THURLOW NUNN LEAGUE
AFC Sudbury Reserves 1
Cornard United 0
A contentious Danny Bloomfield penalty on the hour mark helped keep the feelgood factor flowing strong around AFC Sudbury as the Reserves made it five league wins on the spin with a 1-0 victory over club legend Chris Tracey’s Cornard United.
With the first team having set a club record of eight Ryman League wins at step four level with their Boxing Day victory at Witham Town (the record itself broke with a 3-1 home win over Aveley the previous Saturday), Danny Laws’ Reserves were determined not to let the home fans down.
And although they struggled to provide any real penetration in the final third, some dominant possession football and neat flicks were rightly rewarded with another three points in the Bank Holiday Monday bonanza.
Tracey, who captained the club to two memorable FA Vase finals as well as having an unsuccessful stint in trying to managing the club to a higher level, returned in the away dugout having ended a break from Thurlow Nunn League football earlier this season by replacing Paul Grainger at Blackhouse Lane.
AFC (7th) had gone into the game looking to complete the league double over their struggling rivals (17th) after first half goals from skipper Harry Seal and James Axcel had been enough to earn the spoils back in October in front of a crowd of 107.
In front of a crowd almost double that size on a game that was never troubled by the weather due to it being an artificial 3G surface, there was to be little to cheer in terms of goalmouth action in the first 45 minutes as AFC dominated possession while being wasteful with any rare openings that did get carved out.
Midfielder Jack Newman was one of a trio first-team boss Jamie Godbold had requested play after George Clarke and himself made their return from injury, while tricky winger Liam Wales, signed from arch rivals Bury Town in the summer, also started after seeing his Ryman League opportunities diminished through illness.
Shortly before Wales had a wild sliced effort fly out for a throw-in to sum up the lack of quality in the final third in the opening stages, Newman had almost got things right when curling a 27th minute free-kick on the edge of the area, with some having appealed in vain for a penalty, over Aaron Reid’s top right-hand corner.
Wales was finding his feet on his return to action and flashed a long-range effort wide to make up for his earlier mishap while Wayne Blackman, another player with first-team experience, was soon in the thick of the action, sending a looping header from a Wales corner over the bar before almost finishing an eye-catching move with a low shot that went the wrong side of the near post, from a home perspective, from an acute angle.
The second half saw Cornard, who in stark contrast to their opponents had lost their last four league matches, threaten more as the hosts’ pretty passing game began to falter slightly.
Billy Skinner was guilty of a bad miss when he made a poor connection on a delicious cross from Casey Emblem, with the spinning scuffed shot going just wide from a good position in front of the middle of the goal.
At the other end left-back Alfie Carroll had no such problems catching a clean strike on his shot, but saw his effort cannon back off a defender as goals continued to look unlikely.
But the home fans were soon jumping up and down to celebrate one when a tricky run from Wales invited a trailing leg in the area, and despite the former Team Bury wing wizard not going to ground and getting his shot away, which was deflected wide, the referee surprised the majority of the crowd by pointing to the penalty spot.
Veteran striker Bloomfield took full advantage with a blockbuster of a spot kick, sending the ball flying into the top left-hand corner as Reid went the other way.
Tracey responded by bringing on targetman Tom Lampshire, but the brother of Bury Town and Mildenhall Town dual registered striker David Lampshire, was unable to make a dream derby cameo.
James Claydon came the nearest to forcing the almost redundant Louis Johnson into a sweat, curling past AFC’s left-hand post from range, though in reality it was never troubling his goal.
James Axcell’s introduction from the bench sparked some fresh life into the hosts, and they looked odds on to score when Newman led a break from a Cornard free-kick in a three on four. But James Baughurst’s pass across goal was poor and too far for Axcell to keep in.
But they were unable to add to their tally as they comfortably held on to their slender lead for a fifth straight league win and nine in their last 11 in all competitions.
AFC RES: Johnson, Mills, Carroll, Baughurst, French, S Mallardo, Blackman, Newman, G Clarke (Axcell), Bloomfield, Wales (Ryan McNicholas 88). Unused subs: Pidgeon, Aveley, Dunlop.
CORNARD: Reid, McLarkley, Sloots, Morley, Edwards, Dowding, Skinner, LePage (Lampshire 61), Claydon, Emblem, Morgan (Doherty 90+1). (Collins 87). Unused subs: Beckett, B Tracey, Collins.
Free Press Man of The Match: Liam Wales. A constant thorn in Cornard’s side after dropping down from the first-team to gain match sharpness.