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AFC Sudbury manager Marc Abbott calls for cool heads ahead of hosting relegation rivals Kettering Town





AFC Sudbury manager Marc Abbott has called on his players to ‘play the game and not the occasion’ when they host relegation rivals Kettering Town in a key fixture on Saturday (3pm).

However, after beating play-off chasing AFC Telford United last weekend for successive 1-0 victories, on a day that also saw Kettering bag another three points, he believes it has relieved pressure on his side.

A third straight victory for the Yellows on Saturday would reduce the gap to safety in the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central to a single point with seven games to go, though Kettering do hold a game in hand after Tuesday’s postponement. Hitchin Town, who Sudbury beat the previous weekend, are also currently four points above them.

AFC Sudbury players celebrate Tom Dickens' winning goal against AFC Telford United Picture: Steve Screech
AFC Sudbury players celebrate Tom Dickens' winning goal against AFC Telford United Picture: Steve Screech

Kettering claimed a 2-0 victory against Sudbury in the reverse fixture on February 27 to go seven clear, but Abbott is confident they can get the better of the Poppies this time around.

"I think keeping to our playing style and playing our way we'll give them lots of problems,” he said.

"For us it's playing the game and not the occasion and sticking to our principles.

AFC Sudbury manager Marc Abbott has seen his side win their last two matches Picture: Mecha Morton
AFC Sudbury manager Marc Abbott has seen his side win their last two matches Picture: Mecha Morton

"We've got some brilliant players who can play on the astro and handle the ball.

"They've obviously got an aging back three that are not overly mobile so we'll be looking at ways we can expose them.”

He added: "We believe and trust in what we do and I think we’ve shown that by beating Needham and Telford and taking points off teams like Stratford at the top end of the table that our home performances have helped us as we've been excellent.

"I think Kettering personally will be more concerned with playing us than we are playing Kettering on Saturday."

While accepting it is a big fixture, he does not feel it is a ‘must-win’ situation for his side.

He said: “I think we'll pick up points from now until the end of the season and Kettering and Hitchin have got some tough games coming up.

"Every moment matters and every point matters, but if it's not three it could be one, I think that is also a positive.”

Defender Tom Dickens’ 66th minute strike on Callum Page’s drilled cross following a short corner proved to be decisive in Saturday’s game with high-flying Telford on a day where their defensive resilience shone through.

“It was a very good win,” said Abbott.

“They hit the bar twice (in the first half) from two long-range strikes, two unbelievable hits, and they've missed the chance at the end with a free header.

“But other than that it was a very, very even game.

"They probably had the better chances but I thought the way we defended was great with every players' actions hard-working and resilient.

"Overall I don't think anyone could really grumble that we took three points to be honest."

Meanwhile, he said they still have no timescale in relation to top scorer Joe Neal’s thigh injury with the possibility he may not be back involved this season.

Abbott said: “we’re still unsure but I think Joe’s ultimately got to put himself first and get himself right whether it's this season or next season."

Having attracted crowds of 375 and 374 in their last two matches, the AFC boss is hoping for another vocal backing from a bumper gate this weekend.

“The atmosphere has been brilliant and the players appreciate it and the club appreciates it,” he said. "And seeing everyone so upbeat and happy after Saturday only encourages the players to keep going and backing it up.”

Meanwhile, Veo Suffolk Under-18 Midweek Cup holders AFC Sudbury, who defeated Ipswich Town U16s 6-1 in the quarter-finals last Thursday, will face Bury Town in the semi-final at Stowmarket Town FC’s Greens Meadow next Thursday (7.45pm).