Luke Avenal deservedly took the plaudits on Tuesday night, saving two penalties as AFC Sudbury clinched a shootout victory at Witham Town.
Avenal, 19, came on with less than a minute of normal time left in the Robert Dyas Ryman League Cup third round tie, and his first touch, on his first-team debut, saw him keep out Jordan Pavett’s penalty.
Bringing Avenal on was not a pre-planned move, said AFC manager Jamie Godbold. “A few minutes from the end we started thinking about the shootout, and asked the players on the bench if anyone wanted to go on.
“Luke fancied his chances, and thankfully it paid off. But we deserved to win the game. It was a just reward for the performance.”
Godbold had not seen Avenal in action, but said assistant manager Andy Reynolds had watched him, “and he speaks highly of him”. The keeper also saved Connor Mead’s spot-kick to leave AFC 4-3 winners.
The victory has earned AFC a home quarter-final tie against Grays Athletic, the fourth Premier Division side they have faced in the competition. A date has yet to be arranged.
Godbold is confident that AFC can make further progress. “The way we are playing, with people working hard for each other, there is no reason why we can’t go on,” he said.
Godbold, who has made a flying start to his managerial career at AFC, with three straight victories, is encouraged by the performances of his younger squad members, and the fact that the more senior players have responded to extra responsibility.
Saturday’s demolition job, the 6-1 victory over Great Wakering Rovers, was a clear demonstration of the flowing football he is encouraging. “We will always try to play. It won’t always be possible, but I want us to do what we are good at.”
AFC are in league action at Brentwood Town on Saturday (3pm).
Marcus Graham, cup-tied in midweek, returns, and Lee Flynn is back from suspension.
Lawrence Yiga is suspended for the next two games, and skipper Sam Clarke, sent off on Saturday, will miss four games in February.
“But when people are missing, we have good players who are more than capable of coming in,” said Godbold.
On Tuesday Ware are the visitors to The Wardale Williams Stadium in a league fixture (7.45pm).
n Keeper Alex Archer’s three-month loan deal at Bury Town is due to expire next week, but the clubs are in negotiations to extend it to the end of the season.