AFC Sudbury suffer heartache again
A JOURNEY that began full of expectation and excitement ended in despair and disappointment for the players and 2,500 travelling fans of AFC Sudbury.The scenes on the coaches returning to Suffolk following the 2-0 defeat by Winchester City were in stark contrast to how the market town's big day out began.
A JOURNEY that began full of expectation and excitement ended in despair and disappointment for the players and 2,500 travelling fans of AFC Sudbury.
The scenes on the coaches returning to Suffolk following the 2-0 defeat by Winchester City were in stark contrast to how the market town's big day out began.
There was a carnival atmosphere at AFC Sudbury's King's Marsh Stadium as around 1,000 supporters gathered under glorious sunshine to board coaches bound for the team's day of reckoning against Winchester City.
Any final nerves vanished into raw excitement as AFC Sudbury chants broke out as the 19 official buses embarked on the 147mile trip to St Andrew's Stadium in Birmingham.
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Passers by waved and saluted the procession of coaches as they passed through the otherwise quiet Sudbury streets.
Conversations during the three and a half hour journey along the A14 and M6 were dominated by discussions about the squad choices made by manager Gary Harvey and the ups and downs of a league winning season.
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Rod Bate, 58, from Hitcham said: "There were a couple of surprises in the squad but it was more or less what was expected.
"I brought my son and my four grandchildren along, and have got good vibes about the match. I think they are better than last season and that they had got a good chance."
A buzz of anticipation went round the supporters as the coaches drove through the centre of the country's second city towards St Andrew's stadium.
On arrival friendly and good-humoured banter was swapped between the two sets of opposing supporters from Suffolk and Hampshire in the hour building up to the kick-off in nearby pubs.
Loud cheers, accompanied by blasts of horns greeted the 17 strong AFC Sudbury squad as it went out onto Birmingham City's hallowed football turf for a warm-up.
A minute before the referee blew his whistle to start the 2004 FA Vase final a giant AFC Sudbury flag was passed over the heads of supporters in the main St Andrew's stand, as fans whipped themselves up into a football frenzy.
Deafening applause rang out as the starting line-ups were announced over the public address system.
A sudden hush fell over the tiers packed with Sudbury fans as AFC players huddled together for a final team talk. This was replaced with cheers when the game finally kicked off.
Panic spread through the yellow and blue Barmy Army during the first minute of the game when a clumsy challenge from Paul Betson left many fearing the remaining 89 minutes would be played with 10 men.
The relief expressed by fans as the referee merely issued a warning was soon replaced with shock as Winchester City opened the proceedings by going a goal up. The briefly silenced Suffolk faithful quickly found their voices again as repeated chants of yellows and "We are the boys from Sudbury" were soon ringing round the ground again.
Winchester City found the back of Dean Greygoose's net for a second time - but it returned with a flourish when the referee disallowed it. A rumbling roar could be heard coming from Winchester City fans as their side continued to pile the pressure on Sudbury's defensive line for the remainder of the first half.
At the start of the second half AFC fans drowned out the equally sized body of Winchester City supporters as they tried to give the Suffolk side the edge to equalise.
But after a successful penalty by Winchester City the Suffolk fans started nervously eyeing watches to see if there was time for a dramatic comeback.
Supporters of the Suffolk side remained in full voice to the end refusing to let the 2-0 deficit dent their faith and pride in Gary Harvey's men.
As the dejected AFC Sudbury stars watched Winchester City crowned FA Vase champions there was sporting applause for the victorious side from the legions of disappointed Suffolk fans.
The disappointment of failing to bury the ghosts of the 1989 defeat at Tamworth and last year's frustrations at the hands of Brigg Town failed to overshadow a successful season.
Captain's Wife, Karen Tracey, said: "I am very disappointed but pleased by the team's performance in the second-half. We couldn't get the ball to the forwards but losing the final cannot take away the fact that we have had a brilliant season.
Fans were disappointed with the result but all agreed it was great day out.
Phil Wilson from Sudbury, 55, said: "I thought that Sudbury were a little bit disappointing in the first half but they played a lot better in the second. This is the third time that I have had to witness Sudbury lose the Vase final and hopefully it will be the last.
Tom Pressling from Halstead, 20, said: " The trip was great but the match was disappointing in the end we just didn't seem to get enough players forward. We had some good possession but couldn't do anything creative with it.
Simon Wilson from Sudbury, 31, said: "I think we were out-played and that we gave them far too much space in the first half. We didn't have enough ideas and never looked like scoring. I had a fantastic day out though.