Opening Day Draw
Good Start In New League
A.F.C. Sudbury began life in the Ryman Premier League with a visit to the Wardale Williams Stadium from Dulwich Hamlet, a side who just missed out on the play-offs last season and sure to provide a stern test for Sudbury’s first game at step three level.
In attendance was a very healthy number of travelling support which provided a fitting atmosphere for the curtain-raiser.
AFC kicked off the game kicking from right to left as viewed from the Brian Tatum seated stand. Kadell Daniel threatened first for the visitors, but Ryan Henshaw was on hand with the first important tackle of the afternoon. The game was only two minutes old when Sudbury scored their opener. A delicious move through the centre of the park left the Dulwich defence bemused as the ball was whipped out wide to Ben Robinson. His cross was perfect for the marauding Sam Clarke (pictured) who made no mistake from close range.
Dulwich Hamlet responded well, stung by the set-back they proceeded to pin their hosts tight behind the half-way line. Ryan Henshaw and James Baker combined to block Nyren Clunis’ shot on thirteen minutes as the home side desperately tried to repel wave after wave of Hamlet attacks. Ken Beaney looked to work some space for a shot, but Adam Tann was on hand with a fine tackle. Nyren Clunis then tried a speculative effort which flew well over Marcus Garnham’s crossbar before another Henshaw block was headed clear by James Baker.
Rob Eagle fired a twenty-fourth minute free-kick against the defensive wall as Sudbury enjoyed rare possession in the visitor’s half. Clunis then evaded two tackles before shooting wide left of the home goal as the relentless pressure continued. Daniel Carr’s right wing run looked to have run out of steam before he unleashed a rapid shot which Marcus Garnham saved at his near post with an exceptional block. From a corner on the right for Dulwich on the half-hour, the ball again fell to Clunis whose whipped shot/cross cannoned off the home crossbar. It was all square shortly after however when Daniel found Carr whose cross was perfect for Ken Beaney to head home.
On thirty-seven minutes Dulwich Hamlet took the lead. A free-kick just outside the A.F.C. Sudbury penalty area was curled around the wall by Kadell Daniel and into the back of the net. Dulwich continued to pour forward as the half came to its conclusion, but the home side defended resolutely to go into the break just a goal behind.
Half -Time;- AFC Sudbury 1 Dulwich Hamlet 2
Hamlet picked up the strings of their first half dominance as the half began, but their hosts were able to draw their sting and survive some difficult moments. Ben Robinson’s low shot on forty-seven minutes was easy for Preston Edwards in the Dulwich goal, but at least signalled the home sides’s intention to fight their way back into the game.
Kadell Daniels should perhaps have done better on the break for Hamlet a minute later, but screwed his shot wide of Marcus Garnham’s goal. Daniel Carr then broke clean through only to fire wide. Ryan Henshaw then stopped Daniel with a fine tackle, before Marcus Garnham blocked superbly from a Daniel Carr effort.
On fifty-four minutes Sam Bantick was replaced by Aaron Greene making his debut, as Sudbury looked to freshen up in this blisteringly fast tie in which they were having to work really hard to survive. Kadell again caused trouble for Sudbury, this time Rob Eagle really excellent in snuffing out the danger with a finely-timed challenge. Ben Robinson then found Craig Parker with a neat pass from the right wing to the centre of the park.
Parker’s excellent ball into Luke Callander saw the Sudbury number nine fouled just outside the Dulwich Hamlet penalty area. The free-kick came to nothing, but on sixty-four minutes A.F.C. Sudbury converted their growing hold on the game into an equalising score. Ben Robinson fed Sam Clarke on the right wing and the Sudbury captain danced his way past the Hamlet defence to advance along the goal-line, send a sublime cross into the feet of Luke Callander who made no mistake in finding the net. Another finely worked goal from the home side who suddenly had engineered their way back into a game in which they had been on the back foot for such a long period.
Rob Eagle collected a pass from Craig Parker, but was dispossessed by the Dulwich defence before he could get a shot away. Ryan Henshaw again blocked a Dulwich shot before the whole back line combined to smuggle clear another loose ball as the visitors again tried to turn up the heat.
Luke Callander made way for Liam Wales with fifteen minutes on the clock as fresh legs became the requirement. With ten minutes of normal time remaining Craig Parker threatened to give A.F.C. the lead as he broke forward, but his well-struck shot was smothered by a well-positioned Preston Edwards.
Aaron Greene’s fine run along the left saw him deliver a cross just too deep for the predatory Craig Parker to capitalise on as the home side began to grow in confidence. Jordan Blackwell came into the action with just a few minutes remaining on the clock. His youthful pace gave the visitors something else to watch and as the game entered injury-time, the visitors went into their shell as the confident home side became the side to do the pressing.
A late A.F.C. Sudbury free-kick first struck into the wall by Liam Wales, was re-taken after the wall was adjudged to have advanced beyond the permitted ten yards. The re-take was struck by Craig Parker whose sweet effort was brilliantly turned around the post by Preston Edwards.
AFC continued to press to the final whistle. At one time it looked as if they may be over-run by the slick and accurate passing of an excellent Dulwich Hamlet side, but the home side’s refusal to capitulate under pressure showed immense resolve, fine management and bodes well for the season ahead.
This was a fitting opener at Step Three for A.F.C. Sudbury and another great game to add to The Wardale Williams Hall of Fame.