AFC Sudbury 3 - 1 GAFC
Hakan Hayrettin’s team slipped to their first defeat of the season in Suffolk, as AFC Sudbury won 3-1; their first win in five attempts over Blues.
With Joe Sweeney unavailable for the match, Danny Bunce replaced him in the starting line-up, playing just behind Jack West. Incidentally, it was Bunce’s 100th start for the club.
AFC Sudbury started the match with two ex-Blues in their starting eleven; midfielder Eljay Worrell and striker Lee Boylan. There were another two on the bench in the form of David Cowley and Daniel Charge.
Blues started the match in the worst possible fashion, conceding in the first minute to Ben Bowditch’s effort from 18 yards. The ex-Thurrock midfielder robbed Leon Lalite of possession just outside the area, and finished well, curling the ball past the outstretched keeper George Kamurasi.
Bunce had the first chance for Blues, as he was played in by Craig Pope, however he couldn’t connect with the ball as Danny Gay in the Sudbury goal came out to collect.
Luke Marshall and Joao Carlos both had shots which failed to trouble the home defence, before West got a well-deserved equaliser in the 19th minute. Craig Pope played a delicate ball over Ian Cousins in the Sudbury defence, and West kept his composure before lobbing the on-rushing keeper’.
Sudbury had a number of corners which failed to worry the Blues defence with Kamurasi looking more assured than he had done early on.
Carlos was finding space down the left and cut inside two defenders before laying the ball back to Lee Flynn who crossed into the area, but over the head of West.
James Bunn replaced the injured Bunce in the 38th minute, and Charge was introduced for Boylan, with the latter struggling after having been caught by Kamurasi.
Both sides had chances before half time to take the lead with Russell Pond shooting well from 20 yards, before Bunn had an effort blocked from a similar distance.
Blues started the second half the brighter, winning successive corners, but the deliveries were poor, with Worrell and Gay clearing.
Bowditch went close to giving Sudbury the lead just after the hour after lobbing Kamurasi after David Bryant had passed in-field. Unfortunately for him, the ball bounced down off the wrong side of the crossbar.
Ryan Kirby and Flynn received cautions, with the latter fortunate not to be adjudged to be the last man after bringing down Bryant.
Leon Antoine replaced Eljay Worrell for Sudbury and Grant Cooper made his first appearance of the season, coming on for Ryan Kirby with 20 minutes remaining.
Charge went close with a glancing header, before Bowditch put the home side back in front. The loanee from Concord Rangers pounced on a cross from Charge and smashed the ball past Kamurasi.
Tyrone Scarlett replaced Luke Marshall inside the last ten minutes, with Carlos switching the right flank.
Both Kenny Beaney and Junior Baker went close in the closing minutes; Beaney’s effort going past the far post, and Baker’s header going over.
There were shouts for a penalty as Scarlett appeared to be caught inside the area, but the referee waved away appeals from the Blues players.
Antoine almost scored a third, but his shot cannoned back off the post into the hands of Kamurasi, however it was Bryant who sealed the win in injury time as Charge’s shot was deflected into his path, and he slotted past the Grays keeper.
The defeat is Blues’ first of the season, but it was against a side who will surely be amongst the challengers come the end of the season.
Next up is the visit of Norwich United to Rush Green in the FA Cup next Saturday.
Grays Athletic: - George Kamurasi, Craig Pope, Ryan Kirby (Grant Cooper 70), Junior Baker, Lee Flynn, Luke Marshall (Tyrone Scarlett 82), Kenny Beaney, Leon Lalite, Joao Carlos, Danny Bunce (James Bunn 38), Jack West.
Subs not used: - David East, Jamie Richards