Three first-half goals sent AFC Sudbury on their way to claiming a seventh straight Ryman League Division One North win this afternoon — creating a new club record at step four level.
The Yellows had gone into the game hoping to be top of the tree at Christmas by taking advantage should Cray Wanderers, who they beat in Essex on Tuesday, slip-up and suffer a second consecutive home defeat.
A delightful 18th minute curling opener by Joe Maybanks got the club’s second highest attendance of the season (283) warmed up for the occasion, before Craig Parker’s far post header (25 minutes) made it 2-0 before the half-hour mark.
But Cray soon kicked into life to bounce back from their AFC humbling to wipe out any lingering thoughts of leapfrogging them, the Essex side eventually winning 4-0 at home to Barkingside.
The first-half party continued at AFC though with some delightful ‘ole passing moves’ soon culminating in Luke Callander slipping the ball under James Marrable for his 17th goal of the season nine minutes before the break.
Marcus Garnham, in the home goal, went into the interval having not had to make a proper save.
The second half never lived up to the first for AFC, with Aveley much more in the game than in the first 45 minutes as they looked to get a foothold back into the match.
It eventually came a little too late, in the 76th minute when new signing Michael Pinder marked his first appearance, from the substitutes bench, with a headed goal at the far post from Abs Seymour’s hanging cross.
Before that, Callander had bundled in a fourth goal from a corner, only to see it ruled out for a foul in the box.
Jordan Blackwell went closest to extending AFC’s lead when Marrable was equal to his rising shot inside the area, turning it round his left-hand post as the game entered the final 10 minutes.
Home defender James Baker was the first player from either side to be shown a card, his yellow for a handling the ball coming in the 87th minute to demonstrate what a clean game of football it had been.
Captain Sam Clarke also went into the official’s book, for a foul, with the winning record at step four comfortably captured in the end, despite the home performance level tailing off significantly from the first half display.
The result leaves AFC on 57 points from their opening 25 matches, three points behind leaders Cray, but with two games in hand still.
Third-placed AFC Hornchurch’s 2-0 home win against bottom side Waltham Abbey means they remain five points adrift of Sudbury, having also played 25 matches.
The Yellows are next in action on Boxing Day, when they make the relatively short journey down the A131 to Witham, who currently occupy 17th place in the table and have won three, drew three and lost four of their 10 home games.
AFC Sudbury: Garnham, Robinson, Wilkinson, Berquez (Bailey 63), Henshaw, Baker, Blackwell, S Clarke (cpt), Callander (Newman 78), Parker, Maybanks (G Clarke 57).
Free Press Man of The Match: Jordan Blackwell.
Referee: Rob Hyde.