EMIRATES FA CUP FIRST QUALIFYING ROUND: AFC Sudbury 6 Halstead Town 0
There are just eight miles between the towns of Sudbury and Halstead on the map, but during Saturday’s FA Cup tie there was a much greater chasm between the two teams.
In fairness to Halstead Town, who had already dumped higher-league Newmarket Town and Thurrock out of the competition, they did not appear overawed at the prospect of facing a side three divisions higher themselves.
But while manager Mark Benterman will have wanted his charges to play with freedom — which they did on occasions — it probably also contributed to their downfall as a clinical AFC side pounced to hit them for six.
Four of those goals came courtesy of the recalled Luke Callander, with Sam Bantick — a scorer of four goals himself during the week for the club’s Under-23 side — and substitute Jordan Blackwell also weighing in.
Callender’s impact off the bench during the Bank Holiday draw at Lowestfot Town was widely praised and earned him a start at The Wardale Williams Stadium for Halstead’s visit.
And it took the striker just 10 minutes to make the first of his four telling contributions to proceedings.
Jack Wilkinson floated a ball over the top from his left-back position and with the Halstead defence appealing for an offside flag that never came, Callander smartly lifted the ball over an advancing Joe Fowler.
In response, Halstead skipper Marcus Warren’s cross was just behind Sam Cripps as he sought a tap-in and then moments later the latter blazed over from 20 yards out.
The bigger threat always came from the home side, though, with only some last ditch defending denying Bantick and Rob Eagle in quick succession.
Yet summer signing Bantick refused to be denied and his persistence was rewarded with 37 minutes on the clock.
Callander’s first-time pass released the number seven and despite seeing his first shot thwarted by Fowler, Bantick was alert to fire in the rebound from close range.
Now in the ascendancy, it was 3-0 four minutes before the break as Callander doubled his tally for the afternoon.
A slide-rule pass from Bantick sent Eagle scampering towards the right byline. The majority of those inside the area would have been expecting a floated cross, but Monday’s point-rescuer pulled the ball back instead for Callander to fire into the roof of the net.
With a hat-trick firmly in his sights, the ex-Chelmsford City man wasted no time in completing his trio.
Not even 60 seconds of the second half had elapsed when Wilkinson crossed towards the back post for Bantick, who nodded the ball into Callander’s path and he bundled home.
His fourth and Sudbury’s fifth goal of the tie then arrived in the 53rd minute and saw the frontman display great strength to hold off a rather combative challenge from Halstead defender Lewis Cunliffe, before rounding Fowler and rolling his shot into the far corner.
Six minutes later Callander was one of three Sudbury players to be substituted by manager Jamie Godbold and it was a replacement that completed the scoring with his very first touch.
A cross from Bantick skidded all the way across the box for Blackwell to tuck the ball inside the near post.
All the while Halstead kept their heads up and would have got themselves the consolation goal that their spirited display deserved in the 61st minute, but Sudbury goalkeeper Marcus Garnham showed good reflexes to tip over Cripps’ acrobatic attempt.
Bantick and James Baker spurned opportunities to extend Sudbury’s lead further in the closing stages, while substitute Liam Wales saw his goal from close range ruled out for offside.
* The Yellows will learn the identity of their Second Qualifying Round opponents when the draw is made on Monday.
AFC Sudbury: Garnham, Robinson, Henshaw, Baker, Wilkinson (Wales 59), Eagle (Newman 59), Clarke, Parker, Greene, Bantick, Callander (Blackwell 59)
Halstead: Fowler, Wilderspin (Pleace 64), Cunliffe, Spriggs, Hurkett (Murray 46), Simon-Parson, Brown, Hutchings, Warren, Cripps, O’Hare (Crick 46)
Free Press Man of the Match: Luke Callander
* For match reaction from both sides, including quotes from four-goal hero Luke Callander, see this Thursday’s Suffolk Free Press print edition. Also, watch manager Jamie Godbold’s views on the game on the Suffolk Free Press website on Monday lunchtime.