AFC Sudbury’s victory in the Suffolk Boys’ Under-18 Midweek Cup is their best yet.
That was the verdict of coach Dave Cannon after their 3-2 success against Ipswich Town at the Jobserve Community Stadium, home of Colchester United FC, on Thursday evening.
AFC Sudbury’s Academy maintained their proud record of never having lost a match since entering the competition for the first time in the 2015-16 season as they racked up their sixth straight win.
But Ipswich Town, who chose to play several 17-year-olds rather than field an under-16 side as they had previously done in this season’s competition, came closer than any of their previous opponents to breaking the mould.
Ipswich actually led 1-0 at the interval, before three goals in a 27-minute second-half spell effectively settled the outcome.
Only a splendid last-ditch block by Fin Steele, after Jayden Cohen had rounded the keeper and a defender, prevented AFC Sudbury from taking a 17th minute lead.
Ipswich Town defender Fin Steele (blue shirt, left) blocks a close-range goalbound effort from AFC Sudbury striker Jayden Cohen after he had rounded goalkeeper Woody Williamson. Main photograph: AFC Sudbury celebrate with the cup. Photographs: Paul Voller
Ollie Davis had just seen his shot well saved by AFC Sudbury keeper Ryan Dunne before Ipswich got their noses in front after 27 minutes.
Right-back Seth O’Neill broke clear down the right and advanced into the penalty area before scoring with a precise shot into the bottom far corner of the net.
AFC Sudbury came out at the start of the second period and scored twice in the opening six minutes to turn the final on its head.
Cohen was fouled in the box after 47 minutes and Josh Stokes, who has played regularly for the club’s first team this season, tucked away the resulting spot kick.
Four minutes later Stokes played in Oli Linton and his cross-shot found the bottom far corner of the net.
Ipswich Town's right-back Seth O'Neill scores with a low shot past AFC Sudbury keeper Ryan Dunne to give his side the lead after 27 minutes. Photograph: Paul Voller.
Cohen almost added a third soon after, but Ipswich keeper Woody Williamson blocked his shot at his near post, while at the other end Steven Turner’s first-time shot from O’Neill’s cross was tipped away by Dunne.
Stokes extended AFC Sudbury’s lead in the 74th minute, finding the bottom far corner with a well-struck 25-yard shot from the right.
However, Ipswich reduced the deficit six minutes later when Dunne fumbled the ball and Morgan pounced to roll home into an unguarded net.
Davis twice went close in the closing stages, Dunne saving with his legs and substitute Nico Valentine slicing wide, and then heading a left-wing cross wide, while Dan Smith cleared a goalbound header.
AFC Sudbury coach Cannon said: “It was our best win in the tournament so far because of the way we played and the quality of the opposition.
“This group of boys have had a tough time during their two years because of Covid, but tonight they have rounded it off with a win in the final and can now look forward to going to Miami at the end of the month.”
The cup and medals were presented by Suffolk FA Honorary Life Member David Porter, who donated the cup, and Suffolk FA Chair Phil Lawler.
AFC Sudbury: Ryan Dunne, Joe Hunter, Brad Byrne, Joe Newland, Dan Smith, Cam Strachan, Josh Stokes, Dylan Kirk, Jayden Cohen, Oli Lonton. Used subs: Dylan Gee, Bobby Rea, Tom Chilvers, Louie Arnold, Colby Hillyard.
Ipswich Town: Woody Williamson, Seth O’Neill, Calum Logan, Harry Barbrook, Fin Steele, Emmanuel Okonowo, Tommy Taylor, Steven Turner, Ollie Davis, Alex Graham, Rio Morgan. Used subs: Nico Valentine, Jack Manly, Nick Nkansa-Dwamena. Unused subs: Danny Cullum, Kaya Donohue.
Referee: Luke Hammond.