Hello and welcome back to my humble little blog. A belated Happy New Year and a big thank you for taking the time to have a look at my inane ramblings!
With the bitterly cold weather that has hit the UK over the past few days, I decided to play it safe and head to a match with an artificial pitch, though a dumping of snow in the area on the Friday morning still gave me cause for concern, but luckily it bypassed the ground of my intended destination.
So, with the game was definitely going ahead, for my first journey of 2017, I headed into deepest Suffolk for what looked like, on paper anyway, a very intriguing FA Trophy tie as AFC Sudbury, of the Isthmian Premier League, were taking on Conference National (and former Football League) Macclesfield Town.
Macclesfield are currently a few points off the play-off places, having won all three of their games in 2017, whilst Sudbury are a few points above the drop zone but, as the cliche goes, anything is possible when cup ties are concerned, especially if the so called bigger team doesn't treat the competition with respect.
AFC Sudbury have good pedigree in national cup competition having reached the FA Vase final three years on the bounce from 2003-2005, losing on each occasion. This run started just four years after the club was formed when Sudbury Town and Sudbury Wanderers joined forces in 1999. The AFC actually stands for Amalgamated Football Club.
In the club's debut season in 1999/2000 the club finished 3rd in the Eastern Counties League before going on to clinch the league title for the first time in 2001 and the subsequent four season after that. Each time though the club declined promotion. The club accepted promotion in 2006, ironically after finishing 3rd, and played at this level (either in the Isthmian or Southern League) before clinching the Isthmian league Division One North title in 2016.
AFC Sudbury play at the King's Marsh stadium, which was originally the home of Sudbury Wanderers (Sudbury Town's Priory Stadium was sold off for housing) and is on the outskirts of the town. This meant a fair trek into the town for a pre-match snifter. It was worth the trek though as we decamped to The Brewery Tap (home of the Mauldons brewery) and sampled their fine selection of ales before heading back to the ground (at this point I must mention that there was a real ale available in Sudbury's excellent clubhouse).
The ground had filled up nicely in our brief absence and Sudbury's biggest crowd of the season settled down to watch the game. This was AFC Sudbury's first time in the 2nd round proper of the FA Trophy and it turned out to be just a step too far.
Despite having a fair amount of possession, and playing some neat football, they never really hurt Macclesfield and two first half goals effectively killed the tie.
Rhys Browne (23) got on the end of a long punt and ran through to slot home home. Likewise Anthony Dudley (32) who was played through to fire past Marcus Garnham in the Sudbury goal (pictured left).
Macclesfield's third goal never arrived until the 84th when Jack Sampson scored but, with two minutes remaining, the home crowd finally had something to cheer when a neat passing move presented an opportunity for Liam Wales to score a deserved consolation.
I must give a big thanks to whoever updates the AFC Sudbury twitter feed (@afcsudbury) for keeping everyone informed on the status of the game, especially the heartening tweet around 7am to effectively say game on, it was much appreciated by this particular groundhopper!