Resurgent striker sets his sights on promotion glory

ON TARGET: James Baker who grabbed his 20th goal of the season in a vital 2-0 victory over play-off rivals Dereham
ON TARGET: James Baker who grabbed his 20th goal of the season in a vital 2-0 victory over play-off rivals Dereham

James Baker is confident he is finally over his torrid injury hell as he sets his sights on firing AFC Sudbury into the Ryman Premier.

The powerful striker notched his 20th goal of the season in all competitions as he followed up Steve Spriggs’ 22nd-minute strike moments before the break as the Yellows sealed a vital 2-0 win over play-off-chasing rivals Dereham Town on Tuesday.

Having overcome persistent problems last season, in which he was limited to just 22 appearances, Baker is now hoping to make up for lost time and inspire David Batch’s side to promotion glory.

“Last year was very disappointing with the injuries and I couldn’t score as many as I should but thankfully this season I’m back to where I should be,” he said. “I’m absolutely delighted to be over the injuries and be back.

“I’m hoping to get another 10 goals, which would take me to 30, and hopefully I can play my part in keeping us on track for promotion.

“We have games in hand and if we can keep going like we have then I think we have a good chance.

“As long as we can keep beating the teams around us then we should be alright.

“We are a pretty down to earth bunch and won’t be getting carried away, but if we can keep chipping away then hopefully we will be rewarded.”

After a bright start from the visitors, in which Jay Eastoe-Smith saw a header cleared off the line and Shaun Bammant fired narrowly wide, Sudbury opened the scoring in the 22nd minute.

Dereham failed to clear a corner from the right-hand side and, with the ball falling kindly at his feet, Spriggs made no mistake, clinically firing a left-foot strike past Will Viner and into the left corner.

With the momentum switched firmly in favour of the hosts, Spriggs was gifted with a golden opportunity to double his and AFC’s tally shortly after.

Having robbed centre-half Eastoe-Smith on the halfway line, Spriggs raced into the area, but despite beating Viner with a low strike he could only watch on as his effort came bouncing back off the post.

However, the hosts would not have to wait long for a second goal, which arrived courtesy of Baker in spectacular fashion moments before the break.

With the ball played into his feet on the edge of the area, the 27-year-old flicked the ball up and in one motion spun to volley home despite the best efforts of Viner and Gary Starling on the line.

With the second half just four minutes old, Sudbury should have extended their lead further, but Sam Clarke could only head Michael Shinn’s inch-perfect cross over from just five yards out.

Dereham continued to struggle to create any real clear-cut openings with Samuel Borrer’s effort from inside the area being deflected wide as the host’s rearguard stood firm.

Archer was finally called into action again in injury time to push Aaron Kay’s free-kick wide, while Starling dragged a long range effort wide as Sudbury held out for victory.

AFC Sudbury: Archer 7, Mitchell 7 (Hughes 94, 6), Cawley 8, Shinn 7, Henshaw 7, Crane 7, Spriggs 8 (Thompson, 74, 6) Clarke 7, BAKER 8 (Akintunde 82, 6), Swatman 7, Horne 7, Subs not used: Crissell, Forshaw.

Attendance: 154.

Referee: Darren Stobbart.