AFC Sudbury set for their ‘hardest game of the season’ as they travel to Maidstone United in the FA Trophy

AFC Sudbury boss David Batch

AFC Sudbury boss David Batch - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

AFC Sudbury boss David Batch knows that today’s encounter against Maidstone United will be his side’s hardest game of the season.

The Suffolk side travel to the high-flying Ryman Premier Division outfit in the Second Round Qualifying of the FA Trophy, looking to provide a major upset.

The Kent-based team have yet to lose a game this season at their Gallagher Stadium, look destined for promotion to the Conference Leagues, and are still in the FA Cup – hoping to beat League Two side Stevenage in a home replay next week which would see them enter the Second Round of the competition.

No wonder then, Sudbury boss Batch is keeping grounded of his side’s chances of progression, “Saturday’s game will be our hardest game of the season,” he declared.

“You would expect a game against a club flying high in the league above, who play with 2,000 fans behind them that are used to winning and being successful, to be your toughest of the season.”

They might be the underdogs, but Batch’s men go into this game having lost just twice in their last 14 games, and have experience of playing against Maidstone on their 3G pitch after last year’s Robert Dyas League Cup final – where the home side scored two late goals to triumph 3-0.

That experience should therefore bolster Sudbury hopes, and in truth, they held their own in that final, as Batch explains.

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“Last season, we had the choice to play the final in front of a crowd of about 800 at a nondescript ground or at Maidstone in front of a big crowd and in a great stadium.

“That obviously gave them a massive advantage, but we gave it a real go.

“1-0 down at half-time, we were the better side in the second half and had a legitimate goal ruled out – their manager admitted that they struggled to get out of their half at times – before we got one sent off in the 83rd-minute and they scored two late goals.

“We gave a good account of ourselves then, and I’m not saying I’m expecting the same game as it will be our hardest game we’ll play this season. But if we can put in our best performance of the season, we will have a chance of getting a result.”

Travelling with belief and form, Sudbury are also perhaps meeting Maidstone at the right time as the Stones have their upcoming FA Cup First Round replay with Stevenage in their sights next Thursday, set to be shown live on BT Sport.

Batch continued: “I think the FA Cup game will have a bearing – the only thing is it could be a positive or negative one.

“Players might look at this game to prove a point and make sure they’re in the team for Thursday, but they could have half an eye on it as well, so either way there’ll be a reaction.”

Batch has a fully-fit squad to pick from this afternoon after resting a few regulars in the 3-1 League Cup win over an albeit under-strength in Leiston in mid-week.

And after toppling fellow Ryman Premier Division sides Bognor Regis Town and Bury Town, who are not in action this weekend, in cup games earlier this season, Sudbury go to Maidstone with nothing to lose.

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