RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Watson 19]
BASINGSTOKE TOWN – 1 [Ewin 76]
After last weeks disappointing defeat, we faced another top 5 side, in the shape of Basingstoke, hoping to keep alive our own chances of a top 5, maybe even (fingers crossed!) a top 3 finish??
Sadly our record against sides around us in the top half isn’t great. With our only wins coming against Hendon & Purfleet. Plus a couple of other draws. Not too clever. And when you add to the equation the rather lively front line of todays visitors, things don’t look promising.
In Sutton unusually early (I had to buy some net curtains for the ‘Gandermonium’ lair. Oh the shame…) I’m unusually into the boozer dead on 2. Paul, & Gareth are already tucking into their fizzy pop. Bob strolls in later. No Chalmers again. He’s off gallavanting once more, being a sad groundhopper in Blackpool this time and taking in their match with QPR. Strange boy!
The U’s are unchanged from the St Albans trip, with Danny Hodges still nursing a calf strain.
Sutton make a quick start and from thief first attack, Fowler is upended for a free-kick. Bolt thumps a low 25yard effort that Tarr in the ‘stoke goal manages to get down and keep out with a 1 handed save. Within 60 seconds, Bolty is causing problems again, with a corner from the left.. Swung in low, Matt Gray manages to get his toe on it and a surprised Tarr manages to block it just on the line.
The visitors are soon into their stride. A simple ball through our rather flat defence gives their No10 the opportunity to thump a looping shot against the underside of Dunn’s crossbar. The frantic opening continues with end to end attacks. Next it’s Danny Brooker latching onto a half cleared corner and firing in a shot on the volley that’s blocked for another flag kick.
Basingstoke break out and with our defence backing off, the No10 tries his luck from range once more, his effort is deflected and bounces just wide of Tommy’s far post.
The match quietens down slightly for a few minutes before Basingstoke are given an opportunity by some slightly lax defending. Palmer challenges a forward for a pass into the U’s box. He seems to have things sorted, but hesitates for a second, allowing the lurking striker to nip in and poke the ball goalwards. Thankfully, Tommy has narrowed the angle and he blocks the shot. The rebound is only rolled into the side netting.
Almost immediate after that scare, the U’s are up the other end taking the lead. Tommy throws the ball out to Matt Gray in the full back position. He advances a few yards before hitting a fantastic deep pass into the channel in front of him. Matt Fowler spins off his marker and scampers off after the ball. In acres of space, he heads for the box. Tarr starts to come off his line, hesitates and then carries on coming. The pause proves costly. Matt skips around him to the bye line and clips a cross to the near post where an unmarked Mark Watson calmly nods into the unguarded net.
The U’s have the better of things for a short spell and 5 minutes later, the lead really should be doubled. Watson holds the ball up on the edge of the box, turns and skips past 2, his shot is blocked by a desperate last ditch challenge. The ball runs loose towards the left hand side of the box, where Eddie Akuamouah is charging upfield in support. With the goal at his mercy and Tarr scrambling to make up the ground, all he has to do is put his head down and rifle the ball into the back of the net. He doesn’t.
For some reason, he tries to sidefoot it high into the net and only succeeds in putting the ball into the playground behind us.
Basingstoke go close just after the half hour from a corner. Played in from our right, is headed narrowly wide of Dunn’s near post. Watson is in action again after 36 minutes, with a Bolt cross being nodded on by Fowler, Watso chests it down inside the box. But on the hard surface, the ball bounces up and starts to run away from him. With the opening for a shot fast disappearing, he swings his boot. But he’s always leaning back and the ball zips just high & wide of the near post.
Sutton continue to make more of the rather even levels of possession and after 39 minutes, another chance goes begging. Bolty puts a free-kick in from the left, but it’s headed clear to the edge of the box. Nick Bailey is waiting and pounces. Smashing a Scholes-esque waist high volley goalwards. Tarr can only look on as the ball flies past him and crashes off his far upright. The “OOOOOOooooooooh!” as the ball connects with the woodwork is one of the loudest I’ve heard for a long while at the Lane.
Again, after we have a chance, ‘stoke hit back soon after. This time another ball through our flat looking defence earns the No9 a strike on goal, but again, Dunn is quick off his line and dives to his left to beat away the effort.
It’s the U’s who have the final say of the half. Eddie Akuamouah somehow battles and scraps his way past 2 men on the left and worms his way into the box, where he knocks a beautiful little cross to the back post. Watso is waiting, but his diving header just clears the bar when he really should be testing the ‘keeper.
It’s the last action of the half and we once more wander to the bar wondering if we’ll rue those missed chances. Still it’s been an entertaining half!
The second 45 minutes turns out to be a nervy one from the Sutton point of view. The visitors obviously come out with the intention of recovering that 1 goal defecit. From the off, the U’s defence is under pressure as Basingstoke use the simple tactic of getting the ball forwards and behind our defence as quickly as possible, keeping them under constant pressure.
Despite the pressure, it takes them 10 minutes to muster their first real chance. A cross from the right picks out a lurking striker just beyond the far post. He volleys the ball back across goal and with Dunn looking a little stranded, Ryan Palmer is on hand top block the effort and clear his lines.
They keep on coming though and it takes a great reaction save from Dunn after 64 minutes to keep Sutton ahead. A rather tame looking effort takes a nasty deflection and the young stopper somehow manages to make a block on the line with his left boot. The U’s finally respond 2 minutes later, taking advantage of the visitors pushing up for that goal.
A corner is cleared and Nick Bailey collects the ball in midfield and breaks into the ‘stoke half. As he approaches the edge of the box, he slips the ball inside to the supporting Watson. But again, the ball runs too wide for him to get an effort on goal. He eventually works the ball back to Fowler, but his effort is just wide of the mark.
Soon after, a rare corner is delivered from the right by Bolt. It picks out the diminutive Akuamouah at the back post, and his towering header loops goalwards. But Tarr judges it right and makes a good one handed save to tip the ball away to safety.
We’re definitely left to rue another chance a couple of minutes down the line when a string of corners puts the Sutton defence under pressure. And eventually, it cracks. A flag kick from the left is headed down from the edge of the box. 2 U’s defenders hesitate and Ewin nips in to poke home at the abck post.
Arsenuts. Oh well, it’s not exactly a surprise…
Neither side really creates a serious matchwinning chance in the last 15 minutes. The U’s best openings come from a Bailey 20 yard drive just over and a Bolt free-kick into the wall. Meanwhile, Basingstoke’s best effort comes with the last kick (well ‘ ‘head’ actually!) when a cross picks out the leagues top scorer Craig McCallister, but his goalward header is plucked out of the air by Dunn. Before he can do anything with the ball, the ref blows for time.
One disappointing item to note is the fact the way 3-4 of the U’s players slump to the ground at the final whistle, completely shagged out. Like they’ve just played a rip roaring cup tie and extra-time! Hmmmm, need to work on the fitness a bit I think lads.
We amble off to the boozer for beer and to settle in for the England match. Well, I begin too, before remembering I’d left my lovely net curtains on the terracing! As I dash back to retrieve them, I’m greeted by our chief steward. “Are these yours???” he asks. “Er, yeah!” I mumble back. “Ooooh, very niiiice!” he chuckles before I can beat a hasty retreat. Bugger. Rumbled! (The shame the shame etc etc).
As it turns out, the England match is less of a spectacle than the 90 minutes we’d just witnessed up the road. Things then degenerate into a rather heavy drinking session involving a number of pints in a number of pubs. Oh dear.
This in turn leads to awakening on sunday with a mouth like a tramps armpit and wondering just how I’d got home. Still, at least I managed to hang onto my curtains this time.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Danny Brooker
ENTERTAINMENT : 7. A rather entertaining match. Probably one of the best so far this season.
TEAM : Dunn, Gray, Gonsalves, Palmer, Brooker, Bailey, Bolt, Honey, Fowler, Watson, Akuamoah.
SUBS : Brown, Beale, Corbett
THE REFEREE’S………annoying. Decent first half. But rather frustrating in the 2nd. Where he proceeded to give us pretty much piss all. Oh well. Can’t win ‘em all.