RYMAN PREMIER DIVISION
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Quinton 28]
BILLERICAY TOWN – 1 [Hockton 55]
Way back in October, we made the trip to Essex looking for a vital win against a side also struggling for results. That night, Matt Fowlers goal gave us the 3 vital points we needed. And we’ve rarely looked back since with only 2 defeats in the league following that victory.
Tonight, we host Billericay, a side still struggling for points towards the foot of the table. But, with a new owner & a recent boost to their budget, their form certainly is anything but that of strugglers, matching exactly that of our own over the last 6 games.
Should be interesting!
As per normal, I find some of the usual faces propping up the bar in the Hood. With Oscar & Dave already settled. Greek follows shortly after and Chalmers arrives around 7 having bombed over after work. Gareth has decided to head straight for the club bar as he doesn’t fancy the walk to the ground from the pub with his poorly knee. Wuss.
Shame, as tonight we have the use of not 1, but 2 cars to ferry us to GGL.
As has become the pattern recently, we’re forced to make a change to our previous lineup. With Craig Howard picking up an injury at Bedford, he’s replaced by Martin Dunne. Which surprises us a little, as it means that Tony Quinton will once more occupy a spot in the midfield. We’re yet to be convinced that breaking up the effective back three of Quinton, Palmer & Jinadu will be of any success.
Christ knows it took us long enough to stop’em going in at the wrong end, so why bugger about with it? Ho hum……still, we’re fairly confident we’ll have enough to secure the points.
That confidence is a little dented as soon as the game starts, as for the 2nd match running the lads leave their brains in the dressing room. With their first attack, Billericay open us up down our right flank after Gray is somewhat roughly dispossessed. The resulting cross finds a poorly marked attacker at the back post and his header seems destined to give the vistors the lead until Andy Iga flings himself to one side and acrobatically keeps the ball out of his net.
More trouble follows immediately after, with a corner in from the right. The defence can’t clear the ball and it’s chipped back into the crowded box. A Billericay head pops up and nods the ball back towards goal. But fortunately, it bounces back off the face of the bar and we clear at the second time of asking.
The lads hit back at the other end soon after, with Nurse moving forwards past 1 man. His pass finds Hanlan inside the box and he then tries to help it onto Fowler. But a defender gets a enough of a touch on the ball to take it away from the Sutton striker.
Sutton’s slow start continues to cause trouble when a poor pass across field is cut out, immediately setting up a Billericay attack. The man makes his run all the way into the box, pursued by Jinadu & Palmer. Iga is on hand once more to rescue the situation, saving his shot from the left before Palmer follows in to clear.
On 11 minutes, we make some progress down the right and Quinton puts a good ball into the box, aimed at Fowler by the near post, but the U’s striker slips as he goes for the first time volley and the ball skews off his shin and well wide of the mark. The match develops into a bit of a scrap for a while, with both sides finding a rythym hard and misplacing passes. Although the visitors do seem tro have slightly the better of things.
On 27 minutes, our defence once more finds clearing it’s lines difficult and a short ball from the left finds an attacker a few yards out a couple of yards in from the byeline. He lifts the ball over the advancing Iga, but the angle defeats him and the ball drops over the goal & rolls down the back of the net.
Within a minute, we’re up the other end. Matt Gray wins a free-kick out on the right touchline, around 30 yards out. Bailey swings in the free-kick, finding Tony Quinton’s leap at the near post about 10 yards out. His powering header finds the bottom near corner of the net via the ‘keepers hands to give us a slightly unexpected lead!
The goal seems to set the vistors back on their heels slightly and the U’s have their best spell of the half. With 37 minutes played, Quinton almost doubles the lead, a Gray corner finds him jumping at the near post but this time the ‘keeper gets a better contact on the ball and pulls off a good stop, beating the effort away.
Then with a couple of minutes to the break, another Bailey free-kick causes problems. This time he whips it in from the left, but no-one really attacks the ball as it comes into the box and it whizzes across the face of goal and flies just the wrong side of the far post.
Half over, we toddle off to the bar to warm up and stick a bit more ‘refreshment’ down our necks.
The second half starts again with the U’s forced to change the lineup. Fowler is replaced up front by Matt Gray, with Dean Hamlin in on the right. The half starts as slowly as the first as within a couple of minutes Iga is called into action once more, making a good block from the ‘Ricay No10 who has found a pass at his feet in the box. Andy’s active night continues within a couple of minutes when a deep ball in from the left finds an attacker charging in around 10 yards out, unmarked. Iga races off his line and makes a superb point blank block with his body from the ‘Ricay mans volley.
Sutton respond with a chance of their own almost immediately. Gray makes a great run to the edge of the box before sending Nurse clear with a cheeky little backheel. Nurse’s shot from the angle out on the left is parried by the ‘keeper and drops just inside the box, where Dean Hamlin comes charging in and cracks a crisp drive off the underside of the bar.
Bugger! He did it again!
Now if you’ve been reading the reports, you’ll know that we’ve been willing young Mr Hamlin to score since he last rattled the woodwork at Bognor shortly before Christmas. This is because Gareth has been giving him stick ever since and has now foolishly agreed to buy not only Dean, but the WHOLE team a drink if he does score.
Hence our ever so slight disappointment.
The evening takes another twist, when Hanlan takes exception to a comment from Bailey and tells him so. The young midfielder reacts by grabbing his captains throat. The two are separated and the ref thankfully only warns both of them, where some of his colleagues would no doubt have taken great delight in dishing out cards. Moments later, Bailey is replaced with Boosey by an unimpressed JR and promptly storms off down the tunnel.
With the side already a little off kilter due to enforced changes, to lose a key man like Bailey to something so fucking stupid is annoying. But key man or not, JR has undoubtedly done the right thing from a discipline point of view.
Whether this has an affect on the lads, we’ll never know. But on the hour mark, our lead disappears. A ball to the edge of our box is touched into the path of a blue shirt. Despite a hint of offside, he turns and prods the ball past the oncoming Iga and our big ‘keeper can only watch as it trundles out of reach and sneaks inside the post.
The general feeling amongst the crew is that the visitors will probably go on to sneak the result. But the lads have other ideas and keep plugging away, with Matt Gray in particular shining in his rare appearance up front.
Gray flings in a corner soon after the equaliser that finds it’s way all the way through to Boosey at the back post, but a defender throws himself in front to block the shot. Then soon after, a lovely little flick from Gray sends Nurse through on the left. But again, the ‘keeper does his job, getting down well to save his low effort.
The game then again drops into a bit of a scrap. With neither side able to really carve out a good match winning opportunity. Our own attempts are particularly frustrating, with misplaced or overhit passes frustrating our attacking ambitions. The best effort we can muster being a late Boosey effort that is hit from the edge of the box and dips just over the bar.
Frustrated, we head back to the Hood. Annoyingly, those bloody Bobbins have once again evaded our grasp. And now the fuckers have a game in hand!!! BAH!
Someone give me a drink. Quick.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Andy Iga. Probably his best performance for us.
ENTERTAINMENT : 6. End to end, but little decent play to speak of. Very scruffy.
TEAM : Iga, Gray, Akuamouah, Palmer, Jinadu, Dunne, Bailey, Quinton, Hanlan, Fowler, J. Nurse
SUBS : Boosey, C.Nurse, Dray, Hamlin
THE REFEREE’S………I can’t be bothered. Just another standard ref for us. At least handled the silliness between Hanlan & Bailey ok.