodian Walker went full length to deny Matt Daniels.

From then on, Thurrock piled on the pressure, but were unable to pierce the home defence for the second time with Archer making several fine saves to earn his side a share of the spoils and extend his team’s unbeaten run to seven games.

David Batch’s side make the short journey to Bloomfields today to play Needham Market (1pm) before two home games in five days — Maldon and Tiptree’s visit on Saturday (3pm) followed by Dereham Town on New Year’s Day. (3pm).

AFC Sudbury: Archer, Mitchell, Carus, Daniels, Henshaw, Crane, S Spriggs, Clarke, Baker, Hughes, Cowley (R Spriggs 60). Unused subs: Cawley, Swatman, Shinn, Thompson.

Free Press man of the match: Goalkeeper Alex Archer. 
After a very quiet first 
half he excelled in the 
second period when the visitors piled on the pressure.

AFC yellow cards: Steve Spriggs, Sam Clarke, James Baker and Ollie Hughes (all fouls).

Attendance: 241