The Rymans League Division One North returned to the Kings Marsh for the first time since September 9th with bottom-placed Flackwell Heath the visitors. A.F.C. Sudbury were without the suspended Shane Wardley who is available for selection on Tuesday evening against Waltham Abbey when Sudbury again return to Kings Marsh in league action. Danny Cunningham was drafted straight into the squad after his move from Bury Town.
Flackwell Heath kicked off the game on a bright afternoon. The pitch was heavy, but held up well after the deluge less than 24 hours earlier. Sudbury started brightly with a strong Luke Hammond run winning the home side a 4th minute free-kick in central midfield. Danny Cunninghams first action in an A.F.C. Sudbury shirt was to deliver a teasing free-kick which Flackwells keeper Nick Hart punched clear. Cunningham re-delivered the ball, but Hart rose commandingly to claim the ball.
Danny George and Paul Kelly collided mid-tackle on half-way leaving the Flackwell Heath number 8 in need of a lengthy treatment break. Fortunately both players were able to continue. Sudbury put together a swift attacking move after 11 minutes when Pip Boyland found Danny Cunningham on half-way. Cunninghams pass to the left saw James Rowe power towards goal, but his shot flashed across goal where Terry Rayner managed to get a head on the ball which flew wide of the far post.
Brian Connor conceded a corner for the visitors when Darren Bethells persistence saw him run out of time and options on the goal-line, but Cunninghams corner was a comfortable take for goalkeeper Hart. Flackwell broke away and Jon Donoghues path to goal was halted by a fine sprawling save by Nathan Munson with Donny George in close attention. Luke Hammonds superb ball switched left to Cunningham on the quarter hour saw the debutant win his side a corner. Hammonds initial delivery from the left was poor, but when the ball returned to him, he almost sent Darren Bethell through, but the ball skipped too readily off the damp surface and out of play.
On 20 minutes Paul Kelly unleashed a drive from 20 yards which was an easy gather for Munson. On 25 minutes Sudbury put together another terrific move. David Head ran strongly from the back and found James Rowe. His quick cross was inches away from the advancing Danny Cunningham who was a whisker away from a debut goal. Cunningham immediately created another half-chance on the left, unleashing a powerful volley which veered just wide of the left upright.
The pacey Andrew Finlay found himself with just Munson to beat on the half-hour, but the Sudbury goalkeeper positioned himself brilliantly and the Flackwell Heath striker shot wide of the far post. Flackwell won their first corner on 31 minutes and Matt Rolf headed Bowlers delivery wide. Danny Cunninghams neat turn on half-way illustrated his growing confidence and his superb pass reached Terry Rayner whose thumped shot was excellently saved by Hart.
Josiah Hunt was replaced for the visitors by Kieran Thorne after just 32 minutes. Luke Hammond was enjoying a superb performance and on 35 minutes he freed Terry Rayner on the right with another slide-rule pass of sheer quality. Rayners cross almost reached Darren Bethell who was denied by a good tackle at the heart of Flackwells four-man defence. Danny Cunninghams fine half-way line tackle saw him exchange passes with Darren Bethell and again just miss out on a debut goal as the pass was just inches short of Cunninghams advancing boots.
HALF TIME 0-0
Sudbury rang the changes at the break with Andy Claydon and John Pollard coming onto the field, Terry Rayner and Donny George making way. Sudbury started the half very strongly, Cunninghams 47th minute corner from the left headed off the 6 yard line and Hammonds fine ball across the area superbly palmed away by the busy Hart. On 49 minutes Bethell found Rowe whose fierce shot flashed over the crossbar. It was looking as if the Flackwell Heath resistance must break, but Sudburys dominance was failing to turn into goals.
On 55 minutes Hammonds neat ball into Andy Claydon saw him turn and loose off a shot which was deflected for a corner. On the hour a good run by Darren Bethell and a pass to Luke Hammond saw the latters shot cleared off the line as again Flackwell Heath managed to hold firm. Sudbury were coming forward in waves, first Hammond struck a shot over the bar, David Heads strong run ended with his cross being punched clear by Hart and Andy Claydons neat turn and shot saw Hart drop easily to his right to make a comfortable save.
Danny Cunninghams debut had been impressive, rapidly growing in confidence from the off and he received warm applause when he was replaced after 72 minutes by Paul Abrahams. David Head went on another strong run down the right wing and his cross was chested down by Andy Claydon, but no yellow shirt was in attendance to stab home.
In Flackwell Heaths best move of the game, the diminutive Thorne sent a rapid curling shot just over the bar before his side managed to grab an unlikely lead in the 74th minute. A long high ball into the path of Andrew Finlay was taken down with great skill and the minimum of boot leather and lashed into the net past Nathan Munsons despairing drive.
Sudbury threw everything at their visitors with Rowe immediately winning a corner from the restart and Neil Calver firing just wide from distance on 77 minutes. Finlay threatened to get away and make the points safe for Flackwell, but his pace wasnt matched by a finish this time and Nathan Munson saved easily. Sudbury attacked and attacked, but the visitors defence continued to deny the home side access to the penalty area and it looked as if a frustrating afternoon was going to end in defeat.
With just a minute remaining, Thorne only half cleared and the ball reached Darren Bethell whose drilled low shot nestled in the corner of the net past the outstretched arm of Nick Hart in the Flackwell Heath goal. Hart, whose afternoons work had been impressive, pulled off the save of the day to deny Paul Abrahams at close quarters after another great ball in from Hammond and the sides left the field with a point each.
Not the result A.F.C. Sudbury will have expected or wanted at the start of play, but the Rymans basement sides can all battle and there are no bankers for points in this league. Sudbury can take heart from their effort and work-rate, particularly in the second half with captain David Head, Luke Hammond and James Rowe all impressing. The debut of young Danny Cunningham was highly promising, his confidence growing with every minute that passed, and this bodes well for the weeks that lie ahead.
|Man of Match ||Votes |
|John Pollard || |
|Luke Hammond || |
|Andrew Claydon || |
|Daniel Cunningham || |
|Darren Bethell || |
|David Head || |
|Donald George || |
|James Rowe || |
|Nicky Smith || |
|Pip Boyland || |