Young AFC battle to draw
DIVISION ONE NORTH
AFC Sudbury 1
When AFC Sudbury next run out at the King’s Marsh Stadium, The Who’s 1966 hit ‘The Kids Are Alright’ would be a very apt choice of pre-match music.
Following his appointment at the start of the month, Sudbury boss Mark Morsley stressed he would have no qualms about delving into the club’s successful academy.
And he has been true to his word, with no fewer than 10 academy graduates included in the matchday squad for Tuesday’s score draw with Aveley.
Inexperience — plus some tiredness — may have risen to the surface during the second half, but the youngsters showed enough during an impressive first-half display to suggest the club’s future is in good hands.
“The result is the right one,” said Morsley when asked to reflect on the encounter.
“We were by far the better side in the first half and should have had two or three goals and it was the same for them in the second half.
“We need to really look at what is in the building here because there is a lot of talent.
“I have changed the players who I feel are not going to take us where we want to go.
“That is no criticism of them — it is my decision and my opinion as a manager.
“The Under-18s won everything last year and they deserve to be trusted.
“We can try to shape them to play in the style we want them to perform.
“I am not going to criticise any player who makes a mistake while trying to get the ball down and play football.
“There are times when we need to be a little bit braver on the ball, especially in the second half — it will come.”
AFC were on the front foot from the first whistle and were close to taking the lead in the ninth minute.
Ben Hunter — making his full debut in a yellow shirt — looped a header over Rhys Madden in the Aveley goal, but George Woodward got back on the line to clear the danger.
However, just two minutes later the deadlock was broken thanks to the recent arrival of Needham Market duo Joe Whight and Billy Holland.
Defender Whight, who remained in the attacking third after a corner had been cleared, cut the ball back for Holland on the edge of the box.
The midfielder took one touch to compose himself before unleashing a rising effort that flew into the top corner of the net — a fine way to open his AFC account.
Some of the interplay that followed from Sudbury was a joy to behold as they broke from back to front quickly, with goalscorer Holland pulling the strings in the centre of the pitch.
In fact, the only real negative note of the first half for Sudbury came in the 34th minute when the lively Jake Clowsley was forced off through injury, replaced by debutant Jake Colclough.
Sudbury’s domination meant Aveley offered very little in an attacking sense during the opening 45 minutes, with home goalkeeper Paul Walker predominantly a spectator.
But with a spring in their step — and perhaps a flea in their ear from new manager James Webster —the visitors looked a different proposition after the restart.
They signalled their intent as early as the 47th minute when Nathan Koranteng cut in from the right flank and drilled in a left footed shot.
The ball flew past Walker, but thankfully for Sudbury it cannoned against the post, shot across the face of the goal and was cleared to safety.
Just three minutes later the same player struck an almost identical effort, though on this occasion Walker got strong hands behind it to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Walker went on to frustrate Adam Bolle from close range with 72 minutes on the clock, but the resistance was eventually broken nine minutes from time.
A George Doyle free-kick from the left touchline caused problems for the AFC defence and Jordan Watson pounced, firing in from six yards out beyond a helpless Walker.
It was a case of hold on to what you have got for Sudbury thereafter, particularly when defender Tyler French limped off in the 83rd minute with Morsley having used all of his permitted substitutes.
With the numerical advantage, Aveley managed to carve out one more opportunity which Watson sent skidding wide of the target.
Sudbury: Walker, Mills, Clowsley (Colclough 34), Clarke, French, Whight, Peters, Holland, Eaton-Collins (Maybanks 74), Hunter (Watson 68), Dunlop
Free Press Man of the Match - Billy Holland: Scored a really good goal and was neat and tidy in midfield
Referee: George Byrne
After travelling to league-leading Canvey Island on Saturday (3pm), Sudbury return to home surroundings on Tuesday night with the visit of Haverhill Borough in the Suffolk Premier Cup (7.45pm).
The winner of that tie will be at home to Needham Market in November.
Sudbury last won the competition during the 2003/04 season.