AFC Sudbury last Suffolk non-league side standing in the FA Cup
While Leiston lost at home to Tamworth, the Yellows will carry on flying the flag for the county after booking their place in the fourth qualifying round with a 1-0 home win over higher-league Cheshunt on Saturday.
It came courtesy of academy scholar Luke Hipkin’s 32nd-minute finish from captain Lewis O’Malley’s low cross, combined with recording an eighth clean sheet in their last nine matches.
“I’m so proud of the players, it’s a great achievement,” said joint manager Rick Andrews.
“We had a game-plan of what we wanted from the players by half-time and it actually worked better than we thought as we came in 1-0 up.
“We make no apologies that we aimed to frustrate them and when the minutes start ticking away teams start going long and not playing the way they can. And we were comfortable then and saw out the game well.”
He also paid tribute to the help they received from a raucous atmosphere created within the 233 hardy souls who braved the awful weather.
“While there was probably not as many as we expected it was certainly the noisiest it has been since Angelo (Harrop) and myself have been at the club,” he said. “They recognised the shift we were putting in.”
It was also a special day for the club’s full-time academy with nine of the 17 in the match-day squad representing them, in five graduates and four current students.
One of the latter, current academy captain Dan Smith, got on for his first-team debut as a 77th-minute substitute while second-year Josh Blunkell impressed in goal with James Askew failing a fitness test.
“Josh did absolutely superb; great handling and did nothing wrong,” said Andrews.
“We brought in two other lads that are second years in Dan Smith and Josh Stokes who impressed me when I watched them.
“Dan Smith got on and did what we asked him to do.
“The academy boys seem to come across with no fear and they are a great credit to Danny Laws and his team.”
Monday’s draw saw Sudbury given home advantage to have a go at matching their club-record run to the first round proper, achieved in AFC’s second season, in 2000/01, when they met Darlington.
But opponents Dartford, who currently top the Vanarama National League South with six wins and a draw from their seven opening matches, will provide a big obstacle.
“They do not get much tougher. They are obviously two levels above us and flying in their league,” said Andrews. “The only plus for us is it’s a home draw.”
But first the Yellows must focus on trying to negotiate their way past another in-form team visiting in a FA competition. They begin their Buildbase FA Trophy campaign in the second qualifying round on Saturday (3pm) with the visit of Cray Valley Paper Mills.
The south east London outfit are currently second – level on points with leaders Haywards Heath Town – in Sudbury’s equivalent level Pitching In Isthmian League South East Division.
But Andrews will not get caught out trying to preserve players for the following weekend.
“It’s happened to me far too many times. You really have to focus on one game at a time,” he said.
Jamie Shaw (groin) is expected to miss out while Tom Maycock, who recently rejoined the club on loan from Needham Market, is back along with goalkeeper Alfie Stronge, both having been cup-tied on Saturday.