EMIRATES FA CUP
FIRST QUALIFYING ROUND
AFC Sudbury 6
Halstead Town 0
Luke Callander is well aware that he far from guaranteed a place in the AFC Sudbury starting line-up for Saturday’s clash against Tonbridge Angels, despite notching four goals in the FA Cup demolition of Halstead Town.
The 2015/16 campaign was a productive one for the centre-forward, who netted 24 goals in his 49 outings for the Yellows.
However, following the club’s promotion to the Ryman League Premier Division, Callander has found himself among the substitutes on occasions this term, with manager Jamie Godbold opting to use the converted Liam Wales through the middle.
But while his quartet of strikes at The Wardale Williams Stadium will have done his chances no harm, the ex-Chelmsford City man has stressed he cannot afford to take anything for granted.
“It’s good to have a big squad. We had a settled team last year, but we are up a league this year so we need options from the bench to change things around and rest people,” he said.
“It is down to the management team and what they want to do. If they want to change things, you have to accept that.
“When you get the chance to start or come off the bench, it’s about making sure that you do the business.
“You need competition for places. If you have not got that, you become stale and there is no real reason to play well.
“There is nobody to take your place, so competition keeps you on your toes.”
Callander’s impact off the bench during the Bank Holiday draw at Lowestoft Town was widely praised and earned him a start for the visit of Halstead — a side three divisions below their hosts.
And it took the recalled frontman only 10 minutes to make the first of his major contributions.
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 over an advancing Joe Fowler.
In response, Halstead skipper Marcus Warren’s cross was just behind Sam Cripps as he sought a tap-in before 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 Sam Bantick, who himself scored four goals for the club’s development side earlier that week, 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 the Lowestoft 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 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 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 Jordan Blackwell — now bound for Brightlingsea Regent on loan — to tuck the ball inside the near post.
The scoreline for the losing side could be interpreted as the stuff of nightmares.
Nevertheless, Halstead boss Mark Benterman was full of praise for his charges after an FA Cup run that saw them dump out higher-league Newmarket Town and Thurrock.
“We said all week that whatever happens, we have got to be happy with the journey we have been on to get here,” he said.
“We have enjoyed ourselves. We looked to get the ball down and play some good football. I think neutrals will have been impressed.
“Unfortunately their class came through for them when they needed it to. They won the match through their front four.
“We are a tight knit group and this run and experience will bring us closer together.”
n The week 19 winners of the AFC Gold fund-raiser are: £100 (258) S Haynes, Gaol Lane, Sudbury; £10 (244) K Fairbrother, Bradford Drive, Colchester; £10 (210) Chris & Andy Cutters, Sudbury.