Ryman League Division One North: 15/12/15
Cray Wanderers 1 Berquez o. g. 58
AFC Sudbury 2 Henshaw 10, G. Clarke 84
In a battle of the top two teams at the top of the Ryman North, it was second placed AFC Sudbury who gained the three points as a goal six minutes from time meant Cray’s lead at the top was cut to three points. Cray lead the table with 57 points from 26 played with Sudbury on 54 from 24 played. The visitors from Suffolk took the lead after just ten minutes before an own goal just before the hour tied the game.
There was just one change to the starting line up to the side which beat Wroxham on Saturday with Ade Osifuwa returning from suspension at right back for Ray Powell.
Both sides came into the game with five game winning records and it was the visitors who took the game to Cray right from the off and almost scored after fifteen seconds. Cray gave the ball away and Craig Parker from twenty five yards hit a fine shot which forced Nick Blue to turn the ball round for a corner. Still in the first minute of the game from the corner, Jordan Blackwell’s ball in was headed towards goal by Ryan Henshaw and Grant Basey had to clear almost off the line.
Sudbury continued to threaten and Blackwell fired over the top from just inside the area. Aside from a couple of early corners Cray found it hard to get going and didn’t really threaten the Sudbury goal till the later stages of the half.
Sudbury took the lead in the tenth minute after Blackwell forced a corner down the right. Blackwell’s kick towards to the back post was met by the head of Henshaw and his header crept underneath Nick Blue and into the back of the net.
The goal helped the visitors take the sting out of the game and for the next twenty five minutes were in control of the match looking dangerous going forward and causing problems from set pieces. Blue had to make a fine stop once again, this time from Luke Callender’s effort from twenty yards which the Cray keeper did well to save. Then with twenty minutes gone, Callander from the edge of the box fired over and then again from much further out. A curling shot from Blackwell went straight to Blue as Sudbury continued to force the pace. Another Blackwell corner almost led to another Henshaw goal but this time the defender’s attempt was slightly off balance and went straight to Blue.
It took until the 39th minute for Cray to get a really good sight of the Sudbury goal and almost levelled following an award of a free kick, twenty five yards from goal out on the right of the area. Basey’s kick was accurate and on target and forced Marcus Garnham to turn the ball round the post for a corner.
A couple of minutes later Cray put together their best passing move of the half as good combination play between Leigh Bremner and James Duckworth helped set up Andre McCollin who on the right edge of the penalty area hit a an excellent cross shot which the impressive Garnham tipped spectacularly round for a corner.
The last opening of the half fell to Sudbury once again from a Blackwell corner, which this time was played short to Parker who lashed a shot well wide.
Half Time: 0-1
The second half began much more even with the rain starting to come down a bit more steadier and there were fewer openings at the start of the half for Sudbury with the best effort falling to Callander who cut in from the right with a low shot which Blue got down to save well.
Cray were very unfortunate not to score when Mike Frieter laid the ball out to Aryan Tajbakhsh who whipped over a fine cross from out on the right which was met by a downward header from McCollin which Garnham did extremely well to get down to block. From the corner, Basey’s kick narrowly missed the head of Ben Payne up from the back.
Two minutes later Cray were level in the 58th minute following a fair slice of good luck. A free kick out on the left from James Duckworth was curled into the box and met by a poor punch by Garnham. The ball came out to McCollin who drove in a shot towards goal which was turned into his own net by Ollie Berquez to tie the game.
For the first time in the game Cray appeared to be in the ascendancy and played the ball around well for a short spell before the game started to get stretched and the ball was given away frequently by both teams and there were no chances created until the last ten minutes.
In the 82nd minute, Cray searching for a winner were presented with a shooting opportunity when Tajbakhsh set up Bremner for a low drive which went wide of goal.
Two minutes later, Sudbury went back in front after Cray struggling to clear the ball from outside their own box saw Callender and Parker combine to play the ball through to substitute, George Clarke who crept into the penalty area and swept home a fine finish underneath Blue to restore Sudbury’s lead.
Cray tried hard to get back on terms but Sudbury used the last few minutes and stoppage time to cleverly see out the game and in the end claim a victory they deserved on the balance of play.
Although Cray were perhaps not at their best today and much of that has to be down to Sudbury’s performance, Tony Russell’s side has bounced back from adversity a few times this season and certainly will not be deflated by the defeat and will be looking to bounce back on Saturday when Barkingside visit Hayes Lane. Certainly this evening proved what everyone already knew that this a tough league with good footballing sides at the top end of the table and there will be plenty more twists and turns to come before the end of April.
Cray: Nick Blue, Ade Osifuwa, Grant Basey, Nathan Fox, Ben Payne, Sean Roberts (Capt.), Aryan Tajbakhsh, Mike Frieter, Leigh Bremner, Andre McCollin, James Duckworth (Uche Ibemere, 89): Subs: Ray Powell, Ben Hunt, Joe Vines, Sam Faulkner
AFC Sudbury: Marcus Garnham, Ben Robinson, Jack Wilkinson, Ollie Berquez, Ryan Henshaw, James Baker, Joe Maybanks (George Clarke, 73), Sam Clarke (Capt.), Luke Callender (Ross Bailey, 85), Craig Parker, Jordan Blackwell
Referee: Chris Francis
Assistants: Matt Russell, Richard May