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RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION

Att: 582

GRAVESEND & NORTHFLEET – 3  [Booth 4.50. Stadhart 21]

SUTTON UNITED – 1  [Boothe 15]

Ahhh it’s good to be back!

Whilst the mighty U’s were thrashing the life out of Jewson Wessex League titans Eastleigh in the cup on Saturday, I was getting very pissed, very cheaply at a wedding reception in Manchester.

Elsewhere, our close friends Kingstonian (Remember them? Ooooh they’re huge!) were getting dumped out of the competition by a 2bit bunch of Jewson Wessex League nobodies called Brockenhurst (No offence!). Funny? Most definitely not. Side splittingly, rolling around on the floor, tears streaming down your face hysterically funny? Most definitely.

As if I didn’t need anything to make the aforementioned cheap northern beer go down even better!

Still, Saturday’s victory made it 3 in a row for Sutton when a couple of weeks ago we didn’t even look like managing one in a row! But it’s back to Ryman action tonight at Gravesend who currently top the division. I may have mentioned before in a previous report that this place isn’t great for us. In fact it’s crap.

In four visits, the U’s have managed 2 draws and 2 rather miserable defeats. All 4 matches were instantly forgettable from a U’s point of view as we failed to grasp the basics of the game in any of them. This isn’t to say that we don’t like Gravesend. Well, we don’t really. But we love their ground. A big old fashioned Non-League arena., which with a bit of TLC would look brilliant.

A quick beer & pool stop beforehand puts us in the right mood and we then crawl down the road to the ground. No, we’re not drunk. It’s roadworks. Four times I’ve been here and every time they’ve been digging up the fucking main road past the ground. It’s a pain in the arse. Christ only knows what the locals think of it.

The side is apparently the same as Saturday. So that’s good. I think.

Sutton start briskly, attacking the home side from the off with Akuamouah, Timothy, Keevil and Haworth tearing forwards and applying some early pressure. This does little to stop Gravesend taking the lead after just 3 minutes though. A bit punt forwards from about 40 yards out on the touchline is aimed at Booth, the only Gravesend player in a forward position. Despite having 3 Sutton defenders in close proximity and Martini for once deciding to remain on his line, Booth wins the ball in the air and his flicked backward header finds the far corner of the net. Marvellous. It’s sooo simple. Yet I don’t see any other sides getting mugged off by us in a similar fashion.

Undeterred, Sutton press for an equaliser and look genuinely dangerous going forwards with some good movement down both flanks and the right in particular. This produces some good testing crosses from both sides, causing some unease amongst the ‘Fleet’ defence. On two occasions, the ball flies across goal from the left, just begging for a finish, but there’s no one in a U’s shirt available.

We keep going though and with around 15 minutes gone I and Bob decide it’s burger time. Whilst waiting in line, Sutton win a corner on the far side. It’s fired low into the box towards the near post. Blake in the ‘Fleet’ goal goes down to collect but makes a bit of a mess of it and the ball bobbles loose. One defender completely misses a chance to clear and the ball drops the Chris Boothe less than 6 yards out and he bangs the ball into the back of the net. Woo Hoo!! 1-1.

The U’s come forwards again, looking to edge in front. Again some good movement down the flanks and surging runs from deep by Akuamouah and Timothy cause the Gravesend rearguard some problems. The U’s have a shout for a penalty soon after when Akuamouah chases onto a ball over the top of the defence. He gets there a moment before Blake in the ‘Fleet goal, just inside the box and touches the ball past him. The ‘keeper, who is airborne takes Eddie out and the ball runs out of play. “Goal kick” says the ref. “You blind useless twat” says the Sutton support. One things for sure, Blake hasn’t played the sodding ball, so why no foul? Another case of a ref not having a scooby methinks. And don’t even get me started on the linesman!

The ref does his utmost to endear himself to the travelling fans by blowing up for a free-kick 30 yards out from goal when Akuamoah (the man chopped down) had managed to thread the ball through to Keevil who was steaming into a bloody great gap at the centre of the ‘Fleet defence. We wonder if this idiot has been made aware of the ‘advantage’ rule. Clearly not.

Natrually, after all this, within 6 minutes we screw up and go behind again. Giving the home midfield too much time on the ball, a pass over Gwynne Berry picks out Northfleet striker, Che Stadhardt. Who’s a bit good. And a bit quick. Gwynne does reasonably well to stay with him (admittedly only by hanging onto his arm!) but the distraction of a slow ageing defender hanging off his right arm is not enough to prevent him drawing out Martini and slotting into the far corner. Bugger. Once again, the old ‘Play it over the old boys head and murder him for pace’ trick works a treat.

But credit to Sutton, whereas a couple of weeks back we’d have folded completely, we actually come out and give it a go. Again, the two Palmers make a bit of headway down the flanks, although admittedly Jon Palmer still seeems unsure of his role and it appears as if he’s afraid to try and take opposition fullbacks on in case he fails and leaves a bloody great gap behind him.

Ryan on the other hand is managing to put some half decent balls into the penalty area. The best of which is plucked off the forehead of Howarth by Blake at the back post. One of Ryan’s forays leads to a pass into the box, it’s only half cleared and drops to Palmer with his back to goal, about 12 yards out. He takes a touch and spins 180 degrees, hooking a shot goalwards. It’s destined for the near top corner, when Blake gets his fingertips to it and it’s enough to help it onto the crossbar. A defender then cleans up, hacking the ball onto the covered terrace roof to our right.

It’s the last real chance the U’s get as the home side finally gets settled and shuts off the supply from the flanks. The few other ocassions Ryan Palmer does get through, he’s forced to hit shots from outside the box and they either lack power or accuracy.

So 2-1 down at the break, but it’s been a greatly improved performance by the U’s. Which isn’t hard!

Any chance of trying to get a point are dashed early in the second half. Before the U’s have had a chance to get going again, ‘Fleet unveil that old chestnut ‘Play it over the old boys head and murder him for pace’. Yeah, we know it’s an oldie, but if it works, why not flog it to death? Another ball over Berry drops to Booth. He turns for goal, outpacing the veteran and blasts past a static Martini and inside the near post. That’ll be us done for tonight then!

Admittedly the U’s do keep going, but we struggle to mount any serious attacks and most efforts are from range or lack that final ball. Honey and Timothy keep working their arses off in the middle of the park whilst Keevil keeps looking fo gaps to exploit but to no avail. Meanwhile, Berry and Boothe are starting to struggle at the back as Gravesends pacy attacks occur more and more frequently. Martini is finally forced into an actual save, standing up to and beating out Booth’s fierce effort and seeing a Stadhart effort zip low past his far upright.

The battling Paul Honey pays painfully for his comitted central role. 3 times in several minutes he ends up in pain. First he gets booted up in the air on the far side, then sub and Ex-K Steve McKimm lunges in and flattens him before Honey cops a bouncing ball full in the knackers. Ouch! But to his credit, he keeps chasing. Clutching his bruised bits! With commitment like that, he’s got a big future that lad!!

So 3-1 at the end, but a brave performance from our boys and definate signs of improvement. We hope it’s more sustained this time gentlemen!

A quick pint in Gravesend and we head off home. No game Saturday. But we’ve got 2 meetings with Aldershot inside the next 14 days. Should be a doddle really.

MAN OF THE MATCH : Dave Timothy. Just shaded Paul Honey. Ran all night long.

ENTERTAINMENT : 8. A good fast flowing game.

TEAM : Martini, Berry, Boothe, Arkwright, J Palmer, R Palmer, Timothy, Honey, Keevil, Akuamouah, Haworth. SUBS : Murray, Taylor, Aligheri

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