November 04, 2021
In 1996 Brighton were stunned. Now AFC Sudbury hope to beat neighbours Colchester, who have links to that famous night
Sudbury eye FA Cup shock and hope history will repeat itself 25 years on
While his Sudbury Town teammates jiggled edgily inside the centre circle, Steve Ball felt relatively calm. If Nicky Smith scored his penalty in the shootout, the sixth-tier club would create an FA Cup sensation, winning at Brighton and Hove Albion in a first-round replay and propelling their tiny Suffolk market town into the national headlines. “There were lots of nervous players next to me but I remember saying: ‘He won’t miss,’” Ball remembers. “And then we were off and running, jumping on him, celebrating. It was a great night.”
Ball’s confidence was well founded: he had played alongside Smith in the Football League and knew all about his colleague’s prowess from the spot. The pair were among five players who had joined Sudbury after leaving Colchester United, 14 miles to the south-east; the clubs had close bonds and, from the outside, it seemed a standard case of careers winding down at a friendly local non-league venue. But Sudbury, managed by the former Arsenal defender Richie Powling, made history at the Goldstone Ground and went on to give Brentford a scare before succumbing at the next stage.
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