FA TROPHY 2nd ROUND
SUTTON UNITED – 2 [Fowler 65. Nurse 74]
BEDFORD TOWN – 0
Having met Stortford in the FA Cup when completely out of form and subsequently missing out on all the lovely wonga when we got our arses dumped out, it was quite a relief to have won a couple of matches recently and go into this Trophy tie unbeaten in 7.
Bedford return 3 weeks after nicking a late draw in the league. A match we really should have won. We’re hoping to set that record straight today.
Like last week, it’s raining as I find my way into the Hood. Gareth is once again on time, necking a pint with the Greek & Oscar. Who’d planned to come today until the cash machine swallowed his card this morning! He’s here having a beer to console himself.
There’s no Chalmers or Bob today. Chalmers has a particularly interesting excuse. He’s attending the wedding of his ex-flatmate at a Sikh temple in Southampton. Very cultural!
A damp GGL greets us and the side is slightly different to Tuesdays win at Kettering. Jinadu’s ankle injury that forced him off at HT has kept him out today, replaced by the now apparently fit again Gonsalves. Fletcher replaces the cup-tied Quinton.
The early exchanges go in favour of the visitors and for the first few minutes we’re on the back foot a bit. The defence is a dozing a bit on 7 minutes when a run & pass on the right leaves their man a bit of space on the edge of the box with a shooting opportunity. But he wastes the chance, pulling his effort wide of goal.
But, the U’s get themselves going and on 10 minutes some decent work on the right from Gray results in a ball into the box. Nurse collects but can’t get his shot away before being hassled out of possession. The ball falls to Bailey and he hits a rising drive from an angle that the ‘keeper is equal to.
Our midfield is soon in almost complete control, breaking up move after move on halfway or just inside the Bedford half, but dogged defending on their part keeps chances to a premium. Bailey puts one free-kick in from the right that Hanlan heads just wide around 20 minutes in.
Bedford create a good opening soon after, Fletcher mistimes a challenge on the right allowing an Orange shirt to skip past him and into the space behind. He cuts across & into the box, hitting a low shot goalwards. Iga is going the wrong way, but manages to stick out a leg and deflect the ball away for a corner.
Fowler & Nurse link up on 28 mins, Fowler breaking down the left before holding the ball for support and crossing to the back post, where Nurse dives in, but can’t direct his header onto the target. Immediately after, Gray somehow gets past 2 men in the right hand corner & squeezes in a cross. Nurse can’t get a decent touch, but neither can Akuamouah and the chance is gone.
By now, the U’s midfield has all but snuffed out the visitors threat. And when they do manage to get into our final 3rd, the defence is standing firm and letting little past them. Which makes a nice change!
Gray provides a great cross on 36 minutes for Fowler, but he can’t get over the ball and heads disappointingly well over the bar. Hanlan then plays a lovely ball into the channel for Nurse soon after, but the defender manages to stick with him and manages to block out his effort.
The visitors end the half with a reasonable chance after a good strong run, but the shot is well over the target from the edge of the box.
The second half is more controlled by the U’s, restricting the visitors to little or nothing in the way of attempts on our goal. Sutton’s play isn’t as sharp as the 1st 45 minutes, but it’s certainly more effective. Fowler making a good run early in the half & supplying Gray whose cross from the right is meant for Nurse near the front post, but the ‘keeper manages to gather. Next it’s Akuamouah supplying the cross, this time from the left. This time it finds Nurse, but his touch lets him down in front of goal & the chance is lost. Next he’s supplying a ball from the right 2 minutes later, but Fowler can’t quite make it when only a touch would do and the ‘keeper again comes off his line & gathers.
The pressure finally tells and on 65 minutes, the visitors defence cracks. A corner from Bailey from the left picks out Ryan Palmer beyond the back post. He fluffs his frist touch, but his second touch is a low drive towards goal. Whether it would have beaten the ‘keeper or not, we’re not sure, but just to make sure Matt Fowler sticks out a boot & diverts the ball sufficiently for it to find it’s way into the far corner of the Bedford net. Woo hoo!
The goal seems to take a bit of steam out of the visitors and a few minutes later Bailey bundles his way past a couple of challenges on the left, making it into the box. He pulls the ball back to the edge of the area where Matt Hanlan arrives, but he drives his shot agonisingly wide of the mark.
Thankfully we’re not made to regret the miss as 2 minutes later, Palmer puts a good ball over the top of the Eagles defence to the right. Fowler chases it down, recovering it almost on the byeline. Under pressure from a defender he hooks the ball across the 6 yard area and Jon Nurse, who’s made a clever little run inside in anticipation of the pass, slides in and prods the ball home. Hurrah! 2-0 and surely even we can’t chuck this one!
The visitors try hard to get back into the tie, but lack a real cutting edge up front. And their frustration starts to show. Mainly from their no8, who gets himself pointlessly booked then endears himself to the home fans by calling “smash him” to a team mate who is shadowing Akuamouah down the ref touchline. Thats about the limit of his contribution to his teams efforts, as the wonderfully clean and pristine nature of his kit testifies. All it needs is a quick spray of ‘Fabreeze’ and you could hang it on the peg in the dressing room for thier next away game and the guy wouldn’t know the difference!
Inside the last 10 minutes, we have a couple more chances to wrap up the win. Nurse chases down a ball forward, forcing a poor clearance from the ‘keeper which goes straight to Gray. He delivers a low ball into the box and Fowler touches it just the wrong side of the post & into the side netting. Then with time almost up, Nurse races forwards and holding off the challenge of a defender, rifles a shot from left to right across the goal and just wide of the far post.
Somehow the ref finds several minuets of stoppages, but it’s seen out pretty comfortably (for a change!) as the lads take the piss and manage to keep the ball in the corner for pretty much all of this! Again frustration shows through from the visitors, with the no3 making a couple of decidedly dodgy challenges, including one shocking lunge that earns him a yellow card.
But we hold out to win the tie and put ourselves into the 3rd round draw. Plus bank a luverly 3 grand. Then it’s off back to the Hood for a celebratory pint or few (they always taste so much better after a good win), then a bit of nostalgia with an evening in the old Firkin catching a favourite band of ours from the old days.
We’ve had worse Saturdays.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Ronnie Fletcher. Good solid defensive performance.
ENTERTAINMENT : 8. Some great footy played in the first half especially.
TEAM : Iga, Palmer, Fletcher, Gonsalves, Akuamouah, Gray, Bailey, Honey, Hanlan, Fowler, Nurse
SUBS : Cole-Bolt, Dray, Hamlin
THE REFEREE’S A………not bad. Again, had very little to to be honest. Only real complaint could be his slightly lenient treatment of their 3 for a bloody awful challenge right at the death. But, like I said. Not bad.