RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
SUTTON UNITED – 2 [Hodges 33. Watson 51]
GRAYS ATHLETIC – 0
The U’s finally got to exorcise the ghost of the last meeting between the two sides from the tail end of last season. Where an erratic U’s side battled to a 2-0 lead over a side that had scored 7 in a league cup visit earlier in the year, only to capitulate in amazing fashion and allow the visitors to snatch 2 goals in the final minute and a point.
For many of us, the result perfectly summed up a somewhat frustrating season.
But, during the summer, Grays decided that their very useful looking side wasn’t what they wanted, binning a large number of them in favour of some very expensive & high profile signings. A’la Canvey.
Sadly, this is a move that has failed miserably. With the Essex team so far failing to match the highs of last season and live up to their pre-season billing as possible title challengers. They’re yet to move above mid-table. Which is disappointing as we thought our battling 0-0 draw right at the start of the season was a bloody good result!
It’s the usual assembly in the Hood for the customary pre-match beverage, with only Chalmers absent. He’s down in Cheltenham backing his usual assortment of 3 legged donkeys and no doubt making enemies with his bank manager! I’m filled in on the events of Saturday and I in turn tell all about my weekend, including a visit to the Tate Modern whilst the Hendon match was underway. A ‘highlight’ of which was a video screen depicting a hairy naked man, wearing a rubber clown mask and boxing gloves. Breathing heavily and periodically punching himself in the head.
Of course, being a self confessed philistine and not an art lover, I’m somewhat amused by this nonsensical shit. Although at the moment he then starts tossing himself off, never has a game of Non-League football Claremont Road, Hendon seemed more appealing in my life.
We eventually head off to GGL, expecting a rather poor turn out what with both Arsenal and Newcastle on the telly tonight. We’re not disappointed when we arrive & find, as expected, only a few dedicated souls scattered around the terraces. The Ryman Premier, don’tcha just love it!
Clearly not if you’re an armchair Premier League fan….
As far as I can tell, the U’s line up hasn’t changed from Saturdays win at Hendon. Although maybe leaving the pub earlier than 7.25pm would have allowed me to hear about any changes prior to the kick off.
Naaaaah. Ridiculous idea…
Sutton start brightly and just 3 minutes in Bolt chases down a long ball, winning a corner. He fires it in from the right, with the ‘keeper leaping to touch it away to the back post. It drops to Palmer who goes past 1 man before ripping in a shot that Capleton in the Grays goal has to acrobatically tip away for another corner.
The U’s continue to press and a couple of minutes later, Bolt & Gray combining on the right ends with a cross that a defender just nods off the head of Watson at the near post. The ball drops to Eddie at the back post, but he snatches at the shot and clears the bar.
The visitors try hard, but fail to make much impact in the final 3rd, and when they do make it through, the Sutton defence is more than up to the threat. The match falls into a lull, with both sides battering
The next opportunity falls to the visitors. Their first real chance. A strong run down the left ends with a dangerous cross, but it flies accross goal with no-one there to apply the final touch. 6 minutes later, the breakthrough arrives. Another Bolt corner is whipped in, but it’s a shade too high. Palmer is again there first and he fires a dangerous low ball in. A defender hacks it half clear and it loops up, drops to Danny Hodges around 10 yards out. He controls, turns his man and hooks a great half volley into the back of the net with Capleton rooted to the spot, helpless.
Looks like the big man is really back!
The goal opens the game up and Sutton almost double the advantage within a minute. A move down the left leads to Folwer causing problems on the edge of the box. The ball runs loose and finds Bolt, 12 yards out inside the box. He gets the ball under control and with the defenders scrambling rifles a shot goalwards. With Capleton once more stranded, a goal looks certain. But the ball strikes a covering defender, deflects off the inside of his ankle, before zipping across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.
As the half time whistle approaches, Watson misses a great chance to double the lead. Bailey chases down a hopeful ball forwards. His harrassment of the Grays defender pays off and he robs him of the ball. Slipping it through for the oncoming Fowler. A defender shuts him out, but he plays in Watson. Holding off the defender, he draws Capleton off his line. But the ‘keeper is down quickly to parry Watso’s angled shot.
Two more chances fall inside the final minute. First a deep Grays free-kick drops inside the box and a lurking oppo player turns and hits a first time effort against the outside of the post. Sutton hit back when good work by Matt Fowler gets him to the byeline. He pulls the ball back into the box where Bailey arrives, but blasts his shot over the bar and into the playground behind us.
THe second half starts with the U’s immediately on the attack. Another tricky run by Fowler appears to end when he’s seemingly tripped in the box. But the ref waves away our appeals for a penalty. Straight after, Watson fails to apply the final touch to a great low Bolt cross, but he’s strayed slightly offside. Sutton keep pressing and 2 minutes later, a Bolt free-kick is deflected up and loops into the box. Of all people, Danny Hodges pops up on the end of it and his stabbed 1st time shot drings a good instinctive stop out of a slightly surprised ‘keeper.
Not to be denied though, Sutton keep up the tempo and with 51 minutes played Watson atones for his earlier miss. A long ball up the touchline finds the big striker. He brings the ball down and despite the attentions of 2 defenders, he turns away from them both, leaving ‘em for dead. Bursting into the box, he catches the ‘keeper by surprise, thumping a low shot under him at the near post.
The lads don’t let up and keep pressing, looking for a third. Watson capitalises on a defensive slip, playing in Bolt, but he’s denied by a great last ditch tackle as he’s about to shoot. Grays finally hit back when Gonsalves & Palmer slip when tracking an attacker. But his clever chip is well clawed away by a full stretch Dunn.
The match then falls into another lull with the defences once more on top and very very few chances created for a good 20 minutes or so. The visitors finally manage to exert a serious period of pressure in the last 10 minuets or so. First Dunn has to be down smartly to his right to keep out a low effort through a crowd of legs. Then he can only stand and watch shortly after as a diagonal ball picks out a forward on the corner of the 18yard box, but his volley flashes wide of the far post. He then has to be alert a couple of minutes later, holding onto a fierce 20 yard effort.
But it’s the U’s who have the last shout. A quick breakout from a corner finds Fowler. Despite having Bolt in support, his strikers nature makes him go it alone and holding off the defender, he crashes a shot against the bar. Unfortunately, the ball drops behind the supporting Bailey and the chance is gone.
Still, another win, another clean sheet and the defence is finally looking like it did back at the start of the season. God only knows how far we could have gone this year if they’d not all been made of glass.
A happy band of beer drinkers then ambles off into the cool night air, heading pubwards. To er…..drink more beer if course!
MAN OF THE MATCH : Ryan Palmer. Looks so much more comfortable with Hodges back
ENTERTAINMENT : 6. Not a bad game really. Both sides played the right way.
TEAM : Dunn, Gray, Gonsalves, Palmer, Hodges, Bailey, Bolt, Honey, Fowler, Watson, Akuamoah.
SUBS : Brown, Brooker, Corbett
THE REFEREE’S………This is getting silly now. Thats about 3-4 half decent officials on the spin! We’ve got nothing to bitch about. And we don’t like it!