RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
SUTTON UNITED – 0
GRAVESEND & NORTHFLEET – 1 [Stadhart 30]
A real test awaited the U’s this afternoon with the visit of title chasing Gravesend.
Back in October, the lads had given a battling performance before going down 3-1 in Kent. With the team arguably in much better shape than 5 months ago, we’re hoping to put a bit of a dent in the ‘Fleets’ championship aspirations.
Having joined Bob for the usual pre-match ritual of necking a pint or two in the Robin Hood, it’s down the road to GGL for our normal waste of a perfectly good saturday afternoon. After some recent difficulties in securing programmes on our entry to the ground, Bob has called ahead and had two put by in the club shop. Naturally when we get to the turnstiles, there’s bloody hundreds still available.
As their league position suggests, the visitors have brought a fair few fans with them for todays game and for the first time this season, GGL looks like it’s got something approaching a crowd in it!
The Sutton line up is 442 and has Dave Timothy on the bench with Mike Mison reclaiming the captains armband at centre-back. Eddie Akuamouah is still absent, with his place going to the so far unimpressive Matt Fowler. Why again JR has stuck with him escapes us. Especially when he has let a perfectly good forward in Jon Palmer go out on loan to Ryman 2nd division club Lewes for the rest of the season. A fact that means yours truly will be stomping round to the club shop on Tuesday night to get our kit sponsorship changed.
As is commonplace with the U’s, we start the match very sluggishly and the visitors have a couple of threatening moments early on and earn a few corners which the defence manages to deal with. The first serious U’s attack comes a few minutes in with Matt Gray drifting past their No3 like he wasn’t there and delivering a cross that is cut out at the near post. With 10 minutes gone, it starts to rain and with no brolly’s to hand we leg it to the slightly drier confines of the Securicor Terrace behind the goal. Having weathered the opening barrage from our guests, Sutton get into the game and create a couple of decent chances. The first of which is a corner which causes some difficulty to the ‘Fleet’ defence and Mison’s effort is blocked a few yards out. The ball rebounds to Corbett, whose fierce effort is also blocked, this time for another corner.
Shortly afterwards Phil Wingfield hobbles off to be replaced by 17 year old Nick Bailey, finally making his debut after a few ‘sub not used’ appearances on the bench recently. His first act seconds after coming on is to be presented with a good shooting opportunity on the edge of the box. But sadly he delays for a split second and the effort is deflected wide by a defender.
One pass fowards is picked up by Haworth who turns their lumbering no6 and knocks the ball past him. The 6 reacts in the only way he can. By blatantly fouling the Sutton forward. Amazingly, the ref doesn’t deem this to be suitable of a booking. What a shocker, a Ryman ref not having a clue!
Twice in the following couple of minutes, Matt Gray then Bailey play Rob Haworth in behind the defenders but his first effort is skewed across goal and the second bobbled into touch with the ‘keeper in attendance. Matt Gray then flies past the so-far-dodgy looking no3 and swings another good ball in which Blake does well to hold onto with Rob Haworth lurking at the back post.
With the visitors having most of the possession but doing not a great deal with it, things aren’t looking too bad. Then we go and shoot ourselves in the bloody foot by gifting a really poor goal.
30 minutes gone and a ‘Fleet’ attack down our right. The ball is played across the pitch, just inside the 18 yard box in the general direction of one of their forwards. Dunn races off his line to claim, only to have Mison give him no protection and allow Che Stadhart to nip between the two of them and prod the ball at a crawling pace into the unguarded net. Mison and Tommy then engage in a rather heated discussion on exactly who’s fuck up it was. The ranting is still going on as we kick off to restart the match!
Sutton battle on as the conditions worsen with the rain, but are unable to force any further openings before the break.
With the rain still falling steadily, we decide against nipping into the club for some scores and instead dash round to the Collingwood Rec terrace to get our spot for the 2nd half.
The second half is played out in a rather scrappy manner, with the now soaked pitch cutting up quite badly and affecting both sides attempts to try and play football. The U’s keep plugging away but fail to make any real impression on the visitors defence. Once again, Folwer’s inability to either hold the ball up or stand up under even the slightest pressure from an opposition player frustrates many forays forward. We wouldn’t mind if he got us loads of free-kicks, but he doesn’t!
Gravesend manage to cope slightly better with the conditions, moving the ball forwards efficiently but failing to make the final ball count and all Dunn has to deal with are long range efforts, mostly straight at him. Although one stinging effort from range just clears his crossbar.
Sutton create little, but Fowler is given one wonderful opportunity when the outstanding Gonsalves slides a pass in to him just outside the box. He touches it past the defender but his lack of strength just sees him shrugged off the ball. Soon after, he screams for a pass in a similar position. Matt Gray obliges with a wonderfully weighted ball, only for Fowler to halt his run at the critical moment. Our underachieving forward then has the cheek to turn and berate the hard working Gray for his pass! Twat.
Gray delivers one great cross that evades three U’s players in the box with the ‘Fleet’ defence on the back foot. Gravesend step up their own efforts and force a number of corners with time running out. But despite a couple of dodgy moments where Dunn doesn’t quite claim the ball, the U’s rearguard does enough to prevent our guests notching a slightly flattering second goal.
The slightly lightweight ref then infuriates the home support by laughably booking Ryan Palmer after he’s barrelled forwards through 3 challenges and won one final crunching tackle on the sideline when the ball runs away from him. It’s a joke as he’s let several more deserving opportunities to flash a card go without punishment. Also considering all the man in black has done so far is give us absolutely fuck all throughout the afternoon and just get in the bloody way of a Sutton player at a vital moment TWICE, it does little to enhance our already piss poor opinion of the officals that the Ryman deem suitable to take charge of games.
Sutton’s final effort at salvaging a point comes very near the end with Scott Corbett swinging a free-kick into the box which Haworth wins but heads well over when well placed.
Sadly the lads efforts are in vain and the points go back to Kent with the visitors. The heartening aspect was the performances of the youngsters in the U’s line up with both Matt Gray and Louis Gonsalves working non stop all afternoon. The efforts of young Nick Bailey also deserve a mention. Essentially a forward used to plug a gap in midfield, he did very well in what were difficult
conditions against far more experienced opposition. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him in his natural position.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Louis Gonsalves. His workrate was outstanding, just edging out Matt Gray.
ENTERTAINMENT : 5. Not a classic by any means.
TEAM : Dunn, Mison, Palmer, Hammonds, Gonsalves, Honey, Corbett, Wingfield, Gray, Fowler, Haworth SUBS : Bailey, Williams