Through To Quarter-Finals
Debut Keeper Makes Vital Save
Where to start, let’s start at the end, AFC won 4-3 on penalties to reach the Quarter-Finals of the League Cup.
The beginning saw AFC Manager Jamie Godbold make to changes to the previous game, Louis Johnson, who was later to feature in a strange scenario, came in the play in goal with Marcus Garnham cup-tied. James Baker was missing due to a family commitment and Lawrence Yiga took his place. On the bench for the first time was nineteen year-old goalkeeper Luke Avenell, and he would become part of AFC folklore as the tie progressed.
The Spa Road pitch had recovered from the previous week call off and looked in good condition for the time of the year.
AFC started the game on the back foot as Witham pressed forward and had the ball for sometime, forcing a number of corners that the Sudbury defence coped with.
There was booking on twelve minutes when Jordan Blackwell was trying to get down the left win, the Witham full back Mead blocking him off and saw yellow. From the free kick Kris Newby off balance fired over.
Kouassi got away and the ball bounced up onto Ben Robinson hand, this happening in the box, the appeals were ignored and Callander shot over the AFC bar. Sudbury replied with a slick move involving Terry Rymer, Tyler Kemp and Newby the latter shooting wide with Sam Clarke on his outside perhaps being a better option.
Witham continued to look dangerous but AFC were now settling down and Ollie Berquez was unlucky not to get on the end of a Newby cross. Five minutes before the break, Josh Kerridge looking assured in midfield fed Newby and the ex-Witham man hit a fierce shot that keeper Freund tipped over.
The final minutes of the half saw Rymer have a shot saved and Charles for the home break through but stopped by a fine sliding tackle from Ryan Henshaw as he came out wide to clear.
Half Time; Witham Town 0 AFC Sudbury 0
Seven minutes in and Sam Clarke sent Newby away with a good pass from the outside of his boot and the Sudbury man was brought down in the penalty area by Olley. Referee Cook immediately pointed to the spot, with no protests from the home side, the defender being booked for his tackle. Newby stepped up and shot home to put the away side a goal up.
It should have been two only minutes later with Newby the man who missed. Blackwell on the right got the ball to Berquez who crossed and there was Newby diving in to head the ball into what seemed an open goal. Unfortunately the ball was slightly behind him and it went off his head back across the goalmouth and was cleared.
Ex-AFC man Danny Emmanuel who had been policed well by Tyler Kemp went off and was replaced by another former Sudbury player in Chris Bryan.
The Spa Road men began to get a bit more of a grip on proceedings and Callander fired in to the side netting just after the hour mark and ten minutes later they were level in the tie. Good work down their left with defender Durrant marauding forward saw him take a return ball and shot passed Johnson.
Callander was booked for Witham as was AFC’s Yiga before Mark Ray came on for Sudbury, Rymer leaving the fray. It then seemed the home side must take the lead with Callander in front of goal unmarked and lobbing the ball over Johnson. Fortunately for the visitors it went over the bar also.
Yiga went off and Stefano Mallardo took over in the centre of defence immediately being involved getting in a good tackle. Callander went off after suffering a blow to his face and Pavett came on.
The game was getting close to the end, indeed in stoppage time when the AFC management sprung a surprise. With game level and no extra time and going straight to penalties, they decoded to withdraw experienced keeper in favour of youngster Avenell. He came on or his first team debut as Johnson went off, obviously not happy with the decision. The substitute did not to touch the ball in the remaining thirty seconds of the game.
It was straight to penalties with AFC taking the first kick;
Ollie Berquez hit the bar with his penalty, so into the goal went Avenell and Pavett stepped and took his kick. The AFC youngster saved it with his first touch of the ball in an AFC first team jersey!
Newby scored for AFC, Paxman for Witham, Clarke scored for AFC and Blackman for Witham, Kerridge scored for AFC and Bryan for Witham, then Blackwell scored the fifth for Sudbury and Mead stepped up for Witham and there was Avenell to save to send the visitors through.
A night of drama seen by only seventy-three brave souls on night when in years to come you could say I was there!