Ninth Place Gained
A. F. C. Sudbury welcomed Watham Abbey to the King’s Marsh with the home side on a run of three consecutive victories and the sides eleventh and twelve in the league respectively.
Waltham Abbey kicked off the game on an overcast and cold early February afternoon. Ben Hunter’s early ball for Phil Kelly to chase saw Abbey ‘keeper Hugo Rossetti sharp off his line to gather. Sudbury’s first real chance came after eight minutes when Christian Baffour-Akoto sent a poor clearance into the path of Ryan Horne who stabbed his shot wide of the right hand post. Three minutes later and Ben Hunter released Mekhi McKenzie who fell in the visitor’s penalty area, but any appeals for a penalty were muted and met with no response. On eighteen minutes Ryan Horne lifted a clever pass into the path of McKenzie whose low shot struck the side-netting.
Mid-way into the half and Michael Spencer’s accurate left wing corner fell to Waltham Abbey’s Billy Holland (as opposed to A.F.C.’s!), but somehow the home defence scrambled the loose ball clear as it looked likely the visitors would wrestle the lead. Phil Kelly’s pin-point cross was headed behind by Abbey’s Billy Holland on twenty-four minutes as the game swung at pace from end to end, albeit with a high percentage of mis-placed passes from both sides. Darryl Coakley sent a long throw for Kelly to head into the penalty area, but Rossetti read the flight of the ball well, and gathered with comfort.
Another precision through-ball from Hunter almost sent Ollie Peters away, but again Rossetti reacted well to spring from his line to clear. It was that central route that finally afforded A.F.C. Sudbury the lead which came on thirty-six minutes. Hunter found Mekhi McKenzie before the big number ten sent a sublimely-timed ball into the path of Phil Kelly who sprung the offside trap and finished neatly past Rossetti into the bottom right hand corner of the net. Rossetti again commanded his area well when Mekhi McKenzie’s header from a Ryan Horne corner looked to threaten. Phil Kelly was almost released on goal again after some neat work by Peters, but the goal-scorer was flagged for offside.
Sudbury began the second half with Ben Hunter shooting over from distance as the home side began to play with more pace and to take the game to Waltham Abbey. Paul Walker was well placed to deal with Aron Gordon’s forty-eighth minute shot and was again on hand as he had another attempt three minutes later. Phil Kelly shot over the crossbar on fifty-four minutes before Darryl Coakley did likewise a minute later. On the hour Phil Kelly’s strong run saw Ollie Peters’ shot blocked as the home side looked in determined mood to add to their advantage.
Jake Clowsley replaced Ryan Horne as A.F.C. Sudbury made their first change after sixty-two minutes. On sixty-seven minutes the scores were almost levelled. Mitch Hahn sent a well-flighted free-kick towards the far corner of the home goal, but Paul Walker leapt to his left to produce a stunning save as the ball went away for a corner kick via his fingertips. Substitute Ayrton Coley looked to be away on seventy-six minutes, but Sam Mills put in a superbly-timed tackle to cancel out the threat. Next it was Tyler French with a trademark moment of brilliance with a tackle to deny Mitch Hahn a scoring opportunity. With eleven minutes left of the game Darelle Russell sent a shot goal-wards from close-range which again Paul Walker kept out with a fine save. Joe Whight did well to thwart Hahn as the Sudbury continued their quite outstanding afternoon’s defensive work.
With seven minutes remaining the home side finally made the three points safe. Darryl Coakley sent a superbly delivered free-kick in from the right touch-line and A.F.C. Sudbury’s Billy Holland leapt well to head past Rossetti. It could have been a third goal for the home side when substitute Louis Yuill fouled Darryl Coakley as his threatening run was bought to a crashing finale. Joe Whight saw his penalty saved by Hugo Rossetti, but the Sudbury number six was rewarded with the Man-of-The-Match award for his fine contribution to his side’s victory.
A hard-working home side gained three points against an athletic and quick-paced Waltham Abbey who found the Sudbury defence in superb form and the attack patient enough to wait to take whatever chances they could create. Two superb saves in the second half from Paul Walker further bolstered the performance and took the home side to a run of four straight wins.