SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Watkins 42.]
BASINGSTOKE TOWN – 0
Oh for crying out loud! Can someone please get hold of a dictionary (there certainly isn’t one in my house, thats for sure!), find the page bearing the description of the word ‘consistency’, get it blown up into foot high letters and then paste it onto the walls of the home chagning room at Gander Green Lane please?
Four days after losing yet again to a team 2 divisions below us with a second half performance rivalling almost any absolute stinker you could remember any Sutton side having and we go and beat a play-off chasing team in the league. At home.
Still, I guess that such fortunes could be labelled more “What the fuck??” than “inconsistent”.
It’s a slightly sombre, if not sober pre-kick off gathering in the Hood, with some of us still smarting from the dreadful defeat on tuesday night, it’s probably not surprising that most of us are expecting a reversal of that 5-0 tonking we gave the visitors on the last day of last season. Still, our mood is nothing a couple of pints can’t cure.
As befits a Sutton United encounter this season, we reach the ground to find that once again, the side has had changes forced upon it. Scarborough & Elliot are both still injured, meaning a first league start for Richard Blackwell at the back. Corbett returns to midfield and Vansittart declares himself fit in place of Akuamouah, still suffering from his knock to the head from tuesday. On the bench, youth team skipper Alex McKay comes in for his first involvement with the first team.
Basingstoke open the first half exchanges after 5 minutes with a foray down our left. The low cross into the box evades a touch and provides us with the comedy of at least 3 U’s and 2 ‘Stoke players falling on their arses trying to get a foot on it. Our response isn’t far off. A ball in from the right is fought for & won by Vansittart. He pulls it back to the edge of the box for Honey, but he connects with nothing but thin air. Corbett behind him pulls his effort wide of the target.
After 10 minutes, Corbett misses an absolute sitter to give us the lead. Brake sweeps the ball into space behind the defence out on the right. Gray chases the ball down and just manages to keep it in play on the line before pulling it back across the 6 yard box. With the goal gaping, the U’s skipper somehow blazes the ball over the target from a couple of yards out.
We contuinue our bright start though and shortly after a good run from Watkins on the left ends with the ball being squared across the 18 yard box, but sadly between Vansittart and Corbett. Watkins has a chance a couple of minutes later when a nice exchange on the right between Joff & Scott sends the young striker clear in the box, but with the goal gaping, he overhits his final touch and the ‘keeper smothers the ball at his feet.
A few minutes later, a ball through on the right is intended to put Gray clear in the box, but he’s sadly unable to take up the opportunity as he’s been clearly elbowed in the mooey by the Basingstoke no8 just inside the 18 yard box. Staggernigly, the only 2 people to not see this are the ref and the linesman, both just a few yards away.
The result? A goal kick. Erm…..
On 26 minutes, the visitors waste a good opportunity. A quick free-kick down the right cuts out Gray and a high ball into our box is nodded back across and finds a man in space. But his effort is blazed over the target. A minute or so later, another chance goes begging. We lose possession on the left and with the defence somewhat all over the shop, an attacker fails to turn the resulting low centre onto the target.
Gray hits a free-kick just over on 29 minutes after it’s played across the edge of the 18 yard box and Wilson makes a super 1 handed save on 37 minutes after a move down our right ends with a pass inside and a close range effort forces our custodian into action.
But with half time looming, to our relief, we finally make the breakthrough.
A ball forwards from the left sends Watkins scampering into space on the left. He does well to hold off the attentions of a defender before slipping the ball between the ‘keeper and his near post.
Just before the whistle, a Gray corner reaches beyond the far post where it’s nodded back across goal and over the ‘keeper. Corbett nods the loose ball against the bar, but before anyone else can put the loose ball away, the ref decides someones breathed in the vicinity of the ‘keeper and blows for a free-kick.
Another soft arsed ‘foul’ comes moments later when a huge Wilson kick carries over the defence. Corbett jumps with the ‘keeper just inside the 18 yard box and the stopper fumbles the ball. But before Scott can finish, the ref has once again awarded a free-kick in the ‘keepers favour. So we head in just the one goal to the good at the break.
Right, I need a drink. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a long second half!
The second 45 is slow to get going and it’s not until the 57th minute that I have to get my pen out to scribble some notes. A pass in behind our defence causes problems, but the red shirted attacker just fails to apply a touch to the ball and it runs through to Wilson. Straight afterwards, a big clearance forwards by Palmer sets Watkins free on the right. He manages to just beat the ‘keeper to the ball, nodding it goalwards from the corner of the 18yard box. But a defender is back to knock it away. Gray immediately puts the loose ball back into the danger area, but the ‘keeper has recovered his ground sufficiently to pluck the cross out of the air.
Just after the hour, Corbett once again misses a very good chance. A quick Gray throw down the right touchline is flicked on by Vansittart. Watkins attempt to touch it on behind him is initially blocked, but the follow up finds Corbett clear in front of goal. But once again, his effrort is blasted way over the target from close range.
Er, could we please stop missing sitters lads? It’s very disconcerting. Especially in our situation!
The visitors, despite their lofty position on the fringes of the play-offs, are failing to cause a huge number of problems for the U’s defence. Being restricted to mainly long range efforts.
One such chance zips narrowly wide of the Sutton goal after Honey is dispossessed around 25 yards out on 72 minutes. A short while after, a Gray corner from the right causes problems in the visitors box & the ‘keeper misses the ball completely. Once again, we’re unable to capitalise and the resulting header drops over the bar.
The last 10 minutes are very nervy for us. With only 3 home wins in the league to date and plenty of points tossed away here at GGL to late goals, you can understand why.
On 84 minutes a ball into our box is only half cleared and is immediately returned, being flicked narrowly wide of the near upright by the no11. Then, with only a couple of minutes remaining, a great last ditch tackle from Palmer prevents a goal after a good run down the left has taken thier man past Gonsalves and into the box.
But thankfully,on this occasion, we manage to cling onto our advantage and not chuck it away with a late piece of suicidal defending. The reaction of some of the players to only our fourth home league win of the season says it all.
With the telly in the bar out of commission, we head straight to the Hood for results, beer and spend the evening mostly staring intently at the league table.
It turns out that one more win should be enough to keep us up. And with 4 games to go, that should be a doddle. Even for us.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Joff Vansittart. Gave us a badly needed link up front.
ENTERTAINMENT : 8. Jesus christ, a home win!!
TEAM : Wilson, Palmer, Gonsalves, Blackwell, Gray, Honey, Corbett, Nurse, Brake, Watkins, Vansittart. SUBS : Tydeman, Hunter, McKay
THE REFEREE’S………not particularly great if I’m honest. A number of annoying decisions and the booking for Vansittart was just utterly ridiculous. Linesmen weren’t exactly what you’d call effective either!