Josh Stokes at the double as AFC Sudbury edge past Bury Town to reach the Suffolk Boys' Under-18 Midweek Cup semi-finals
It was only in December that AFC Sudbury Under-18s put their Bury Town counterparts firmly to the sword in the FA Youth Cup, coming away with a 7-0 victory that sparked their club to make commemorative t-shirts.
Bury's joint manager Mark Jolland had urged his players to learn the lessons from that nightmare night. And even though they exited the Blue Square Solutions Suffolk Boys’ Under-18 Midweek Cup to the same opponents at the same Ram Meadow venue, tonight's 3-2 home defeat – with Josh Stokes second-half finishes twice seeing holders Sudbury retake the lead – was something of a morale victory.
The evident fight to avenge that night was also matched by quality and concentration as the visitors found themselves up against a totally different proposition on a rain-lashed pitch.
It was only a set piece which separated the sides at the interval with Sudbury leading 1-0 via Jesper Lawrence's 32nd minute header flying in.
It could have been a greater advantage the visitors held but Bury's Wilson Joseph got a vital fingertip to Jack Palmer's free kick to turn it onto his crossbar to keep them at bay early on.
Bury certainly had their own chances in the first period though with Finlay Bonas' shot being deflected wide while Kyran Cooper used his pace to launch a counter-attack before Luke Craigie pushed his fierce effort out for a corner.
Up the other end Wilson continued to play his part, saving a Stokes effort at the second attempt as well as denying Owen Lennie and Josh Ambrose, the later who had scored a hat-trick in that 7-0 victory.
But the full-time academy side's breakthrough moment came from a Luke Hipkin corner which found Lawrence unmarked and he thundered in his header, giving Wilson little chance.
Bury responded well though with impressive link man Jack Turner firing a free kick not far wide while his throughball on the stroke of half-time put Thomas Pinyoun in who finished, only for the offside flag to deny them an equaliser.
A frenetic half finished with Pinyoun finding Craigie behind his shot while shortly before Alfie Adams –who has been on trial with Oldham Athletic and attracted further interest from Southend United and Sheffield Wednesday – fired wide up the other end.
Stokes and Hipkin fired in off-target efforts at the start of the second half but Bury found themselves level in the 50th minute when AFC were punished for not clearing Callum Steed's free-kick with captain Andrew Conroy despatching a loose ball through a crowded box.
Within four minutes Sudbury re-took the lead though as Steed gave away sloppy possession on the centre-circle and Bury were unable to clear their lines this time with Stokes' low shot from the edge of the area found the bottom left-hand corner.
Again the response was positive from the Blues though. Pinyoun fired over from the edge of the area before Steed atoned for his mistake four minutes previously with a great turn and curling finish from the edge of the penalty area that saw the ball drop into the far left-hand side of the net.
Hipkins' set piece deliveries continued to pose a real threat and only a good diving save saw the central midfielder denied a goal to restore their lead in the 66th minute.
It continued to be a tightly-contested affair but it was the holders who got their noses in front again with Stokes' glancing header from another fine Hipkin free-kick delivery in the 73rd minute.
Bury did not fade away though and Cooper fired a fierce angled effort over the far post after a good run in behind while a late free kick from Turner was not far over the crossbar.
There was disappointment etched on the Bury players' faces at the full-time whistle and relief on Sudbury's but the Blues could certainly leave the pitch with their heads held high.
The draw for the semi-final of the competition is set to also feature Felixstowe & Walton United – 3-2 winners after extra-time at home to Bungay Town – Ipswich Wanderers – who beat Walsham-le-Willows in a 6-4 thriller at Humber Doucy Lane – and Leiston – who received a bye after Ipswich Town Under-16s pulled out.
Bury: Joseph (Foreman 46'), Bonas (Hurrell 69'), Heider, Haddoch Conroy (c), Gee, Pinyoun (Frank 61'), Steed (Allision 69'), Turner, Cooper, Mills. Unused sub: Walker.
Sudbury: Craigie, Penn, Adams, Ambrose, Hipkin, Palmer, Banyard (Smith 90'), Lennie (Long 77'), Harvey, Lawrence, Stokes. Unused subs: Blunkell, Kirk, Strachan.
Suffolk News Man of the Match: Luke Hipkin. Busy midfield display and excellent set piece deliveries. Unfortunate not to end with a goal himself.