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Young AFC Sudbury side back up Morsley's pre-season assessment on opening day

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Underestimate us at your peril - that is the message AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley was delighted to see his young squad deliver on the opening day of the Bostik League season.

STEPPING UP: Academy player Joe Grimwood gave an assured display at the heart of the AFC defence Picture: Clive Pearson (3639538)
STEPPING UP: Academy player Joe Grimwood gave an assured display at the heart of the AFC defence Picture: Clive Pearson (3639538)

The 4-0 victory at Tilbury, with Scunthorpe United’s legendary forward Paul Hayes unavailable due to having not received international clearance, saw a squad drawing heavily on academy products underline their manager’s faith in their ability to thrive in Step 4 football.

Having fielded some frosty questions over a lack of big name signings at the club’s latest ‘Meet The Manager’ evening – coming before Hayes’ arrival on the eve of the season – the AFC boss was always confident the football would do the talking.

“I have said in the press and at the Meet the Manager night that this squad I have got are good and they are good lads,” he said.

“There has been a great deal of talk about them being mainly young lads who lack experience, but people like Tom Dettmar have racked up 50 appearances for the first team and he will soon be 19, so he is not a kid anymore.

“Baris (Altintop) and Joe Grimwood starting (at Tilbury) shows how well they have done in pre-season. Sometimes there is too much emphasis put on age; I always say that if you are good enough you are old enough.

“The spine of this team is good all the way through.”

GOAL-DEN MOMENT: AFC Sudbury player celebrate Daryl Coakley's goal in the big win at Tilbury Picture: Clive Pearson (3639536)
GOAL-DEN MOMENT: AFC Sudbury player celebrate Daryl Coakley's goal in the big win at Tilbury Picture: Clive Pearson (3639536)

And ahead of Heybridge Swifts’ visit for King’s Marsh’s opening competitive game of 2018/19 on Saturday (3pm), Morsley is excited to see where his side match up against a team who are many people’s frontrunners for the title.

“It is a game I am looking forward to and one I was looking for when the fixtures came out,” he said.

“I know their manager Jody (Brown) very well and despite him still being very young he has been around a long time and is a very experienced manager.

“He had a very successful season last year and has added to his squad, so they are quite rightly title favourites. But that will not faze them.

“It will be a very, very tough game for us and it will be interesting to see how we cope.

“Some Tilbury players on Saturday did not work very hard – which their manager said in his press comments after the game – but he [Jody] will respect us as a team striving to improve and he will have them well drilled.”

He added: “Tilbury were described as the dark horses of the league on the Isthmian website and to go there and win 4-0 means no-one will underestimate us now, which would have been nice.”

Such was the level of performance he oversaw on Saturday, the Yellows boss admitted it would be difficult to see who could drop out to get marquee signing Hayes in the side, should his international clearance from his spell at Welsh-based Newport County come through in time.

Other than that question mark, Morsley has a fully fit squad for the weekend and is looking forward to showing the home fans what he believes is a young and exciting side capable of mounting a promotion push in the North Division this season.

Commenting on Hayes’ situation, the Yellows boss revealed they could have to wait longer.

“It is in the hands of FIFA. In reality there are a lot of hoops to jump through, but if we can get it done, we will get it done,” he said.

“On Saturday he was with us and as I have said, he will bring more to us than just a player as he has lots of experience.

“He is not just a big-time player, he is coming into this football club to help us with what we are doing going forward, that is the great thing.”

Morsley was pleased to find the Chadfields pitch at Tilbury in much better condition than anticipated, but was most impressed with the mindset of his players on the opening weekend.

“We felt the attitude was right from the off and you could see the boys are in a good place,” he said.

“I felt there was a mix of determination and expectation and a bit of fear from one or two with debuts so early on.

“We dominated the game from start to finish in many ways and even in periods where Tilbury had an attack, I thought we looked very solid.”

Saturday’s goals came from Billy Holland, Phil Kelly, man-of-the-match Callum Harrison and Daryl Coakley. But Morsley picked out the ‘very mature’ performance of centre-back Tyler French for special praise.

Only Holland’s superb finish from 25 yards in the 40th minute, which flew into the top corner following great play by Harrison, had separated the sides at the break.

It was just 10 minutes into the second period before AFC doubled their lead as Kelly broke clear of the Tilbury defence before firing over Clarke Bogard into the net.

A fine solo effort by Harrison saw AFC add a third on the hour mark.

With 10 minutes remaining a great strike by Coakley sealed the opening day

* This week saw the club announce that, following Lord Andrew Phillips standing down from the role, chairman Phil Turner will combine his current position with that of club president.

Turner has also announced he will be stepping down from his chairman’s role at the end of the season, which he has held since 2010 with a little break at one stage, but will continue as club president.

* AFC Gold week 15: £100 (147) R Instance, Laurel Drive, Long Melford; £10 (146) R Hobby, Ballingdon Gardens, Sudbury; £10 (265) J Middleditch, Brent Eleigh Rd, Lavenham.