AFC March on in the FA Cup
Delightful chip from Paul Hayes sends AFC through
A.F.C. Sudbury were in Emirates F.A.Cup 1st Qualifying Round action at the MEL Group Stadium with Royston Town the visitors. A prize pot doubled by the Football Association made this round worth an inviting £6,000 to the victors.
Royston started the game on the front foot when James Potton found Bradley Bell in the penalty area and drew a save low to his left from Paul Walker. From the resultant corner, Adam Murray rose to head over the home crossbar. On ten minutes Sudbury won a free-kick just outside the Royston penalty area which Phil Coakley stroked just over the crossbar as the home side began to settle nicely. On the quarter-hour Phil Kelly made excellent progress at speed along the left wing, but his cross whipped through the penalty area, failed to fine a home boot, and was cleared. It was Kelly who provided the decisive move that lead to the opening goal. His fine run and cross saw the ball half-cleared to Jordan Blackwell whose tricky movement led to his being bundled over in the penalty area. Callum Harrison stepped forward to send the ball into the back of the net and give the home side a lead their confident play thoroughly deserved.
On twenty-four minutes Billy Holland won a superb midfield duel for the ball and Paul Hayes’ cross was met by a header from Jordan Blackwell which went wide of the right hand post. Blackwell then turned provider from the right wing, Phil Kelly hitting a shot just over the Royston crossbar as the home side looked to ram home their territorial advantage. On the half-hour, Adam Murray saw yellow for a foul on the busy Phil Kelly whilst Baris Altintop was shown a yellow card for hauling back a Royston forward as the visitors sought to benefit from a rapid break. Sudbury looked to be repelling their higher league opponents with perfect organisation and hard work. Joe Whight rose well on half-way to deny Chris Assombalonga before Royston drew level. Assombalonga latched on to a long ball through the centre of the park and finished well past Paul Walker on thirty-three minutes.
Jordan Blackwell’s fine run saw him cut in from the right of the penalty area to sting the hands of Royston ‘keeper Joe Welch who made a fine save. Joe Whight was then cautioned for kicking the ball away before Paul Walker repelled a header from a free-kick with a superb save before Potton turned in the home area to fire over the crossbar from the resultant corner. Jordan Blackwell was causing Royston problems with his pace and work rate and with four minutes to the break he was pulled down just outside the Royston penalty area. Joe Whight stepped up to send a fine shot beyond Welch to restore the A.F.C. Sudbury lead before Tyler French rose well to head a Royston corner clear and send the home side into the break with confidence high.
Sam Corcoran drew an early save from Paul Walker as the second half began. A superb ball from Ben Hunter to Phil Kelly saw his cross delivered too deep to cause danger. Jordan Blackwell and Callum Harrison combined well to feed Billy Holland who hit a speculative effort over the Royston crossbar as the home side settled early. On fifty-five minutes Royston equalised against the run of play when a defensive blunder saw confusion between ‘keeper and defender and substitute Vance Bola nipped in to score from a very tight angle with his first touch of the game. On sixty-one minutes Billy Holland shot wide when well placed after being found with a neat ball from Paul Hayes. A.F.C. Sudbury re-took the lead in this topsy-turvy roller-coaster of a game on sixty-six minutes with a fine goal. Callum Harrison’s excellent corner was only partially cleared and eventually fell to Paul Hayes on the edge of the penalty area. He sent a brilliantly-executed lob over a crowd of players and the tall Joe Welch in the Royston goal to conjure the biggest cheer of the afternoon so far.
Royston were not done yet. Vance Bola headed wide from just three yards after the ball reached him unmarked as Sudbury enjoyed a huge let-off. Callum Harrison had a shot parried by Welch as Hayes put the rebound high over the Royston crossbar. With thirteen minutes on the clock, Kane Munday came on to replace Paul Hayes who left the field to warm applause after an afternoon of constant effort. Royston pressed hard for the equaliser, first Assombalonga headed wide before Bola drew another fine save out of Paul Walker. Bola then looked certain to score with a stinging drive, only to see it blocked by a by Tyler French with consulate skill and bravery. Phil Coakley rose to thunder the ball away from the penalty area as the home defence worked tirelessly to see their side over the line. Welch made a fine save to deny Sudbury a fourth goal from a scramble before Corcoran blasted a free-kick well over the crossbar as the three minutes of injury-time slowly expired. There was just time for Welch to deny Callum Harrison with another fine block before the final whistle sounded to confirm a fine win for the home side. A fantastic game of football played at a frenetic pace by two excellent sides. Sudbury were vastly improved after their defeat to Bowers and Pitsea the week before, and have laid down a marker for subsequent games with the high quality of this performance.