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Play-off target for maturing AFC Sudbury side ahead of FA Cup opener against Harborough Town




AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley is confident the club’s patience in recent years will be rewarded by a play-off push this season.

When Morsley came in for a second spell in charge of the Yellows in 2017, his remit was to utilise AFC’s successful academy by promoting those who were showing the most promise into his senior side.

As is often the case when it comes to using young players, performances – and therefore results – have been inconsistent in recent campaigns.

AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley watches on as the club return to training following the coronavirus crisisPicture: Clive Pearson
AFC Sudbury manager Mark Morsley watches on as the club return to training following the coronavirus crisisPicture: Clive Pearson

However, with plenty of Step 4 experience now under their belt, Morsley has admitted he would be disappointed to not feature in and among the higher echelons of the newly-sponsored Pitching In Isthmian League North Division.

“The ultimate target every season is promotion, but when I came back in I had to rip up a team and start the process of using the quality within our academy,” said the boss, who saw his side lose their final pre-season friendly 3-2 at his former club Needham Market on Saturday.

“Because of that we’ve had plenty of fantastic performances and also some incredibly diabolical performances. All the while, they’ve been learning.

Captain Joe Whight was missing for much of last term with injury but is back for the start of the new seasonPicture: Mecha Morton
Captain Joe Whight was missing for much of last term with injury but is back for the start of the new seasonPicture: Mecha Morton

“This season we have taken the decision to not promote as many from the academy. Only the ones that we think will be exceptional, like Shane Temple and Alfie Adams, they will be involved regularly.

“We’ve brought back the likes of Kane Munday and Isaac Skubich, who have gone away and got experience, and when you look at a young lad like Ben Hunter – he’s made more than 100 senior appearances now.

“When I look at the group I have, this could be the most successful group I’ve had at Sudbury and I’d be disappointed if we are not in and around those play-offs.

“The squad is good enough to do it, and that is because of the process over the last three years.

Ben Hunter is set to be a key player in AFC Sudbury's midfield this season, having now topped 100 senior appearancesPicture: Mecha Morton
Ben Hunter is set to be a key player in AFC Sudbury's midfield this season, having now topped 100 senior appearancesPicture: Mecha Morton

“The people who run the club deserve a lot of credit for the position we are in. A lot of clubs talk about giving youth a chance, but few stick to it through thick and thin.

“We’ve had some bad runs but the chairman and the board have shown nothing but belief in us and what we are doing. Hopefully we can reward them with some success this season.”

Prior to their opening league fixture at home to Coggeshall Town on September 19, AFC will welcome lower-league Harborough Town to the MEL Group Stadium in the preliminary round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday (3pm).

Isaac Skubich is shadowed by Joe Wright in pre-season training at AFC SudburyPicture: Clive Pearson (39335840)
Isaac Skubich is shadowed by Joe Wright in pre-season training at AFC SudburyPicture: Clive Pearson (39335840)

The Leicestershire outfit, who play in the United Counties League Premier Division, are not one Morsley has encountered before.

Nevertheless, he has done his due diligence on the Bees.

Marley Andrews in pre-season training for AFC SudburyPicture: Clive Pearson (39335512)
Marley Andrews in pre-season training for AFC SudburyPicture: Clive Pearson (39335512)

“I’ve got a very strong coaching team and we have watched them,” he added.

“As managers, a lot of us talk and share information as well so we will be prepared.

“They smashed their opposition in the previous round (6-1 win over Whitworth) so we will have to be prepared accordingly.

“We’ll have a feel for them and what they are about, then it is all about us.

“If we play to our levels then we have a good chance of winning the game.”

Morsley is likely to include both Reece Harris and skipper Joe Whight within his starting line-up at the weekend.

The experienced pair both sat out parts of last term with injuries, and the manager believes having them back fit will be a major advantage for the months ahead.

Ethan Mayhew, who has signed a two-year contract with AFC Sudbury, in pre-season trainingPicture: Clive Pearson (39335842)
Ethan Mayhew, who has signed a two-year contract with AFC Sudbury, in pre-season trainingPicture: Clive Pearson (39335842)

“Having those two back in the squad are major pluses,” said Morsley.

“Reece struggled to get fully fit all season but on his day he is a match winner for us.

“And Joe is one of the best centre-halves at this level and the level above. He’s our leader and an inspiration to the team.”

One player who will not feature for the foreseeable future though is midfielder Tom Dettmar, who has suffered anterior cruciate knee ligament damage.

20/21 TRANSFERS:

INS: ML/DL/MC Kane Munday (Halstead Town); DR/MR Marley Andrews (Stanway Rovers); MC Isaac Skubich (Leiston).

OUTS: RB Liam Bennett (St Neots Town/Cambridge United); DC Adam Bailey-Dennis (unattached); AMC Callum Harrison (Chelmsford City); CB Baris Altintop (unattached); RW/FC Kyle Cassell (Hadleigh United).