Points Dropped But Good Performance
Still In Fifth Place
Unbeaten A.F.C. Sudbury welcomed Wingate and Finchley to The Wardale Williams Stadium looking to build on their promising start to life in the Ryman League Premier Division. Away wins at Grays Athletic and Merstham had taken Sudbury into the top four on the back of some real grit and determination.
Sudbury started well with Rob Eagle sending a fine ball through the middle of the park, only for Liam Wales to be adjudged offside as he threatened an explosive start to the game. Wingate responded quickly with Rob Laney whipping a ball across the home penalty area with no-one on hand to threaten Marcus Garnham’s goal.
Laney again caused the home defence some alarm hen he picked up Reece Beckles-Richards’ right wing cross, but Ryan Henshaw and James Baker dispossessed the Wingate striker before he could work enough space for a shot. Buckles-Richards then looked to break through the centre of the home penalty area, but Henshaw’s brave stopping tackle averted the danger. Next it was Adam Tann denying Laney before James Baker’s diving header cleared the ball away.
On twelve minutes the visitors’ early pressure told. Reece Beckles-Richards broke through the centre to finish easily. Sudbury fought back with Aaron Greene and Liam Wales exchanging neat passes which left the Wingate defence having to clear hurriedly. Laney briefly threatened again for Wingate, but Tann’s fine stopping tackle snuffed the attack out before it could develop into something more dangerous.
Rob Eagle sent a superb ball from half-way towards Sam Bantick whose run was adjudged to be offside as both sides traded quick-fire punches. A.F.C. Sudbury equalised on the half hour with a superb goal. James Baker’s finely-judged ball out of defence dropped for Craig Parker whose thunderbolt from twenty plus yards flew into the net.
There was a delay minutes later when an altercation between Ahmet Rifat and Parker saw both players shown yellow cards. A.F.C. Sudbury had settled well and were playing most of the football with their passing game improving markedly as the half progressed. Craig Parker’s lovely footwork and pass to Sam Bantick typified this and the resultant cross flashed dangerously across the Wingate penalty area as belief began to flow through the home side.
Steve Wales’ run looked promising for Wingate, but Ben Robinson’s fine tackle and Adam Tann’s clearance slammed the door shut. Ahmet Rifat was substituted with five minutes of the half remaining, his yellow card perhaps proving the catalyst.
It was 2-1 to Sudbury just before the break. A free-kick deep on the left delivered by Sam Bantick was only partially cleared and Ryan Henshaw capped a fine half by knocking the ball past Shane Gore in the Wingate and Finchley goal. Sam Clarke headed the ball safely back to Marcus Garnham as the half came to a close and the home side headed to the break a goal to the good.
Half-Time:- AFC Sudbury 2 Wingate and Finchley 1
AFC played the second half with real confidence fuelled by the belief they had gained in their first half performance. Sam Bantick’s turn and shot in the box was an easy gather for Shane Gore, but the intent in the home side was evident. Reece Beckles-Smith looked dangerous, but was marshalled wide and away from danger by James Baker, whose shirt he had more than a generous tug at on the way.
Liam Wales crossed from the left wing where Rob Eagles was only denied a goal by the combined brilliance of Gore and his defender Ryan Sellers whose simultaneous tackles had to be, and were, perfectly timed. James Baker then fed Sam Bantick with a great pass. Liam Wales was almost through on goal as a result, but again Wingate’s defence rose to the challenge.
Bantick then sent a fine ball over the top for Aaron Greene to chase and once again the visitor’s defence proved strong enough to repel the A.F.C. wave. Bantick then fed Craig Parker whose shot was blocked. Parker, whose control of midfield was masterful, again showed brilliant footwork to eke out space and send a dipping shot over the Wingate and Finchley crossbar.
With twenty minutes left, Sudbury brought Luke Callander into the action with the hard-running Liam Wales making way. Within a minute Wingate and Finchley had drawn level. A cross from the right fell for Rob Laney who made no mistake from close quarters. This was harsh on the home side whose dominance of possession had deserved more reward than it had been given. Ryan Henshaw’s fine ball into Luke Callander was typical of this. The tall Sudbury substitute brought the ball down brilliantly only for Gore to save well from his shot.
Sudbury were awarded a seventy-third minute free-kick following fine play by Ben Robinson to bring the ball upfield at pace from a Finchley attack. Craig Parker’s delivery was deflected wide for a rare home corner from the right which Sam Bantick sent dangerously into the visitor’s penalty area only for a stabbed clearance to clear the threat once again.
The difficult Rob Laney attacked the Sudbury half at pace, but Ben Robinson’s cool response saw the danger pass safely with Sam Clarke on had to clear the ball further up the field. Jordan Blackwell came on for Sam Bantick with a couple of minutes and injury-time remaining.
Despite the heat, both sides were still attacking at an incredible pace, testament to some excellent fitness regimes. Gore palmed away an excellent Ben Robinson cross as the home side laid siege to his goal. Rob Eagle’s great left wing corner fell to Luke Callander who crashed the ball against the crossbar with Gore static on his line. Sudbury piled forward, hungry for the win. From a further left wing corner delivered by Rob Eagle, Ryan Henshaw found Gore’s right hand upright the only bar to a home victory.
Another gallant A.F.C. Sudbury effort in which the team performance was once again shot-through with determination and sheer hard work and the unbeaten run is still intact.