Ryman North Gallery: AFC Sudbury 1 Harlow Town 1

AFC Sudbury v Harlow
Left to right, Dave Cowley and Ollie Berquez.

AFC Sudbury v Harlow Left to right, Dave Cowley and Ollie Berquez. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Skipper James Baker held his nerve to score with virtually the last kick of the game for ten-man AFC Sudbury and maintain new manager Jamie Godbold’s unbeaten record.

The makeshift centre-back converted from the spot in the 95th minute after substitute Craig Parker had been felled by Marc Gorbell.

The decision looked a touch harsh on the leaders, who lost top spot to Needham Market as a result, but so did the call by referee Hallam Cutmore to award the visitors a free-kick from which former AFC midfielder Dave Cowley opened the scoring with an exquisite 63rd minute strike.

In a game where chances were at a premium, Sudbury looked to have blown their chance of getting anything from the game when Kris Newby was shown a second yellow card for an over-zealous tackle on Harlow winger Shane Stamp in the second half.

However, young Tyler Kemp epitomised the hosts’ fighting spirit and never-say-die-attitude on a difficult pitch and it was his long run that eventually led to the ball finding Parker in the box, the midfielder going to ground under Gorbell’s challenge.

The draw means Godbold has now taken 13 points from 15 on offer, and AFC were keen to test themselves before the game against the former league leaders, who lost their first home game of the season last weekend, 3-2 to Heybridge Swifts.

They may have been full of confidence but it was Harlow that had the better of the first half.

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Home goalkeeper Marcus Garnham saved with his feet at his near-post to deny Junior Dadson and then watched as Alex Read twice spurned the chance to gobble up the rebound, his first effort being blocked by a defender on the line and his second shot sailing over the bar.

James Smith, who won the dubious free-kick under the challenge of Ryan Henshaw for Cowley’s goal, side-footed wide on 38 minutes when he should have done better, before the dangerous Dadson weaved in from the right wing and stabbed a shot to the far post that went inches wide.

Godbold’s side had a couple of decent efforts. Terry Rymer’s lob from Garnham’s route-one clearance was just caught by Town goalkeeper Edward Thompson on the line, before Jordan Blackwell’s fizzing half-volley narrowly cleared the crossbar.

The main talking points in the first period involved the referee who was very lenient when not cautioning Ollie Berquez for leading with his arm in an aerial challenge.

In hindsight, Berquez will feel lucky to have not been cautioned, especially when Newby picked up the first of his two yellows for a challenge that was clumsy at worst.

Former AFC defender Craig Pope also saw his name go into the book, the full-back’s close pursuit of Blackwell eventually costing him.

The second half was a tight affair and it looked as though a touch of magic may seal the game either way. Cowley obliged with a dipping free-kick over the wall.

With 14 minutes to go, Newby was shown a second yellow, before Rymer blasted over when presented with a great chance to equalise.

At the other end, Garnham reacted angrily after saving at close-range from Stamp, who felt he was entitled to go for the ball as the ‘keeper clung on to it with both hands.

Stamp then squandered a second effort to make the game safe before Baker hit the ball down the middle from the spot to rescue a point for the hosts.

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