Martin praises Sudbury fans
FOOTBALL: Retiring AFC Sudbury manager Keith Martin was full of praise for the club's supporters after Saturday's disappointing 2-1 defeat to Brigg Town in the FA Vase final at Upton Park.
FOOTBALL: It is easy to be magnanimous when you have won a cup final.
It is much more difficult being fair and balanced when you have just suffered the tremendous disappointment of losing a major cup final, writes David Vincent.
AFC Sudbury's manager Keith Martin did that when he had the face the media minutes after seeing his side out-battled by Brigg Town in a disappointing Vase final at Upton Park.
All the ingredients were there, an enthusiastic crowd (even though less than 7,000 is not a lot in a Premiership stadium), a fine pitch and good weather.
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But the occasion proved too much for the Suffolk side who fought their way through a series of tough away ties and a difficult semi-final against Jewson League rivals Maldon Town to get there.
Martin, about to hang up his tracksuit, praised the fans: “It has been absolutely brilliant. They have been to Cornwall, Manchester and Durham to support us.
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“They have been magnificent all season. The town has got behind us and, even though we have been beaten here today, has given us a civic reception.
“They have done us proud.”
But he was less than happy with the way some of his players responded to the occasion.
“It's been a tough day, starting in the morning making decisions about who to leave out.
“We never really got going at all.
“For the first goal, the boy got a great strike but we had been caught like that before, it happened two or three weeks ago.
“But it was a strike worthy of winning any game.”
“Several players didn't perform. It is a big stage for non-league players and a great day for them. The pitch was absolutely brilliant, but we never really got going and didn't really knock the ball about at all.
“We did things we never normally do; it was disappointing. The things we practised and planned we didn't do today.”
Players like Andrew Claydon struggled to have an impact on the game, Martin said, but a key decision by referee Mick Fletcher, was his failure to award a penalty for a foul on Sam Banya in injury-time at the end, which would have taken it into extra-time. I have had three or four texts saying we were cheated. There was no doubt about it, and the linesman raised his flag.
“I had just said to my assistant the officials had a good game up to then and it is a decision that has cost us.
“There is no point in having an official on the line if you are not going to take any notice of them.
“He should at least have the courtesy of going to consult with him.”
Brigg battled for everything and Claydon and Bennett got some rough treatment. Martin added: “I never underestimate anybody. I knew they would be a very good side.”
Brigg Town manager Ralph “Raz” Clayton said he had inspired his players by showing a video of their 1996 Vase win at Wembley on the coach from Lincolnshire.
“We played very well at Wembley and we tried to do the same thing again. It was a super time. Bert Millichip said it was the best football performance from a non-league club in his life there.
“Today we had players out and others struggling with injuries and some had to play out of position. But we have a small squad and people have to be able to do that.
“I thought we handled it absolutely superbly and we got away with it.
“The plan was to close down their two wide men.
“I thought we won the midfield battle and the back three were absolutely superb.
“We got a brilliant goal in the first few minutes but didn't play very well for the rest of the first half.
“As the game went on I was getting more and more confident. Their big players were starting to tire.
“We had a lot of luck with the second goal, it was a shot-cum-cross but it went in.
“What a day, what a night it is going to be, what a weekend!”
Clayton was also asked if he was going to try for a third Vase win.
“I would be a fool not to, wouldn't I? It means an awful lot to an awful lot of people. I am sure they have had a wonderful day.”
Not for Martin though. He confirmed his decision to retire.
“It won't tempt me to carry on. I have had a nice career and the time has come to call it a day, when I have got to say enough's enough and let the youngsters have a go.
“I have enjoyed working with the lads, and I used to play in the five-a-side up until a couple of years ago. They have kept me young but it is time I had a rest.
“I have finished my career at West Ham and training at Portman Road this week, which is not bad.
“Gary Harvey is taking over from me and I wish him all the best.
“I will be on the other side of the fence, though I will get a seat not stand in the Shed.”