Colchester United produce an efficient display to bring an end to AFC Sudbury's memorable FA Cup journey
As the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end. That was the case for AFC Sudbury this evening as they bowed out of the Emirates FA Cup.
But what a journey it has been – one that started on the outskirts of London at lower-league Cockfosters, taking in stand-out victories over Cheshunt and Dartford along the way before wrapping up live in front of the nation against professional opposition.
Colchester United – the EFL League Two side that sit 77 places above the Yellows in the football pyramid – unsurprisingly dominated the first round proper tie and were fully warranted their 4-0 victory.
But with 2,000 supporters packed inside the MEL Group Stadium – not to mention all of those watching at home and in pubs on the BBC – Sudbury did themselves proud with a performance that showed a real willingness to fight for the cause.
The opening exchanges were frantic to say the least, with both sides hoisting high balls into the box that caused problems for the respective defences.
Colchester, whose manager Hayden Mullins showed Sudbury plenty of respect by naming a strong starting line-up, were seeing more of the ball during this period, and yet it was Sudbury that went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 10th minute.
Marley Andrews found himself a bit of space towards the left hand side of the box, cut inside and sent in a cross/shot that Colchester goalkeeper Shamal George just got a hand to with Cruise Nyadzayo lurking for a tap-in.
After that the opportunities started to flow for the visiting U's with Sudbury's young goalkeeper Josh Blunkell forced to make smart saves from Freddie Sears and Brendan Weirdu in quick succession.
It was fast becoming bodies on the line time for the hosts, and centre-back Joe Grimwood certainly showed himself to be willing when he threw himself in front of Sears' goalbound effort with 26 minutes on the clock.
However, the feeling of when and not if Colchester would snap the resistance grew in intensity and the moment eventually arrived 10 minutes before the break. A cross from left flank deflected dangerously towards the back post, where an unmarked Weirdu was waiting to apply the finishing touch from point-blank range.
And within just four minutes the away side had a second goal. Sears – a former Premier League striker with West Ham United – worked himself some space 20 yards from goal and sent in a dipping half volley that bounced awkwardly in front of Blunkell on its way into the bottom corner.
Heading out for the restart, Sudbury had two options – accept their fate and end up losing heavily, or dig in and go down battling. To their credit, they sided with the former, so much so that Colchester did not have their first meaningful attempt of the second half until the 63rd minute when Ipswich Town loanee Armando Dobra's low effort was kept out by Blunkell.
Up the other end, Sudbury carved out their clearest opening of the evening in the 70th minute. Reece Harris whipped in a dangerous free kick from the right but neither Christian Frimpong nor George Keys were able to apply the finishing touch at the back post.
And within 60 seconds any hopes of the most dramatic of comebacks developing were firmly put to bed. Dobra played a shot corner from the left to the lively Sylvester Jasper, who was allowed to turn and from a seemingly impossible angle arced a shot beyond the reach of a helpless Blunkell.
Determined to give the vocal home following something to cheer, AFC refused to let their heads drop and almost got themselves a consolation on a couple of occasions. Nyadzayo dragged his low shot wide when well placed while substitute Jake Clowsley worked George between the Colchester posts with his dipping shot from distance.
In the 89th minute Grimwood also called George into action, but the final say on proceedings went the way of Colchester when new signing Shawn McCoulsky marked his debut by turning the ball home from close range.
Yet while it will be Colchester's name in the hat for the second round draw later this weekend, it was still a night that belonged to the Step 4 hosts – and they can be proud of what they produced, on and off the pitch.
Sudbury: Blunkell, Keys, Harris, Turner, Grimwood, O'Malley, Nyadzayo, Frimpong, Shaw (Gilchrist 77'), Temple (Clowsley 53'), Andrews (Hipkin 69')
Colchester: George, Clampin (Coxe 11'), Chambers, Wiredu, Skuse (Cooper 73'), Sears (Nouble 73'), Chilvers, Jasper, Eastman, Dobra (McCoulsky), Tchamadeu. Subs: Turner, Welch-Hayes, Smith, Hannant, Nouble, McCoulsky, Kennedy, Coxe, Cooper