Bostik Div North
AFC Sudbury 2 v 3 Grays Ath
BLUES produced a scintillating performance coming back from a two goal deficit to blow away AFC Sudbury who had no answer to Blues power and pace – the scoreline could have been greater after they rattled the woodwork on two occasions.
Mitchell Hahn has a habit this season of scoring quality goals and his winner today continued that theme with a stunning volley that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Premier League. Blues found themselves two goals behind after twenty-three minutes, but you always suspected they had the ability to get back into the game, which proved to be the case after Michael Toner started the recovery scoring in the 32nd minute – what followed in the second half stunned the home fans as Blues tore their hosts apart. The win coming on the 130th anniversary of their first competitive game was even more pleasing for the large number of Blues travelling fans. The win pushed Blues into the playoff places just four points off the top spot.
Blues were forced into a reshuffle to the starting XI when Stan Muguo was ruled out through injury – Callum Thompson slotted into the left back slot with Toner moving into central defence.
An uncharacteristic slow start allowed Sudbury to carve out the early chances, Kieran Bishop carelessly gave the ball away on half way the hosts capitalised playing in Phil Kelly, he really should have scored – with only Clarke Bogard to beat he scuffed his shot and the chance was lost.
Worryingly in the early stages Sudbury were getting behind the Blues back four with ease, so it was no surprise when they were caught square again in the 10th minute, the ball played into the box found Thomas Monk who was left with a simple score.
Blues first opportunity came shortly after when Joao Carlos broke clear – striding into the box he screwed the ball wide , despite the miss Blues at last showed some urgency – the pace of Bishop and power of Tommy Wade was clearly unsettling the home defenders, but in the 23rd minute Sudbury doubled their advantage – an almost carbon copy of their first when a ball in behind was squared to Ben Hunter, who made no mistake.
Two goals behind it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon, but Blues are a more resilient outfit lately and very quickly they took the game to Sudbury. They came so close to reducing the arrears when Tommy Wade nodded against the inside of the post, the ball appeared to cross the line but Blues appeals were turned away. Disappointment turned to elation in the 32nd minute, a succession of corners had induced nervousness in the home defence so it was no surprise when a Carlos corner found the head of Adalberto Pinto – his downward header was half cleared to Toner who slammed the ball past Paul Walker. Bishop came close to bringing the scores level just before the break when he side footed a Carlos cross forcing a smart save from Walker.
Early pressure saw Hahn fire over – moments later came what was probably the turning point of the afternoon, when not for the first time Blues back line was caught square allowing Kelly a clear run on goal – Bogard came to the rescue with a vital block to deny Sudbury a third goal and two goal cushion. Kelly was again denied, this time by the woodwork – after these two near misses it was Blues who took the game by the scruff of the neck and set about reducing the arrears.
Charlie Allen and Hahn began to boss midfield, the latter drawing a smart stop from Walker following a free kick. Carlos and Bishop were running riot on the flanks, with Wade causing mayhem with his physical approach clearly unsettling a young Sudbury backline. Blues continued to push Sudbury back, but the hosts hit back with quick fire breaks targeting Callum Thompson leading to his substitution – Aron Gordon coming on with Carlos moving to left back.
Blues pressure finally told in the 61st minute when Bishop raced to the byeline – cutting the ball back it was only half cleared to Hahn, his fierce strike was turned past Walker with a deft flick from Wade. Five minute later Blues were in front with a goal which combined simplicity with consummate skill. A tremendous cross field pass from Toner was met with a howitzer volley from Hahn that arrowed like a shell past Walker much to the joy of players and fans alike.
Apart the occasional break it was one way traffic, Sudbury having no answer to Blues power play committing a number cynical fouls to stem the tide of attacks. Bishop was denied a fourth when he received the ball with his back to goal, turning on the spot his shot beat Walker and clipped the bar.
The dying minutes saw Sudbury launch a late fightback, a corner was claimed at the second attempt by Bogard – a free kick just outside the box was blocked and then Mekhi Mckenzie broke free only to be thwarted by Toner. Blues regained control and played down the clock keeping possession until the final whistle .
This was probably Blues most accomplished performance of the season, coming from two goals behind and with three quality goals playing at pace with a collective will to win and tremendous team spirit, they now look like real promotion contenders – there is still a long way to go but the signings in recent weeks have slotted in seamlessly and added skill in midfield and firepower up front.
Bogard, Mahal, Finneran, Toner, Thompson ( Gordon 54), Allen, Pinto, Hahn, Carlos, Wade (Oli 72) Bishop