Three Points Ground Out
Early Goals Enough
A.F.C. Sudbury welcomed Witham Town to the Wardale Williams Stadium in a re-arranged fixture following a cup replay for the visitors on the original date.
Sudbury began well, taking the game to Witham from the off. They forced their first corner on three minutes which Ross Bailey delivered from the right. James Baker rose with the intention of powering a header goal-wards, but the visitor’s defence managed to clear the danger. Within a minute Jordan Blackwell made space to send a curling effort towards goal which Jason Baker did well to save diving to his right. It was a third shot within the opening six minutes when Ryan Henshaw burst forward to screw a shot across the penalty area and behind for a goal-kick.
Witham’s defence looked comfortable in the early exchanges with A.F.C. Sudbury looking to unlock their resolute back line. Robbie Martin sent a terrific ball forward along the left wing for the lightening Jordan Blackwell to chase, but the ball had just too much pace for the young forward. Blackwell then turned provider as his sweet cushioned header released Luke Callander whose run found him ruled offside as the home side started to settle nicely into their stride.
Former Sudbury midfield man Danny Emmanuel reminded the home fans of his skill and pace as he burst forward only to find himself stopped in his tracks by a brilliant Robbie Martin challenge. Witham then won a corner which Ryan Charles flashed across the six-yard box with defenders and attackers alike unable to get a touch. On the quarter-hour Jordan Blackwell seemed to be taken out in midfield, but no free-kick came Sudbury’s way before Charles burst forward and skipped past three Sudbury defenders before shooting wide to send the home side a timely warning that they would have to work hard to keep the visitors at bay.
On seventeen minutes A.F.C. Sudbury took the lead. Luke Callander released Liam Wales on the right and he capped a fine driving run with an equally imperious finish past Jason Baker. Two minutes on and Sudbury doubled the advantage, and again it was a fine goal. Sam Clarke won possession from a deflection off Tom Cocklin close to half way and found Luke Callander. His exchange of passes with Jordan Blackwell saw him into the penalty area where he shaped his shot perfectly past Baker and into the net.
John Watson took advantage of some hesitant home defending to get his shot away, but his effort went comfortably wide of Ollie Bowles’ goal. On the half hour Ross Bailey sent a superb free-kick into the heart of the Witham penalty area which Baker had to punch clear. Those same defensive wobbles emerged just a minute later for A.F.C. Sudbury when former Sudbury man Scott Kemp took full advantage of a loose ball to slide the ball home and reduce the arrears. Sudbury again surged forward where Callander managed to turn and fire a shot off the Witham crossbar. A minute later and the Sudbury number nine sent a curling shot just over the crossbar with Baker looking beaten.
On thirty-five minutes Witham took the unusual step of making an early double substitution. On thirty-seven minutes a Ross Bailey free-kick found Ryan Henshaw whose header fell for Jordan Blackwell in the Witham penalty area. Blackwell seemed to be fouled, but play continued. Tom Cocklin saw yellow for a foul on the busy and tricky Jordan Blackwell on half-way before a Witham corner was eventually, and nervously cleared by the home defence as Witham continued to pose questions for Sudbury.
Three minutes from the break Ollie Canfer sent a superb ball through for Jordan Blackwell who was perhaps a touch unfortunate to be ruled offside. Sudbury remained resolute against some severe Witham pressure in the final minutes of the half to go to the break with their narrow lead in tact.
Half Time;- AFC Sudbury 2 Witham Town 1
Ollie Bowles had to be alert as the half began, saving well from a marauding Danny Emmanuel. Witham started as they had ended the opening period, strongly. The home defence was busy, Ryan Henshaw stretching to clear a dangerous cross whilst Robbie Martin cleared as the ball threatened to fall to a Witham boot in the home penalty area.
Kemp strode forward again and Ben Robinson became the latest Sudbury defender to time a brilliant tackle to avert the danger. And it was becoming a tough battle for the points with Sudbury as busy repelling danger at the back, as they were in trying to steal the winning goal. Ollie Bowles rose to collect another teasing cross and Sudbury were able to take the sting out of the pressure they were under, at least for a moment.
Ben Robinson then drove forward only to be fouled by Danny Emmanuel. The resultant free-kick saw Sam Clarke fire wide through a crowded penalty area before Liam Wales found his way into the Witham penalty area to fire a shot just wide of Baker’s goal. Neither side seemed able to create that guilt-edged chance, at times the home side seemed rushed in defence, attacking their visitors less regularly and with less passing rhythm than they had conjured in the middle period of the first half.
Ollie Canfer made way for Wayne Blackman with eleven minutes remaining. Ryan Charles looked set to equalise following another Withal attack along the right wing, only for Robbie Martin to bravely stoop to head for Ollie Bowles to gather. Jordan Blackwell then drew a fine save from Baker in the Witham gaol, possibly Sudbury’s first real chance of the half as the ball was turned away for a corner with seven minutes of the match remaining.
Goal scorer Luke Callander left the action with five minutes left on the clock, Ollie Berquez replacing him. Sudbury were to see the game out having to defend, sometimes with determination and sometimes not a little desperation, but the defence had put in a tough shift, worked really hard together and ground out a hard-fought win. Liam Wales was replaced in injury-time with Jack Newman on for the last minute of the game as the home side completed another victory that keeps them at the top of the Ryman League Division One North.