Kings Marsh Stadium, Sudbury
Isthmian League Division One North
Match Rating: 4
For my first game of my holiday on the Suffolk/Essex border, I had a realistic choice of a visit to Heybridge Swifts or AFC Sudbury this evening. Seeing AFC Sudbury flying high towards the top of the table, as well as slightly cheaper admission there persuaded me to choose the Suffolk option.
As one enters the King's Marsh Stadium complex after a fairly long drive down a small lane, one immediately notices that this is an impressive facility. Beyond a spacious car park located adjacent to some training pitches are the turnstiles, after passing some modern but interestingly designed office and training facility buildings. The turnstile block is of an unusual upvc variety, and one enters behind one of the goals, close to a corner flag, where there is a small covered area for wheelchair bound spectators which helpfully for them features a see through plastic front. Along the length from the entrance are some triangular shaped buildings, housing the club shop, a tea bar, and a two storey clubhouse. They are an attractive and impressive collection of buildings and proof that modern installations can be a welcome addition to a football ground when creatively designed. Straddling the half way line on this side is a small all-seater stand, with a similar stand covering terracing located opposite. Cover behind both goals stretch to the corner flags, and trees surrounding the stadium give a very pleasant rural enclosed feel to the ground, and a 3G pitch was installed here over the summer. The 40 page colour programme was decent and provided a good background to the match.
AFC Sudbury, who missed out on promotion in the play-off final last season, have started this season well, in second place having won five of their six league games so far, although they lost their last home game 2-6 to Cray Wanderers. They would go top with a game in hand should they win this evening. Soham Town Rangers have had a much more difficult start to their season, having picked up just one win and lost their other six fixtures so far. Rather bizarrely, this match was already the return fixture for the league season, the two teams having met two weeks ago, with AFC Sudbury winning 0-1.
On an overcast evening, this match started off with both teams doing plenty of attacking in the opening stages, with the game then settling down, until the home side took the lead on 36 minutes, when Craig Parker showed some good touches to evade a couple of defenders before poking the ball past the keeper. The game remained even though until the stroke of half time, when Sudbury doubled their lead. Some slick passing from the right wing ended with the ball being passed back to an unmarked Parker, who fired home from a central position.
Sudbury were probably fortunate to be two up at the break, but they almost scored a third within a minute of the restart when Liam Wales lobbed the keeper from towards the outer angle of the area, but a covering defender cleared the ball before it crossed the line. The reprieve was brief for Soham though, as Sudbury scored their third on 48 minutes, when Jordan Blackwell slid the ball home from a central position. Soham gave themselves a glimmer of hope of a comeback on 58 minutes when they pulled a goal back with a fine half volley on the turn by Wayne Goddard which the keeper got faint fingertips to but the ball still found the back of the net. That hope was extinguished on 67 minutes when Parker ran on to a long low ball forward, ran towards goal before coolly slotting the ball past the keeper for his hat-trick. Three minutes later and Sudbury's Luke Callendar hit the outside of the post, and it was looking like the scoreline was in danger of becoming extremely harsh on Soham. Sudbury did score their fifth on 76 minutes when Blackwell cut in from the left and eventually poked the ball past the keeper, and on 80 minutes, a diagonal shot from towards the edge of the area by Liam Wales came off the crossbar with the keeper beaten. Soham did score a deserved second goal five minutes from time when Luke Stanley volleyed home from close range.
Although Sudbury deserved the win, the 3 goal deficit still seemed harsh on the visitors who matched the home team for long periods, but Sudbury were more clinical and were able to take advantage when they were on top. This was a most enjoyable first game during my stay in southern East Anglia, watching an entertaining game in pleasant, comfortable and friendly surroundings.