RYMAN LEAGUE DIVISION ONE NORTH AFC Sudbury 1
Maldon and Tiptree 0
AFC Sudbury captain Sam Clarke said his side’s ability to work their socks off was what their new manager will have learned from his first game.
The AFC players had only been introduced to former Kirkley and Pakefield boss Jamie Godbold, who was announced as David Batch’s successor last Saturday, at training on Thursday.
But they took little time in showing him they are quite capable of rolling their sleeves up and digging their heels in to get a result on a boggy pitch when it is needed — a trait skipper Clarke says new director of football and head of youth development Danny Laws is responsible for.
“I just think what Lawsy implemented when he took over was a work ethic, which Jamie has got as well,” said Clarke. “And I think that little change has just given everyone a kick up the bum. Everyone has taken to it and is working really hard.”
Ryan Henshaw’s 16th-minute half-volley, running on to Kris Newby’s free-kick at the far post, gave the new manager — who had left the team selection to previous caretaker-manager Laws after two wins from three games in charge — a perfect start, but still with a long time for it to be undone.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and the pitch was always going to be difficult,” said Clarke, of their main obstacle to instantly implementing Godbold’s preferred short-game style. “They were on a bit of good form, like us.
“We knew they were a dogged team and we were in for a fight, and I think everyone really dug in.”
With defenders Craig Pope (the first of four games) and Lee Flynn (the first of three) suspended, and defender or striker James Baker working away in the USA, under-19s Scott Kemp, Tyler Kemp and Jordan Blackwell all started, with their captain full of praise for their mature displays.
He said: “The club is obviously looking to bring young players through and they could have been 18, 17 or 30 and played x amount of games in non-League, they were that good.”
The 16th-placed visitors were quickest out of the blocks and the side, rejigged and rejuvenated since Alan Kimble took over in late September, almost took the lead within the opening seven minutes when the home defence was caught out by a ricochet that put forward Alex Andrews in on goal, but goalkeeper Marcus Garnham was quick off his line to narrow the angle.
The weak shot came out off his foot, but Mason Bloomfield’s follow-up equally lacked the power to trouble him.
AFC recovered from the early scare well and took the lead just after the quarter-of-an-hour-mark via Newby’s inviting curling set piece from 25 yards out, which caught out Maldon’s backline as Henshaw ghosted in to turn it beyond Darren Behcet.
With the earlier edginess now removed, the hosts confidently probed for a second, but did not have the quality to do so, despite Lawrence Yiga’s rising 30-yard piledriver, Rymer’s attempt to generate power with his head on a floated ball and Newby — the best of the lot by some distance —skying a shot when latching on to a poor clearance from Behcet.
It could have proved costly just before the break when some neat inter-play saw Nathan Koranteng put through down the left channel and he outpaced and outmuscled Yiga before seeing his low drive going just the wrong side of the far post.
AFC began the second half having to soak up early Maldon pressure, but impressive left-back Tyler Kemp was soon breaking through the middle of the park and letting fly from 25 yards, with Behcet having to push it away, though in truth it suffered from being straight at him.
A poor kick from Ganrham almost let the visitors in for an equaliser, but a foul from Henshaw saved his blushes, even though Mason Bloomfield’s shot under pressure was going wide.
Chances for either side continued to get further and further apart as the pitch, subject to rain and a snow flurry in the morning, deteriorated further, with Scott Kemp getting far too much under a lob shot in the area.
Sturdy defending, particularly from man-of-the-match Henshaw, was responsible for the visitors being unable to register a shot in the second half as the clock ticked down.
Another under-18s player, midfielder Josh Kerridge, came into the fray for Jordan Blackwell and the Essex visitors could have been reduced to 10 men when Mitch Hunter floored Newby, though was grateful to only see yellow with his side unable to produce a late leveller.
New manager Godbold could not hide his smile after the final whistle, having got off to a 100 per cent start.
“I thought we probably deserved it on the balance of play,” he said. “We got a goal ahead and we ground out a win.
“The conditions did not allow it to be pretty in the second half, but credit to us, we did not let them settle and Marcus did not really have a save to make.”