Thursday, 28 May 2020

2019/20 Season Review - Part 1

Now, I think it's fair to say that we've been doing this Sutton United thing for a good while now. In fact, it's been more than 35 years in my own case and yes, I am well aware I should probably grow up and get a life, thanks. But in that time, we've seen a few things. Many highs, a fair few lows, great victories, some crushing defeats and been to a fair few places we'd really rather forget for various reasons. However, despite all this, we're not sure we've ever come across or experienced a season quite as odd as 2019/2020 was. 

Anyhow, we should probably start at the beginning. So, are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin....at the beginning. Like I said I would....

PROLOGUE

With the 11 year Paul Doswell era over before the previous season had farted to its eventually pretty dismal end, all the immediate post-season chat was of course directed towards the 64 million dollar question. "So who's next then?". The club, gawd love 'em, didn't hang about to be fair and by the 1st day of May, they'd made their minds up and chosen Sutton United's new manager. That man? Matt Gray. 

Oh, hello again!

No, not the one who played as a flying winger for us back in the early 2000's. The other one. The big baldy bloke who played centre back for Havant around the same sort of time and who'd been on our coaching staff since being recruited by Dos back before Xmas. It seems the board had been impressed with his his ideas and plans, plus he'd also been given the Dos seal of approval as the man for the job, so here we are. New gaffer, new era. Also probably the obvious choice given he was last man standing with Able for that, er, thing down at Dover on the last day last season.

With post season already well underway, Matt wastes no time in setting to work. Within 48 hours, the gaffer has advised Nicky Bailey, Aswad Thomas, Dean Beckwith, Brett Williams and Ross Worner that their deals will not be renewed, meanwhile he lists Darren McQueen, James Dobson, Josh Taylor & Jonah Ayunga as available for transfer. Now to be honest, Becks & Williams we're not that surprised by. Bailey however, just a bit. Also we reckoned the likes of Dobson would at least get a pre-season to see what he had. Oh well, guess we need some new bodies! As it is, most of the released faces find homes elsewhere. Havant mainly. Beckwith, Worner and Ayunga are soon heading for nearly-Portsmouth, the latter interestingly signed as a 'free agent', according to their press release, despite being on the transfer list at GGL. Erm?  Still, no panic, as JC signs a new deal and we once more, for the god knows how many'th time, welcome back the legend that is Dundo, who'll mainly be our fitness coach but will of course fill in from the bench when required. So, if nowt else, at least the pre-match tunes in the dressing room are in good hands and we'll have someone leading the charge to the bar from the dressing room post match. A solid base, I think you'll agree.

You look oddly familiar too....

A couple of days later, as we wait to fly out for a post season piss up and some football in Alicante, another Havant recruit is announced. Roarie Deacon has turned down a deal at GGL and is also following our old gaffer down a league. At this point, we just roll our eyes, mutter stuff about 'putting the band back together' and just get drunk in Spain.

We have to wait a good 10 days or so before we see any movement in the opposite direction, but before the month is out, Matt unveils young winger David Ajiboye from Worthing, quickly followed a couple of days later by striker Omar Bugiel from Bromley, a big lad Dos had tried to lure from, yes, Worthing a couple of years back but who'd signed for FGR instead. Darren McQueen is next to make room and head on out the door, somewhat unsurprisingly joining Dartford permanently after spending the end of last season on loan there. Again, despite being transfer listed, no fee is mentioned. John Barden is next to commit, signing on for another year and just as we're balancing it up, Gime Toure is next to leave, buggering off up to Hartlepool of all places. Christ, even the ones we seemingly wanted are leaving! Dobson then exits, getting a gig at fellow NL members Dagenham. And finally with fixtures on the horizon, Matt adds a familiar face in ex-U's skipper Jason Goodliffe as his assistant before we round out June with another departure to, where else, but Havant! Josh Taylor the latest to head down the A3 and hook up with that bloke who used to manage us. Oh, you know, whats-his-face. No? Ah, never mind. Not important.



PRE-SEASON

The fixtures drop as scheduled on the 3rd of July and we're given a tough opener away to Hartlepool. Anyone want to bet a fiver Gime bangs one in up there? We also find out our first live TV game, away to Wrexham on the 14th Sept. With our regular season schedule set but still tantalisingly off in the future, our friendlies race into focus. We prepare for SLOUGH away by picking up Jason's lad Ben, a centre back, from Dagenham and striker Aaron Jarvis, released from Luton. The first PSF goes well, we play some good stuff and run out comfortable 3-0 winners thanks to a brace from new man Jarvis and a goal from a triallist. We finally get to meet the new man in charge that week with a Meet the Manager session down at the club and here Matt lays out his hopes for the season as well as giving us some info on why some players had left and who else might be coming in.

First goal of Pre-Season. Ajiboye @ Slough

Jarvis at the double. PSF  @Tonbridge

Taking registration....


The following night, we're off down to TONBRIDGE to take on Steve McKimm's newly promoted Conf South outfit. A bitty game on a bumpy pitch is eventually won 2-1, with another brace from a lively looking Aaron Jarvis. A forward, scoring goals for us? Bit weird. One player who has a reasonable cameo is Will Randall, a winger and the following day, Matt announces him as his latest signing. That weekend, we head down to.....yes, fucking HAVANT (look, get used to it alright!) and of course lose 2-0 to a brace from some bloke who looks a lot like Jonah Ayunga, but surely can't be, as he's actually scored? We make two more acquisitions on the Sunday with Dan Matuszaka, a defender joining from Braintree and George Tuson-Firth, another wide player coming in non-contract basis.

Kearney with the first of a brace against Dulwich. 

Jarvis' header against former U's stopper Karlo Ziger. Chelsea PSF.

JC nutting in against Chelsea's kids....


Next up is our first chance to see the new lads on home plastic as we welcome old friends DULWICH to GGL. It's a decent workout against Conf South oppo and Dylan Kearney makes his first real impact of the summer, rattling in a late brace for a 2-0 win. The little Irishman then adds to his tally on the Friday, notching a hat-trick in an 'away' game against tenants SUTTON COMMON ROVERS (4-2). We then round out the squad and the slightly truncated pre-season programme with a 2-2 draw at home to a CHELSEA U23's side, with Jarvis again notching, past the impressive Karlo Ziger no less who appeared for us up at Spennymoor last season. Only a late equaliser from some kid that'll spend the season on loan at Vitesse Arnhem or somwhere denies us the win. On the squad side a second keeper, ironically someone coming from Havant this time, as Ben Dudzinski signs on as Number two to Jamie Butler. Of course, where there's in there's usually out and in this case it's youngsters Brad Pearce and Jude Mason heading  out on loan to Walton Casuals.

Kearney hat-tricking 'away' @ SCR. 

Right, time to stop messing about. Let's get it on.



AUGUST

The opening day looms. Have we got enough in to cover what we've lost\let go? Will Matt's attempts to freshen up the attack work and actually see us score some goals this season? What's that. we've signed a left back? Oh, ok then. Rob Milsom, who's been training with us all summer finally puts pen to paper as his previous deal at Notts County expires. Right, off to the North East we go! Any worries we may have had are soon dispelled at Victoria Park as Harry Beautyman roars us into a 2-0 lead over HARTLEPOOL after just 20 minutes. Of course, having had almost no bother from the hosts and shut the home fans up, we go let some French git we vaguely recognise score right on half time. But we stick to the task and a Will Randall breakaway goal in the dying moments secures a super 3-1 win. As starts go Matt, that's not a bad one! The last bloke lost his first game at this level. :)

Harry opens the scoring @ Hartlepool

Will Randall finishing off 'Pools

Harry levels @ home to Barnet


As per normal with the National League, August is busier than a shithouse when the plague's in town. So there's no time to rest on our laurels as we welcome BARNET to GGL for the first one under lights this season. They shade a dour first half with a pen, but Bolawinra's introduction turns the game and he immediately tees up Beauts with his first touch for his third of the season and a share of the points (1-1). Next it's new boys CHORLEY, who have set the league alight with 2 0-0 draws so far. Of course, with a stiff breeze at their backs first half, we let them score twice in the first 10 from identical set pieces. Fortunately Jarvis pulls one back and Rob Milsom eventually claims a point with a second half free-kick (2-2) but there's still clearly work to be done. At this point, the National League fixture bods have been kind to me and give me my least 2 favourite away days and the top 2 entries on the 'Eastleigh list' back to back. Dos appears in the away end at EASTLEIGH to say hello as JC nicks our first point (1-1) at the Silverlake in over a decade, then a late goalscoring cameo from Tommy Wright, back from his long knee knack layoff, seals a welcome and hard earned 1-0 win at BOREHAM WOOD. Which is always nice. 

Despite the 3 yellow shirts, none is doing any 'marking' here....

Jarvis pulls one back @ home to Chorley. A Desmond!!

JC has a rest after levelling @ Eastleigh


Still August continues. Old friends DOVER are next down the Lane and despite not being that fluid, their second half performance is far better than our own and our little purple patch to start the season is ended with our first defeat of the campaign (2-1). We then round the final corner of the brutal opening month of the season with a trip to ALDERSHOT, reprieved from relegation last season after finishing in the bottom four. It's a poor game in baking heat but JC looks to have won it with a late penalty. However, we fail to see out the game and the hosts nick an equaliser deep into injury time (1-1). The game is also marred by a nasty collision between Matsuzaka and Butler that sees the defender knocked spark out. Thankfully after some swift action from the Aldershot #10, he's carried off before being discharged from hospital later that day.

August is concluded as we celebrate 100 years of SUFC at Gander Green Lane with the visit of MAIDENHEAD. Naturally, we make it an occasion to remember by putting in an insipid performance and losing 3-0 to the Magpies who probably have as good a record at GGL as we do over the last few years, along with picking up a shit red card for our latest international Omar Bugiel, who's been called up by Lebanon for a game in North Korea. Totts is delighted at this news (the call up, not the red card) and later asks our new forward if he can get Kim Jon-Un's autograph. Yeah, we're sure that'll be a doddle mate.

A JC rocket can't stop a 1st loss @ home to Dover. 

That man again! 3 in 3 for the skip @ Aldershot

Omar's bollocks red @ home to Maidehead


The hectic opening salvo of eight matches in 28 days has tested our new squad, but we've not done too badly. Our 10 points and 13th place could have been better, but then again, it also could have been far worse. It's at least a half decent little base for Matt to work from. Onto September!



SEPTEMBER

We start off the month with a good news\bad news situation. The good being Bugiel's bollocks red against Maidenhead is rescinded. The bad is he's lording it up on international duty with Lebanon and wouldn't be available for the nexyt couple of games anyway! The long trip down to old Isthmian foes YEOVIL midweek is one of them and a major injury crisis has taken root, meaning several regulars are unavailable. Such is our lack of options, especially at the back, full back Ben Wyatt St Albans PotY last season, is signed on at a service station on the way down to Somerset! Despite our valiant efforts, the pre-season favourites edge past us 1-0. Another ex-FL outfit is next, with NOTTS COUNTY arriving in the Peoples' Republic. Beauts notches again early doors but we fail to put the Magpies to bed and they level not long into the second half. Honours even again (1-1).

The things you can pick up at service stations! Ben Wyatt debuts @ Yeovil

Harry notching again! Home to Notts County. 

Yep, Harry once again! Livening up proceedings @ Wrexham


With points not exactly flowing, we head west to Wales and our televised match with WREXHAM who themselves are having a start that makes ours look like a flyer. With the late kick off and no option to get home after, we make a weekend of it and thank god for cheap beer, as the game is a shocker. Beautyman bags yet another to liven up a awful game, but with the locals on the edge of all out revolt, we once more just can't see out the win at the death, Eastmond handling on the line to cop a red and a penalty that hosts tuck away for yet another 1-1 draw.

Naturally, having not seen us win at home now since March, I and Mrs Taz decide now's a good time to fuck off for some sun in Menorca. And with as blatant a set up as that, I think you can guess what's coming next here. Yes, that's right folks, CHESTERFIELD come to GGL and continue their even-worse-than-Wrexham's poor start to the season. How poor? Well fucked in the face 4-0 by the not very prolific us poor to be precise. A Jarvis brace, a goal from Tommy Wright and the now customary Beautyman notch seeing us comfortably home. Still, my pain at missing this event is softened slightly by finding a Chesterfield fan at dinner in Spain the following evening. Swings and roundabouts.

Craig Eastmond: "When I grow up, I wanna be a goalkeeper!"

Jarvis rattles in against a dreadful Chesterfield

Another for Jarvis in the Chesterfield rout.


Any worries I might have had about missing another home win are dispelled on the following Tuesday when we get turned over by a solid, well organised DAGENHAM & REDBRIDGE, with 2 goals right on half time including one of course from another ex-U in James Dobson (2-0). Naturally, I'm back from my time away in the sun for the 2-0 defeat all the way up in HARROGATE. JC has a goal disallowed and misses a pen as they do us twice on the break and not a lot else. To top things off, the local kids and stewards are twats, with worse to follow as we realise on the way home that our travel secretary has booked our return tickets for the following day. Still, we get really drunk on cans and no one in any sort of authority notices the error, so it all works out fine in the end.

Daggers one up at GGL. 

JC being offside, whilst not being offside @ Harrogate


So, September yields just the five points in the league and this in turn sees us slide down to a more bum clenching 19th position. Much like last season, our issues seem to be seeing out games when we should do and not scoring enough, which in turn usually leads to draws rather than wins. Still, we've only had the one desmond so far, so it could be worse. The month ends with a second Meet the Manager do announced for the 24th of October, which if results don't improve a touch, might prove a touch less welcoming than the first one!



OCTOBER

Month three of the season kicks off with a home game against STOCKPORT. They'd been going fairly well in the top half and pushing for a play off place but had lost 5 on the spin coming to GGL, so whilst we probably shouldn't be too upset with the point a 0-0 draw brings us, wayward finishing is once again the big difference between a draw and a win. Next we head to the Midlands for a meeting with pre-season favourites SOLIHULL. They've not had the best of starts despite what appears to be a nice fat budget, but are starting to find their feet recently. The performance isn't terrible, but once we've gone behind following a long throw in, the 2-0 loss we suffer seems a little inevitable as we toil once more in front of the oppo's goal. Another poor starter is up next and it's a big one for the U's as we head to FYLDE. The well funded outfit who are aiming to be in the FL by 2022 have had a proper shit start and are languishing in the bottom 4, so it's a chance to take some much needed points! Or it would be if the team hadn't got stuck at Euston Station and the game wasn't postponed! It seems a body\fatality on the line has caused chaos and ourselves, Bromley, Daggers and Dover's squads are all stranded. Bromley eventually manage to get to Brum to play Solihull in a delayed kick off, but the others are all called off. Naturally, already being in Blackpool for the weekender when the PP is called, we're stuck going to watch the Tangerines take on Rotherham instead. At HT in that game, we find out today's supposed hosts have sacked their manager. Fair enough, not getting three points from us isn't owt to shout about to be honest!

As interesting as Stockport @ Home got!

Solihull chavs celebrate taking the lead midweek...

Omar scores @ home to Billericay


Further bad news arrives late the following week when full back Dale Bennett calls time on his career. It seems he can't shake off niggling injuries and with this likely to be his last season anyway, he's decided to bin it off sooner rather than later. We've lost a good player and more importantly, there's now a big hole in defence. It's not great prep for the visit of BILLERICAY TOWN in the FA Cup, but there you go. They're into another of their spells where the Glenn Tamplin circus appears to have left town, no doubt for him to reappear in a couple of weeks. The U's dominate a seriously bang average NLS side and lead early on, but again our woeful scoring record means we're still only the one up come added time at the end of the 90. At which point ex-Sutton 'keeper Alan Julian closes his eyes and nuts a 94th minute leveller (1-1) to present the world with it's latest "LOLz @ Sutton!!!11!!!1!" viral Youtube sensation. Things could be going better if we're honest. 

The delight at our latest comedy interlude on social media has barely subsided when we head to Essex for the replay with BILLERICAY 72 hours later. Despite taking the lead through Beauts early doors, we then put in one of the worst showings this season so far and trail 3-1 at the break. This becomes 4-1 within a minute of the restart and that's that. The tie could finish 8-5 to be honest, such is the end to end nature of things, but of course we can't score for toffee, nor it seems defend for it either and instead it's a firm 5-2 humping and 25 grand we've missed out on. Which sets us up nicely for the planned Meet the Manager night two days later. Bring your own fruit!

Ok, own up, who let the fucking 'keeper score?

Close mate, but not quite....

Jamie Butler does an oopsie @ home to Ebbsfleet


Of course, having got your arses handed to you by lower league oppo in the cup and are desperately low on confidence, just what you need is the bottom team who've suddenly started showing signs of life to visit. Oh, hello EBBSFLEET! It's a topsy turvy encounter between two of the poorest form sides in the league and having trailed twice, the U's at least seem set for a point against a team who end up with a defender in goal for the last 10. That is until Omar needlessly pulls down a bloke in the box in the 99th minute as an aimless last ditch free kick drifts out of play (2-3). Of course they fucking score the penalty! I think it's fair to say morale is at a low in the bar after this one.

October is ended, thank fuck, with a visit from HALIFAX. They're having a decent season and are nicely sited in the top 10. Not that you'd know from watching them that is. Another goalless draw looks almost certain until we let them have their one sighter after the break and we get a 0-1 instead. The chat in the bar after is solemn and it's decided that to really make a go of this staying up lark, we'd really like to at least be on 25 points by Xmas. Our reckoning being that we'd then be half way to 50 with as near as dammit half the season left. Naturally, no one's prepared to state where those 9 points we'd need to get to 25 are going to come from. Still, at least we've the exciting news about our next appearance on the telly box to cheer us up! Old foes Yeovil will be coming to Gander Green Lane between Xmas and New Year for a 12 noon kick off. Which they're no doubt absolutely fucking delighted about. 

Omar levels at 2-2 v. Ebbsfleet

99th minute penalties are rubbish....


Needless to say October 2019 won't be winning any popularity awards or, like a lot of 2019 in fact, be gaining decent write ups on Trip Advisor. Our solitary league point for the month takes us to a grand total of 16 and this means we're firmly in the bottom four for the first time this season (21st). Something needs to change, but with scoring goals a big issue and keeping them out at the other end when we really need to seeming equally so lately, we're not sure what that might be. Over to you gaffer, over to you.

Stay tuned for Part two!

As always with these reviews, we'd like to thank the jolly good sport and rather good snapper of images that is Paul Loughlin for once more allowing us to plunder from his impressive library of pictures for this rubbish & to help make it  look far more professional than we could ever hope to with our own stuff. Check out the full sets of his work on Flickr HERE. They're dead good and have been in the NLP and everything. Cheers!


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