Denied At The Death
There is nothing more galling than to lose to a late goal. There is nothing more galling than to lose to 99th minute penalty that in itself was more than dubious.
That was the fate that befell AFC as they were cruelly robbed of a point against the league leaders Canvey Island.
The young Sudbury side had fought back twice and had levelled in the last minute of normal time then were dealt the cruel blow.
The AFC Manager already without, Tyler French, Jake Clowsley Joe Wright and Rhys Henry was dealt a late blow when Captain Sam Clarke failed a pre-match fitness test on a damaged Achilles ankle.
A shuffle meant Alfie Carroll coming to play in central defence and he went onto score a goal and put in a very good performance. Jake Colclough another Academy player made his first start for the club. Joe Whight took over the captain’s armband and took his place in the back three, and new signing Will Crisell started.
The swirling wind was causing problems but it was not the cause of the home side opening the scoring on seven minutes. A corner of their left was swung in and George Craddock got something on the ball that struck the crossbar came down and bounced away. The assistant referee flagged that the ball had crossed the line, the AFC players thought it had stayed out but it stood.
It took AFC only ten minutes to get level. A Joe Whight corner on the right came back to him and he crossed again and found the diving head of Alfie Carroll (pictured) and the ball found the back of the net.
Goalkeeper Paul Walker, the elder statesman at 25 years of age in the Sudbury side was kept busy and pushed a George Sykes shot around the post. He was then out well to deny Mitchell Gilbey as the home side pressed.
AFC had chances Whight hit a free kick that bounced over the bar and Carroll put Billy Holland away but he was caught offside. The home side appealed for a penalty when the ball struck the arm of Sam Mills, it was denied and the ball went out for a corner. From it the second Canvey goal came, the ball was put into the box and from close range Ryan Charles netted.
AFC got a couple of corners from one Joe Maybanks shot and Henry Newcombe was forced to save albeit comfortably.
Walker was called into action again punching away a Sam Collins fierce shot as the half came to a close.
Half Time Canvey Island 2 AFC Sudbury 1
Canvey came out strongly and Walker was soon in action parrying away a fierce shot from Gilbey. At the other end Ollie Peters had a long range short that went over the host’s bar.
From a corner Walker came out well and punched the ball away. Jamie Eaton-Collins for AFC after some good build up got away a shot that Newcombe saved low down. This was followed by young Colclough getting forward and shooting just over.
On the hour mark Walker came out well to deny big George Sykes as AFC made their first change with Ollie Dunlop taking over from Maybanks, as the side got younger.
Walker appeared to be pushed coming to collect a corner but recovered to make a fantastic reflex save pushing the ball over the bar from Charles. Carroll then showed great tenacity as he blocked a stinging shot from Steve Sheehan.
The home side were certainly on top ad Frankie Merrifield broke away but was denied by Peters blocking his effort at the expense of a corner. It was taken short and the ball found the head of Sykes but went wide of the Sudbury goal.
Eaton-Collins was replaced by Callum Watson with the average age going down again. There was drama with fifteen minutes left as keeper Newcombe and Dunlop clashing the Canvey man stayed prone for sometime and received treatment that lasted some six minutes. He was able to continue with a gash around his eye plastered and bandaged up. The collision had also damaged Dunlop who lasted a few more minutes before leaving the fray and Tom Dettmar came on. At this time the average age of the AFC side was down to 19.1 years.
Canvey still in front with two minutes of normal time had another effort this time a Sykes header went just wide of the post.
Ninety minutes were on the clock when out of the blue AFC drew level. Watson played in Ollie Peters behind Canvey defender Jerome Sobers and he looped the ball over Newcombe into the net. It seemed AFC’s youngster would be going home with a point.
It was not to be as the game continued, Collins picked up the games first yellow card on ninety-four minutes for a foul on Watson.
The Islanders had AFC penned in and were pumping the ball into the box at every opportunity. One ball put in low down went near the feet of Sheehan and with Ben Hunter near him crashed to the floor. The referee thought it was a penalty, as obviously did the Canvey contingent, the Sudbury players were adamant the home player had deceived the official. Holland was booked for voicing his opinion before Gilbey stepped up in the ninety-ninth minutes to slot the ball home from the spot.
It was a not the way to lose a game. The AFC youngsters had given a great account of themselves against a team fourteen places above them with a very well established set of Bostik League players.
They will however have learned a great deal from the game and the AFC management will have learned plenty about the young players thrown into battle.