sudbury hit by sucker punch

GOING CLOSE: Max Booth, who made his stay with AFC Sudbury permanent ahead of Tuesday, runs in on goal before being thwarted
GOING CLOSE: Max Booth, who made his stay with AFC Sudbury permanent ahead of Tuesday, runs in on goal before being thwarted
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BOSTIK LEAGUE

DIVISION ONE NORTH

FULL LENGTH: Soham goalkeeper Josh Pope pushes an early effort from Max Booth around his post

FULL LENGTH: Soham goalkeeper Josh Pope pushes an early effort from Max Booth around his post

AFC Sudbury 0

Soham Town Rangers 1

AFC Sudbury could not find the key to unlock the back door of an out-of-form Soham side who hit them with a second-half sucker punch to end their unbeaten run on Tuesday.

It was a stark contrast to Saturday’s free-scoring performance which had seen the Yellows cruise into a 4-0 lead, before hanging on to win 4-3.

AFC’s bright young players showed they can move the ball around nicely, but had no killer instinct to secure the points that were there for the taking, against a Soham side who came into the contest on the back of three straight defeats.

In the end it was a perfect away display from Robbie Mason’s side, as they soaked up pressure from the hosts, who rarely threatened Josh Pope, before snatching victory with a goal on the break, finished by Craig Gillies shortly after the hour mark.

AFC’s assistant manager Lee Norfolk was left to rue a lack of ideas in the final third which ultimately ended their four-match unbeaten league run.

“I think we suffered a typical away-from-home performance by Soham,” he said. “They set out to counter and they did that well for the goal.

“We had a lot of possession but we didn’t have that bit of quality around the final third. That was what was missing and we got punished for it.

“As good as we were Saturday, you can’t really diagnose why it was missing.

“Probably a few players had an off night and when you have too many players like that, no-one is going to be the person making the difference for you.

“It is one of them that I think if we had played for 180 minutes we probably still wouldn’t have scored.

“Well done to Soham, it is frustrating for us as they have come here and done a job, and done it well.”

With an unchanged starting XI from Saturday, Green goalkeeper Pope made a good low early save at his near-post from AFC’s Max Booth, but it was the visitors who looked the more likely to open the scoring early on.

Joe Carden drew a save from Sudbury goalkeeper Paul Walker, while Lee Chaffey could not direct a free header at goal, before Walker then had to beat out Jon Kaye’s effort, all inside a frantic opening 15 minutes.

Sudbury soon began to dominate the ball but could not find a killer ball, while Soham players were on the receiving end of a flurry of cards as the referee looked to clamp down on back-chat.

Just before the break, Joe Walker had to clear off the line from Joe Bennett as the wide man’s shot rolled goalwards.

The second half saw a lot fewer clear-cut chances as Sudbury’s probing failed to yield any rewards.

But Soham always looked dangerous on the counter, and it was from one such move that they scored what proved to be the game’s only goal.

Joe Carden carried well after AFC squandered possession, but his shot was pushed out by Paul Walker, only for Gillies to gobble up the rebound from six yards out.

When Booth was finally put beyond the defence, Pope was smartly off his line and blocked well.

While defensively Soham were limiting chances to long-range efforts, with Reece Dobson lashing one wildly over, substitute Marcus Hall should have wrapped things up in the 82nd minute, but dragged his shot wide of the far post.

There was almost late drama when Billy Holland’s effort, following a corner, had to be hacked off the line by Will Gardner. But it was not to be AFC’s evening.

Reflecting on Saturday’s three points, Norfolk said:

“In the first half we were fantastic; the best 45 minutes we have had this season, and the second half we went away from what we were doing well and they upped it a bit and played a bit more direct.

“Once they got the first we could have gone 5-1 up and I think that would have been out of sight, but they got a bit more belief and put us under pressure.

“At the end of the day it is 4-3 but we have held out.”

Tuesday’s defeat left AFC 13th in the table, ahead of a daunting trip to new league leaders AFC Hornchurch on Saturday (3pm), before travelling to current eighth place side Potters Bar Town on Tuesday (7.45pm).

“Hornchurch are a high-flying side with a lot of experience that we will have to cope with and we might have to get by with less possession,” said Norfolk. “We might have to do what Soham have done and be a bit more patient and look for counter-attacks.”

n Sudbury have been left to just focus on the league now, having lost 3-2 at Thamesmead Town last Wednesday in The Velocity Trophy (league cup), with Panashe Mundawarara’s goal, at 16 years and 195 days, making him the club’s youngest ever first-team scorer.

n AFC Sudbury: P Walker, Mills (Colclough 72’), J Walker (Grimes 72’), Holland, French, Whight (c), Peters, Hunter, Booth, Dobson, Maycock (Eaton-Collins 63’). Unused subs: Mundawarara, Collins (gk).

Attendance: 162

Free Press Man of The Match: Ben Hunter.