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AFC Sudbury celebrate Step 3 survival despite final-day defeat at Leamington





It was not the way they would have wanted to do it, but AFC Sudbury celebrated retaining their place at Step 3 of the non-league pyramid following a final-day 2-0 defeat at Leamington.

A remarkable turnaround, following three straight wins, had seen Marc Abbott’s side head to Warwickshire two points above Hitchin Town in the final safe spot in the Pitching In Southern League Premier Central table having trailed them by seven points four games ago.

It meant Marc Abbott’s side only needed to avoid defeat to guarantee survival. Only a defeat coupled with a Hitchin win at home to Stourbridge could see them make a quick return to Step 4, following promotion under Rick Andrews last term.

AFC Sudbury's players and coaching staff celebrate retaining their Step 3 status on the final day at Leamington Picture: Steve Screech/AFC Sudbury
AFC Sudbury's players and coaching staff celebrate retaining their Step 3 status on the final day at Leamington Picture: Steve Screech/AFC Sudbury

With a travelling army behind them, clad in fancy dress, at the Co-Op Community Stadium in Leamington Spa the sides had gone into the interval goalless, which was also the scoreline at Hitchin who had been reduced to 10 men from the 28th minute.

But Leamington, who had not gone into the game assured of their play-off spot, despite being in fourth position, were able to book a home semi-final with unanswered goals from Callum Stewart (50’) and Jack Edwards (77’).

It left a nervy wait for everyone connected with Sudbury until news arrived that Hitchin had ended up drawing 0-0, despite going close to a late winner.

AFC Sudbury players celebrate survival on the final day in front of their travelling fans at Leamington Picture: Steve Screech/AFC Sudbury
AFC Sudbury players celebrate survival on the final day in front of their travelling fans at Leamington Picture: Steve Screech/AFC Sudbury

Sudbury therefore ended up surviving by a single point, in a season which had seen them have six taken from their total in January as a result of Nuneaton Borough’s financial collapse leading to their withdrawal from the league.

Reacting to the news after the final whistle, goalkeeper James Bradbrook told the club’s media team: “I’m buzzing. Obviously in your career you want to be celebrating, lifting trophies or winning titles but our goal at the start fo the season was just to stay in the division and we’ve done that on the last game.

“Considering we were dead and buried four games ago – seven points adrift – just shows the character of the boys to come back and I’m buzzing for everyone and the whole club.”

Elsewhere in the division, champions Needham Market lost 3-0 at play-off qualifiers Redditch United to leave Kevin Horlock’s side finishing three points clear of second-placed AFC Telford United.

It was a third straight league defeat for the Marketmen since confirming top spot and automatic promotion by beating Royston Town 3-1 at Bloomfields, but is a statistic that will soon be forgotten.

Leiston finished 13th in the table after a 2-1 defeat at home to already-relegated Long Eaton United.