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Former Cambridge United professional Tom Dickens confident AFC Sudbury are better than lowly league position suggests ahead of Halesowen Town trip





AFC Sudbury centre-back Tom Dickens believes it is only a matter of time before the Yellows start becoming upwardly mobile in the table in their bid to stabilise the club at Step 3.

After exiting the Isuzu FA Trophy 3-1 at equivalent-level Hendon in third round qualifying on Saturday (see page 30), hot on the heels of a penalty shootout defeat at home to Ipswich Town Under-18s in the Endeavour Automotive Suffolk Premier Cup, AFC now only have the league left to focus on.

They travel to fourth-placed Halesowen Town on Saturday (3pm) occupying the fourth from bottom final relegation spot with just one win from their 11 matches.

Tom Dickens on the ball during the 4-2 defeat at Stratford Town Picture: Mark Williamson
Tom Dickens on the ball during the 4-2 defeat at Stratford Town Picture: Mark Williamson

But former Cambridge United professional Dickens, who signed following a short spell with Step 2 Cheshunt in the summer having been around that level with both Chelmsford City and Welling United, feels their performances have warranted more than they have ended up getting.

In fact, in only three games of the 11 have they ended up more than one goal away from their opponents, picking up five draws along the way.

“I think we're very close to being a very good team and a team that is going to compete well in this league,” said 21-year-old Soham-based Dickens.

Tom Dickens joined Sudbury in the summer following a spell with Step 2 Cheshunt Picture: Mecha Morton
Tom Dickens joined Sudbury in the summer following a spell with Step 2 Cheshunt Picture: Mecha Morton

"It's a tough league but as results show, we're not far away at all, we just need to be better in both boxes at times.”

He added: “We are more than competing with teams and I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing and we will pick up points.

“I think we will stay up in this league and we’ll be just fine.

“And maybe in a few years we’ll be really competing up in those play-off spaces, I do believe that.”

Tom Dickens rose through the ranks at Cambridge United, earning a pro contract `Picture: Keith Heppell
Tom Dickens rose through the ranks at Cambridge United, earning a pro contract `Picture: Keith Heppell

He also feels the supporters can continue to play their part in making their first season since promotion, following a big summer rebuild after off-the-field issues led the purse strings to be severely tightened, an ultimately successful one.

“So far the fans have been brilliant,” he said.

"On away days we see them travelling in numbers which is great for us as it gives us an extra boost.

“Not only that, but home games as well. We are cheered on right through that 96-97th minute and a lot of our goals have come late and we've probably got the fans to thank for that as much as ourselves as they’ve given us that extra boost.

“And the message for them is just to stick with us, keep cheering us on and we'll keep running for them and for each other and we'll pick points up.”

Dickens feels a growing injury list has not helped their cause in recent weeks but that the return of the likes of captain Jake Turner (ankle), full-back Ollie Brown (foot), Olumide Oluwatimilehin (groin) and Dan Cousens (concussion) can only help them in the coming weeks.

But he also had praise for the youngsters, who have stepped up in their absence with Billy Walsh joining Jamie Eveleigh, Jamie Bennett and Reuben Swann in the senior side having followed up his first-team debut on Tuesday with his first league start. Alfie Lambert then became the latest academy player to make his debut in Marc Abbott’s side, coming off the bench at Hendon.

“I think they’ve done brilliant,” said Dickens.

“Reuben Swann has been around it a bit longer than the others, scoring a great goal at Mildenhall in the FA Cup and securing us a point against Leiston with another great goal.

“But I think all of them have been brilliant. They are all very good technical players and have settled into the squad nicely as well.”

Having previously worked with Abbott at Cambridge United’s academy, he is also confident they have the right man at the helm.

"As soon as Marc gave me the call that he was going to be taking over as manager it was a no-brainer for me,” he said on dropping a level to join the King’s Marsh-based club.

“He is a brilliant guy and a great manager as well.”

He added: “It’s always hard when a club has to go through a rebuild.

“It's tough for a manager to bring that amount of players in but I think he's done a great job with some really good players coming in.

“We've got a good squad and it already feels like we've been playing together for a long time.

“I feel like we're a quite tight-knit group and that is going to show in the long run, especially towards the back end of this season.

"Look, we'll grind for each other, run for each other and get results."