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AFC Sudbury recover from a goal down to beat Walsham-le-Willows in final of the Suffolk FA Under-18 Midweek Cup at Ipswich Town's Portman Road




They were given an early scare, but AFC Sudbury recovered to win the Suffolk FA Under-18 Midweek Cup for the fourth season in a row at Ipswich Town's Portman Road last night.

Opponents Walsham-le-Willows, who were recently crowned Thurlow Nunn League Central Division champions, hinted that a shock was on the cards when Jack Spampantao handed them a sixth-minute lead.

However, a Sudbury side containing a number of players that have played for the club's first team in the Bostik League North Division this term rallied, drawing level soon after through left-back Ross Crane.

FOOTBALL - Suffolk U18 Midweek Cup final - AFC Sudbury v Walsham Le Willows..Pictured: ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (9985635)
FOOTBALL - Suffolk U18 Midweek Cup final - AFC Sudbury v Walsham Le Willows..Pictured: ....PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (9985635)

Two first-half stoppage-time goals from Isaac Skubich put AFC in control heading into the break, with Oliver Gravett wrapping up the 4-1 win soon after the restart.

Walsham – also beaten by Sudbury in the 2017 final – were underdogs from the off, but to their credit it was a bright start and after seeing off a couple of attacks, they took the lead.

A neat passing move eventually fell to the feet of midfielder Spampanato 25 yards from goal, from where he unleashed a dipping shot that got the better of Sam Wright in the Sudbury goal.

However, they were not in front for too long as the AFC youngsters responded in positive fashion. First captain Adam Hanson saw his headed effort turned behind by Walsham goalkeeper Dan Stobbart before Joe Grimwood was off target from the resultant corner.

The pressure was building and it was no great surprise when Sudbury levelled up the scoreline with 12 minutes on the clock. Crane, who impressed in his 14 senior appearances this season, capitalised on some hesitancy in the Walsham defence to fire low inside the far post from a tight angle.

After that it was largely one-way traffic as Walsham stopper Stobbart was called into the action to deny the likes of Hanson, Gravett and Tom Maycock twice, while up the other end Will Stobbart's speculative effort from 30 yards out grazed the top of the crossbar on its way over.

It seemed as though Walsham's hard work was going to send them into the break level at a goal apiece, yet their resistance was crucially broken not once but twice in the moments before the half-time whistle to change the whole complexion of the encounter.

In the second minute of time added on Skubich calmly steered his shot from the edge of the box low into the bottom corner, while within 60 seconds he had another goal to his name, this time producing a volley from Liam Bennett's right-wing cross that was too powerful for Stobbart.

And any hopes of a Walsham comeback were extinguished just five minutes into the second half when they were unable to clear Crane's cross from the left, leaving Gravett to turn the ball in from close range.

The remainder of the match was all about game management for AFC, who in the main managed to keep Walsham at arm's length, while their best chance of extending their lead fell to Gravett in the 74th minute, but after latching on to Hanson's slide rule pass he shot off target.

The two sides will meet again next Friday at Diss Town's Brewers Green Lane ground in the final of the Thurlow Nunn Youth League Championship (7.30pm).

* For reaction to the Portman Road final from coaches on both sides and more pictures, see next week's print editions.



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