Cruel late penalty denies AFC a share of the points.
By Darren Theobald
Great performance and impressive second half display.
A.F.C. Sudbury welcomed Heybridge Swifts across the border from Essex having started with an impressive 4-0 win at Tilbury on the opening afternoon of the season. New signing Paul Hayes came into the squad to take a place on the bench after his registration was completed by the club.
Heybridge Swifts kicked off the game and attacked from left to right as viewed from the Brian Tatum stand. Sudbury started brightly with Callum Harrison sending a speculative effort well wide in the second minute. Phil Kelly headed straight at Danny Sambridge in the Swifts' goal on seven minutes from a Baris Altintop cross before Harrison Chatting sent a fine effort goal-wards which Paul Walker rose superbly to tip over the crossbar. Heybridge settled and began to dominate. On ten minutes they swept forward with Matthew Price finding Sam Bantick close to goal, but the former A.F.C. man fired wide of the left hand post when it was seemingly easier to tuck the ball away for the opener.
On seventeen minutes Swifts’ number three Jeyasiva Sivapathasundaram surged forward, turned inside from the left to fire a shot which crashed off the home crossbar. On twenty-two minutes a fine ball across the park from the right by Callum Harrison found Jordan Blackwell who was dispossessed before he could get a shot away. Abouhadje Kouassi drew a good save low to his right from Paul Walker and the same man did well to weave past Joe Grimwood on the left wing before firing well wide of the right hand post.
On thirty-nine minutes Paul Walker reacted quickly to claim the ball ahead of the poaching Bantick and then was well-placed to save from Chatting. With the break approaching, Callum Harrison’s carving run through the centre of the field saw his shot turned away by Sambridge as the sides reached forty-five minutes on level terms.
Joe Grimwood made way as the half started for Paul Hayes making his A.F.C. Sudbury debut. Hayes’ impact was almost immediate. A rapid interchange of passes with Phil Kelly saw his neat effort with the outside of his boot curl just wide of the left hand upright. On fifty-two minutes, Tom Dettmar denied Heybridge an opening with a superb challenge on Matthew Price. On fifty-five minutes Phil Kelly set up the busy Callum Harrison whose shot was blocked superbly by Ryan Henshaw as the home side started the half with real purpose. Callum Harrison then found Paul Hayes whose ball into Jordan Blackwell saw the Sudbury number eleven hit a shot narrowly past the post.
Callum Harrison went on yet another direct and menacing run at the heart of the visitor’s defence, this time his shot slipping just wide of the post.
On the hour, Tom Dettmar made way for Ben Hunter for A.F.C. Sudbury.
Harrison’s influence continued when his sixty-ninth minute free-kick was tipped over the crossbar by Sambridge as the home side continued to look hungry. Five minutes on and the football gods continued their reluctance to honour the home side when Billy Holland sent a fantastic ball into Phil Kelly whose flick struck the crossbar and dropped down for Stambridge to collect. Sudbury came once again and Kelly raced clear only for Stambridge to further earn his corn with a fine block. The Swifts’ ‘keeper repeated tis feat with another block when Callum Harrison rushed through on eighty-one minutes as the Yellows pressed hard.
Three minutes of additional time were added and in the last of these Sam Bantick was adjudged to have been fouled in the penalty area and the former A.F.C. Sudbury man stepped up to bury the ball in the corner of the net for the Heybridge win.
Man of the match, voted by today’s match sponsors JMP Services was Billy Holland.
A heartbreaking ending to a game from which A.F.C. Sudbury deserved at least a point. Their hard-working defence coped well under pressure in the first half whilst their dynamic attacking play in the second half deserved more than one goal. Sudbury travel to F.C. Romania (well Cheshunt where they play!) on Wednesday Evening in the Preliminary Round of the Velocity Trophy. It is Emirates F.A. Cup action at the King’s Marsh next Saturday, when Mildenhall Town make the short journey across the county.