Penalty heartache in Premier Cup
OMNI FREIGHT SERVICES
SUFFOLK PREMIER CUP
AFC Sudbury 2
Haverhill Borough 2
(Sudbury won 5-4 on pens)
Haverhill Borough bowed out on penalties to higher-league AFC Sudbury in the club’s first ever Suffolk Premier Cup outing on Tuesday night.
It was destined to end in heartache for the side, who held their hosts to a 2-2 draw in the first-round tie.
But they were unable to overcome the side in the subsequent penalty shootout, losing 5-4.
Manager Anthony Choat said his team should be ‘very proud’ of their performance.
“It’s obviously not nice to lose, but we played well and showed that we can truly compete at this level.
“We always knew it would be tough but we had a plan and it very nearly worked.
“I’m very proud of the way the team went about this game and kept going, even when we went a goal down.
“Teams such as Coggeshall and Felixstowe & Walton are going to be among the toughest we face this season and playing Sudbury was a chance to learn how to play them.
“It’s experience for the players but also for me as a manager, to develop game plans and how to set-up against these top sides.
“At no point were we out of it either, we competed throughout the game, and that’s important for us after some of our recent games.
“We were 4-0 down at half-time against Wroxham and it was game over, but we would have picked up a point if it had been a league game.
“And there’s no shame in going out on penalties.”
It had started with a bang for the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division side, who found themselves a goal up after just seven minutes.
Tom Boddey attacked from close range, with his powerful strike going in off former Borough keeper Paul Walker, who joined AFC over the summer, to put the visitors a goal up.
But their lead wouldn’t last long, as substitute Joe Walker equalised just 10 minutes later — and only four minutes after coming on.
It was a dream start for the youngster on his debut, introduced earlier than intended following a suspected broken wrist sustained by team-mate Will Crisell on only his second appearance for The Yellows.
AFC looked the more likely to score for the remainder of the half as they dominated possession and territory.
Their second goal came shortly before half-time, Alfie Carroll heading the ball in from a Joe Whight corner.
But the young, and inexperienced, side — largely a product of the academy — failed to kill the game off and Borough gained more and more of a foothold, culminating in a goalmouth scramble that saw Mat Staines bundle the ball home and take the tie to penalties.
Walker turned from villain to hero as he saved Borough’s fifth penalty from Ryan Swallow to set up a nerve-jangling final shot for Jamie Eaton-Collins.
The Norwich City Academy product duly converted to set up a second-round tie at home to Needham Market — new manager Mark Morsley’s former club and the cup’s reigning champions.
Ryan Weaver, Sam Hawley, Staines and Boddey had successfully converted their spot kicks for Borough, with Joe Whight, Tom Dettmar, Ben Hunter and Ollie Peters replying for the Bostik North Division side.
Choat praised the fitness levels of his players, who kept plugging away at the one-goal deficit, and the reaction from all the players to the challenge posed by AFC.
“We made some changes to the team, bringing in a few second-team players,” he said.
“But no-one looked out of place. No-one watching could have said who was first and second team. We put on a really good performance, if we do that in the league, we’ll not lose many games.
Owen Longley also made his second appearance for the side, having moved across from Haverhill Rovers a few weeks ago.
“He’s been away, and then played for the reserves,” Choat added. “And his performances warranted a place in the first team.
“He made his debut on Saturday (against Wroxham) and had a good second game too. We’re pleased to strengthen our squad further with a player like Owen.”
The team next face mid-table FC Clacton on Saturday in the league (3pm).
Choat said the team’s focus for the next few months will be on beating teams in and around Borough, who currently lie in 20th, in the league.
“These are the important games,” he said. “If we beat the teams around us, we’ll stay up.”