Defensive errors lead to Mildenhall’s FA Cup exit

CUP EXIT: Mildenhall were beaten at home by Sudbury on Tuesday
CUP EXIT: Mildenhall were beaten at home by Sudbury on Tuesday
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EMIRATES FA CUP

FIRST QUALIFYING ROUND REPLAY

Mildenhall Town 2

AFC Sudbury 4

When Dean Greygoose took charge of Mildenhall Town in 2014, one of his first tasks was to tighten things up defensively.

He did just that, with Mildenhall having the fifth best defensive record in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division in 2015/16, before going on to let in a league-low 29 goals during last season’s double-winning campaign.

And that stubbornness looks to have continued following their promotion up to Step 4 as Greygoose’s men headed in to Tuesday night’s FA Cup replay boasting three clean sheets from their previous four outings.

Mildenhall had produced a textbook away performance to beat neighbouring AFC Sudbury 2-0 in the league on their own patch eight days earlier, and protected their territory well throughout Saturday’s original tie — a 1-1 draw with Jake Chambers-Shaw on target for Mildenhall.

However, without the services of centre-back and captain Luke Butcher, who was away on holiday, the Mildenhall defence was all at sea against The Yellows.

The hosts found themselves 2-0 and 3-1 down, and while on both occasions they halved the deficit, those defensive frailties always looked like being their undoing and that ultimately was the case when Adam Mills strode through unopposed to make sure of the outcome 16 minutes from time.

And to compound the home team’s misery, Matt Green is set to serve a suspension following his late red card, though it looked harsh on the midfielder, with a yellow card perhaps a fairer punishment.

“The first three goals they scored were awful and that is what has killed us,” said Greygoose.

“It was three long diagonal balls and we did not deal with any of them properly.

“It is frustrating because we got ourselves back in the game a couple of times and then threw it away.

“At this level, you cannot defend like that and expect to get away with it.”

The tone was set as early as the eighth minute when Sudbury’s Tevan Allen picked out Jake Turner with a cut-back from the right, but the unmarked midfielder scuffed his shot wide.

Julian Smith headed over for the visitors from a corner, before the deadlock was broken after 12 minutes.

Mildenhall’s Rob Ruddy — in the side to cover Butcher’s absence — could not generate enough power on his headed clearance.

The loose ball dropped kindly for an onrushing Dave Cowley, who after taking one touch, got the better of Sam Roach in the home goal with a bouncing effort.

And the lead was doubled only four minutes later as Mildenhall struggled to deal with the physical presence of Sudbury’s Louis Blake.

The ball broke free from a goalmouth scramble and Allen was the grateful recipient, turning the ball in from close range.

To Mildenhall’s credit, they bounced back almost immediately when in the 20th minute Danny Crow struck against his former club for the second time in just over a week.

The recently-signed Craig Calver — seeing a lot of the ball in the absence of Mildenhall’s main creative force Chambers-Shaw — faced up visiting full-back Alfie Turner and then beat him for strength, allowing him the room to cross for Crow to turn in from close range.

Now back in the tie, Mildenhall also seemed to settle defensively, but that work was undone six minutes after the restart as Sudbury restored their two-goal advantage.

Right-back Jake Kerins allowed the lively Mills to get inside him and while there was more than a hint of hand-ball about how the Sudbury man got the ball under control, the referee dismissed the appeals and the number 11 fired home.

Cowley headed against the base of the post and Blake saw an effort disallowed for a foul as Jamie Godbold’s team attempted to turn the screw, but it was Mildenhall who were next to score via Shaun Avis in the 66th minute as the substitute bundled in Jacob Brown’s back-post header.

Any hopes of a grandstand finish were ended in the 74th minute, though, when Jake Turner split the home rearguard with a slide-rule pass and Mills showed good composure with the finish.

Green received his marching orders in the 82nd minute for a tackle on Joe Wright that had been very similar to one committed by Sudbury skipper Sam Clarke during the first half, for which he was just cautioned.

But the damage had already been done by that point, with Sudbury seeing out the minutes that remained to claim the £3,000 prize and a home date with Chipstead in the next round.

n The league now takes priority for Mildenhall, who host Haringey Borough on Saturday (3pm) before welcoming Soham Town Rangers to Recreation Way on Tuesday (7.45pm).