It’s Not Wembley, But It’ll Do…



SUTTON UNITED – 2  [Golley 36. Thomas 68]

Played @ Gander Green Lane, Sutton.

Despite a long rivalry, this was the first time the borough’s 2 teams had actually contested the Surrey Cup Final and it completed a pretty good season for both sides. The Robins, under the wily Billy Smith had just completed one of their best ever campaigns having finished well in the top 5 and were fielding arguably the strongest side assembled in their history. Meanwhile the U’s had come within 90 minutes of an FA Trophy Final appearance at Wembley having lost 6-3 on aggregate to the all conquering Conference champions Wycombe. This was made slightly the more disappointing by the fact they’d won 3-2 at the Conference table toppers before crashing 4-0 in the return at GGL.

Still, all this hopefully wouldn’t distract us from the job at hand. The first ever London Borough of Sutton ‘Derby’ Cup final.

The Robins were also the current holders of the county pot and understandably weren’t particularly amused with having to play the final at the home of their bitter rivals due to no other neutral venue apparently being available to the Surrey FA. And we’d agree, it’s a bit shit really. All of the grounds there are in Surrey and the SFA couldn’t find even one available for their showpiece final? Still, regardless of this, the Bobbins found little or no sympathy amongst the U’s faithful. They’d agreed to a toss of a coin to decide the venue between our place and their own and just called it wrong. Them’s the breaks lads, sorry. And besides, a County cup final at Coldsore Ave?? Really? Come on.

So, it was on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday afternoon in the nicer half of the Borough that both sides went on the offensive straight away from the kick off, with the Bobbins pacy Akamouah out wide causing the U’s problems and Sutton’s cultured midfield pairing of Thomas and Quail in turn stretching the ‘visitors’ back line constantly with some incisive passing. After some end to end stuff over much of the first 45 but no goals, Sutton finally draw first blood shortly before half time when a corner isn’t fully cleared and the ball drops to veteran defender Nigel Golley who spins neatly inside the 6 yard box and from a tight angle, manages to hook the ball over the desperate dive of Les Cleevely and into the top far corner. Geeeerrrintheeeere!

Natrually Gollo’s strike sparks mad celebrating on the Collingwood Road terrace along with naughty hand signals toward the Bobbins fans from the Amber clad masses. Half time finally comes and a tight old game is currently leaning Sutton’s way.

Actually having a half decent side for a change means the Robins are able to respond and they tear into the U’s after the break, trying to quickly cancel out our advantage and shift the balance back their way. But they fail to make chances count, with their usually prolific super smurf striker Jimmy Bolton being the chief culprit, missing 3 gilt edged opportunities that he, the Bobbins follwers and even we’d normally have expected him to tuck away 9 times out of 10. Chances that in previous recent encounters between us, he hadn’t been quite so charitable as to miss.

Still, the U’s goal remains unbreached, their midfield steadies itself and slowly the U’s regained their composure and Dom Feltham has a shot cleared off the line on 62 minutes after a trademark piece of skill on the ball opens up the chance for himself. It’s a sign of things to come as just 6 minutes later Simon Quail delivers a beautiful through ball to send midfield partner and crowd favourite Gary Thomas clear into acres of space. With the Scummers back four too high up and seemingly AWOL, he runs through on goal and thumps the ball low past exposed ‘keeper Les Cleevely from about 12 yards to make it 2-0 and send the U’s fans wild with delight once more. About 20 left and it’s a long way back now for the other lot!

10 minutes later and any hopes the Robins had seriously rescuing the game disappear as they pick up their now customary Derby day red card when sub Steve Tomlin is sent off only a few minutes after coming on after an awful challenge on U’s full back Phil Barton. Having a man less makes the Scummers a little easier to contain and most of the final ten or so more comfortable, but this is Sutton United and we rarely do things easy. And with a couple of minutes remaining, our neighbours set up a nervous finish when Gary Bowyer is given too much time and space on the ball and sends a 25 yard shot crashing into the top corner off the underside of the bar to give his side some reward for their efforts and just a little bit of hope right at the death.

But in the end it isn’t quite enough and with no reserves of energy to kick on and go for an equaliser, the final whistle settles first LBS ‘Derby’ Cup Final and sees the Amber half of the borough victorious with bragging rights intact and a nice silver pot to emphasise the fact to boot. We pour onto the pitch to celebrate with our heroes and watch them collect the silverware, with the Bobbins fans having long since trudged away. Beaten again once more on the wide expanses of Gander Green Lane and on this occasion, even relieved of their precious trophy. The Surrey Cup is back home!

OK, so maybe we didn’t quite make it to Wembley in the end. But apart from winning the league, beating that lot in a cup final isn’t a half bad alternative if we’re honest….

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