Monday, May 20, 2024

Football: Millers back on track with stunning away win

Ryman Div One North

AFC Sudbury 2 v 3 Aveley

By Scott Hately

A JORDAN Cox double helped Aveley return to winning ways with a 3-2 win away to in-form AFC Sudbury at the MEL Group Stadium.

A brace from Jordan Cox followed by a winner from close range from Junior Dadson was enough for the Millers to complete the league double over their Suffolk opponents, as well as stem the tide of three straight league defeats.

After a scrappy first half, which manager Justin Gardner described as the worst he’d seen in his time in football, the Millers looked to be heading into the break with a the lead thanks to a deflected Jordan Cox effort, but an equaliser on the stroke of half time from James Baker levelled it up.

Leon Antoine – who scored Sudbury’s solitary goal in their 4-1 defeat to Aveley earlier in the season – took full advantage of a mix-up between Andre Foster and Luke Wilson to slot the home side in front early on in the second half.

Cox’s second of the game, a delicate flick on from an Alfred Kamara cross, levelled the match once more before substitute Paul Burnett made an instant impact, crossing for Junior Dadson to slide in the winner at the far post.

Sudbury were arguably one of the last sides that the Millers wanted to face right now. With four wins and a draw from their last five outings, the Yellows had started to look like a side who had been touted as title favourites at the beginning of the season.

The Millers on the other hand, off the back of three straight league defeats to Romford, Wroxham and Thamesmead found themselves out of the play-off positions in desperate need of some luck and some points.

The opening exchanges of this match were evenly contested with neither side creating anything in the way of clear openings in the first quarter of an hour of the game.

But as the half wore on the home side began to look the most threatening of the two sides on show, and were seemingly heavily reliant on their left winger, Dave Cowley, with a lot of their build up play going through the number 11.

It was, though, the away side that forced the first action from either goalkeeper as a free kick wide on the right swung in by Petrit Elbi was powered towards goal by Billy Holland. The Captain’s bullet header was well saved by Alex Archer in the Sudbury net, who turned the ball around the post for a corner.

A couple of minutes later and Jordan Cox will feel he should have done better after a long ball over the top ran perfectly for the Aveley front man, leaving him one-on-one, but the striker decided to take his shot early dragging it wide from 25 yards out.

These two were to be the only real chances created thus far in the match with it looking like the two sides would go into the break goalless, but a frantic and controversial final five minutes of the half meant that the sides went in one a piece at the break.

Cox, playing the lone striker role for the Millers, was proving a difficult proposition to handle for the Sudbury back line and a long ball forward towards Cox was brilliantly brought down under pressure from Robbie Martin and Ryan Henshaw.

After bringing the ball under control expertly the striker shifted it onto his right foot before getting a strike away which took a decisive deflection off Henshaw to beat Archer and put the Millers 1-0 up after 41 minutes.

The goal looked to be sending the away side into the break with an unexpected lead, but the lead was not to last out till half time as James Baker scored a controversial equaliser.

A free kick was awarded on the edge of the area after some miscommunication between Gbenga Sonuga and Andre Foster as Foster handled outside of his area after Sonuga had tried heading the ball back to the goalkeeper.

The free kick was smashed high over the crossbar by Cowley, but the referee, Martyn Holmes, had decided that the shot took a deflection on its way over to the bemusement of the majority of the 263 in attendance.

The disputed corner was initially cleared back out the left hand side where Cowley floated in a cross towards the far post where Henshaw was running in. The Sudbury centre back sent his header hurtling towards goal only to the stopped by a smart reflex save from Foster. The save was to count for nought, however, as Baker was on hand to tap in the rebound to make it 1-1.

After a fairly scrappy first half from Aveley, they came right out of the blocks in the second half with Junior Dadson creating two great chances to put the Millers back in front.

The first came on 47 minutes when the winger found himself in space on the left, forcing Archer into a smart save to his right to turn the ball around the post for a corner. A minute later and Dadson went even closer after being played through on goal by Danny Hopkins. Dadson struck from the edge of the area only for his shot to be deflected onto the post by another Archer save.

The two crucial saves from Archer gave the home side the belief that they could go on to complete the turn-around from a goal down and with 56 minutes on the watch, Leon Antoine capitalised on a defensive mix up to give the home side the lead for the first time.

A long ball forward by Adam Dolby sent Antoine through, but with Luke Wilson back tracking the situation appeared to be under control. But, with Wilson expecting Foster to come off his line to clear the danger and with Foster hesitating it allowed Antoine to nip in and slot home to make it 2-1 to the home side.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Millers and would have had Justin Gardner fuming at conceding such a sloppy goal, but exactly as it happened in the first half the side with the lead didn’t hold onto it for long as four minutes later Aveley were back level through Cox’s second of the game.

A combination of Martin and Dalby broke down an Aveley attack, but the clearance from Dalby was poor and found its way to the feet of Alfred Kamara. The left back floated a ball into the area, towards the back post, which Archer failed to come for. Cox rose highest to get the slightest of flick-ons sending the ball just inside the post to level the match once more with half an hour still to play.

It was to be Cox’s last action of the match as he hobbled off injured shortly after to be replaced by Paul Burnett, and the winger’s introduction to the game produced an immediate impact as within two minutes of coming on Aveley went ahead.

Wide on the right hand side Burnett created space for himself before floating in a cross towards the far post. Once again Archer was reluctant to come off his line and paid the ultimate price as Burnett’s cross found Dadson sliding in at the far post for the easiest of tap-ins making it 3-2 after 69 minutes.

The quick double from the away side had taken the wind out of the sails of Sudbury, and if another second half sub, Jack Stevenson, had more composure he would have killed the game off. After being put through by Hopkins the midfielder decided not to lay the ball off to the unmarked Elbi, and his effort was well saved by Archer with the ball going behind for yet another corner.

With the minutes ticking down the home side were looking for that one last clear opening on goal and with two minutes of normal time remaining that chance fell to the feet of Tom Cutts.

A free kick in a central position was floated into the Aveley box, bouncing off the shoulder of Wilson. With the defender completely unaware of where the ball was he spun like a top only to see the ball fall for Cutts who from a matter of two or three yards smashed his volley across goal and wide.

The Millers managed to stave off the Sudbury threat for seven long, agonising minutes of injury time to stop Sudbury’s good run of form and potentially kick-start their push for promotion with the Millers rising back into the play-off positions.

Manager Justin Gardner was relieved to have got back to winning ways, saying “I’m just happy to have stopped the rot. We lost three in the league on the bounce and it was getting a bit worrying.”

Speaking of the overall performance of his side Gardner gave a scathing view of the first half saying “it was the worst I have ever been involved in in football – absolutely embarrassing” but of the second half he was much more positive saying “character was different class. I always believe in us (to come from behind). To come away to Sudbury in front of I don’t know how many people to come and win away here is a great result.”

When asked if the players believed they could come from behind after going 2-1 down, Ellis Sands said “we’ve got a great squad, we can always come back from anything. Any team we play we reckon we can win, I don’t see why we can’t.”

Looking ahead to next week’s match against Chatham, Sands said “we beat them earlier in the season. They’re a good outfit, like to pass the ball around and they’ve got some big players. It’s going to be a battle and it’s going to be a good footballing match hopefully.”

Aveley: Andre Foster, Ellis Sands, Alfred Kamara, Gbenga Sonuga (Jack Stevenson 69’), Luke Wilson, Danny Hopkins, Jay Leader, Billy Holland (c), Jordan Cox (Paul Burnett 65’), Junior Dadson, Petrit Elbi


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