Ryman North leaders AFC Sudbury are dismantled by ruthless Thurrock

Ryan Henshaw went close in the second half

Ryan Henshaw went close in the second half - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

If AFC Sudbury fail to lift the Ryman North title this season, then you can bet your bottom dollar that Thurrock will.

The hosts were unbeaten in 12 league games prior to this contest, winning 11 of those games, but saw that run spectacularly crash and burn against an impressive Thurrock side today, at the Wardale Williams Stadium.

The visitors could also afford to have a player sent off in the second half as they cruised to a 4-0 victory in west Suffolk – all four goals being scored within the first 35 minutes.

The hosts gave it a go in the second period but failed to really trouble visiting goalkeeper Rhys Madden, as the visitors completed a superb double over Jamie Godbold’s team, having won the reverse fixture, 5-1, in October.

AFC remain at the top of the table, six points clear of AFC Hornchurch, who lost at the weekend, but it is Thurrock that look most likely to catch them – the Essex side moving up to third, six points behind Sudbury, but with two games in hand.

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For many, this game was being billed as a title decider, and while that might be an overexaggeration, Thurrock showed they mean business, putting in a brutal first-half display that saw them dominate all areas.

They should have been in front as early as the third minute when Ronnie Winn engineered space in the home side’s box, only to stab his wide of the far post.

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Sudbury goalkeeper Marcus Garnham then had to be alert to watch Reece Morgan’s cross-shot on to the top of the net on 11 minutes, before the visitors took the lead less than 60 seconds later.

AFC’s Ollie Berquez lost control of the ball in the winter sun and when the ball was sprayed out to Joe Christou, the winger had acres of space in which to run into before firing a ball across goal which seemingly came off home defender Ryan Henshaw, to give Thurrock a deserved lead.

Thurrock were solid in defence, Lewis Clark and Michael Toner dealing with any high ball aimed towards Luke Callander, while their midfield four, led by former Sudbury man David Cowley, were good on the ball and played at a high intensity off it.

In attack, meanwhile, Winn and Ross Wall gave the usually-dependable James Baker and Henshaw a torrid time in the opening exchanges and, by the 15th minute, the visitors had doubled their lead.

A corner was not cleared properly and the ball fell to Tom Cummings who, 35 yards out, fired an arrow of a left-foot drive beyond the despairing dive of Garnham.

Sudbury, in contrast to their league rivals, looked slightly laboured, lost too many second balls for their liking and gave possession away as quickly as they got it.

It was no surprise then when Thurrock made the game all but safe on 31 minutes. Again, after the hosts made a hash of clearing a corner, Mark Stimson’s men kept the pressure on in the six-yard box.

A bout of pinball saw a handball claim for Thurrock turned down and Garnham make a good reflex stop, before Toner scored from close range.

Four minutes later and Thurrock scored a fourth. The lively Winn robbed Henshaw on the left flank, before running in on goal and beating Garnham with aplomb from 18 yards.

A shell-shocked Sudbury at least made a game of it in the second half, Henshall and Baker forcing routine saves from Madden, but they were never close to getting back into it, even when Lewis Clarke was given two yellow cards in the space of a few seconds, on the hour, both for dissent.

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