SURREY SENIOR CUP SEMI-FINAL | Att: 2069
SUTTON UNITED – 0 AFC WIMBLEDON – 1 [Howard 48.]
My god. Can it possibly get any more depressing watching games at GGL this season? Just when we thought that Weston was just about the zenith of shitness as far as the 2004/2005 season went, the team go and prove us wrong and lower that bar just a little more. We should’ve known really. If it carries on like this, any planned summer ground improvements should start with a Samaritans desk in the supporters bar. Either that or a pharmacy handing out free Prozac.
Still, at least if we do get our arses dumped out, we can console ourselves with a nice big fat share of the gate receipts. Now if only the board had heeded my admittedly outside the box suggestion about employing a couple of top notch pickpockets in the section where most of the visiting supporters congregate tonight, it could have been a lot more an’all.
I arrive in the boozer just after half 6 and find it somewhat busier than normal for a Tuesday night’s Surrey Senior cup match. The place is predictably full of Wombles and Windy sat at the bar on his jack is apparently the only Sutton person in the place. Best get mobbed up then! A couple of beers later, Chalmers and his good lady arrive for a quick half to quadruple our presence in quick order. Greek has decided to head direct to the ground & try to find a parking spot. Good luck with that tonight mate!
We leave unusually early from the pub for a Tuesday nighter, but still end up queueing at the Collingwood turnstile due to the 10 times bigger than normal attendance these games get. And Windy also gets the last programme in front of me to boot. The bastard!
There’s a good crowd already in place at the ground and more are still coming in as the game gets underway. The visitors are missing some 8 first choice players tonight through ineligibility and injury and are forced to field a side of faces who’ve played little more than walk on parts in their relentless march towards promotion so far. Advantage us? We too are forced into changes though. Scooby & Joff still aren’t fit, neither is Elliot, but he’s cup tied anyway and Palmer is ineligible. So JR drafts in Craig Howard at the back and Tydeman into midfield in place of the rested Corbett. Think that’s levelled it up again to be honest.
Sutton start strongly and take the game to the visitors from the off. After only 3 minutes, Akuamouah is getting to the byeline and pulling the ball back across goal, but Gray is unable to apply the final touch at the near post. A quick free-kick on 5 minutes down the right touchline puts Gray in behind the defence. His low cross finds Chris Nurse, but he can’t get a firm strike away and the ball is eventually bundled out for a corner.
AFC’s reply is an early effort deflected wide of Wilson’s upright. But Gray is soon causing problems down the right again. Howard sweeps the ball to the flank and Matty whips in an early low cross. It’s just cut out and runs to Akuamouah, but he’s crowded out quicly by blue shirts and is unable to turn a shot on goal and the chance is gone.
Steadily, the visitors find their feet and win a fair few corners from their forays forwards. One from the left on on 20 minutes brings a poor punch from Wilson at his near post and the ball deflects off a U’s man and rebounds out for another corner.
The U’s keep going and continue to look most dangerous going forwards. Tydeman sending Brake down the left to deliver a cross that Gray heads over on 28 minutes and a break forwards from Nurse takes him into the box on 32 minutes. But he’s blocked out and the ball finds it’s way to Brake. His quick cross in finds Watkins, but he loops a header narrowly wide of the far post.
Wimbledon aren’t creating much in the final third as such, but are winning a fair few corners by simply hassling our defence and the incredibly weak looking ref (who’s already booked Quinton for ‘diving’ after having been clearly fouled and despite the lino agreeing and flagging our way for the free kick!) also seems to be awarding a worrying amount of free-kicks around our 18 yard box.
We manage to deal with the bombardment though and on 39 minutes, we finally bring a reasonable save out of the Wombles ‘keeper. Nurse again breaks forwards before feeding a perfect ball through for Watkins to get round his man and in on goal. But their stopper is quick off his line and does enough to just deflect Watkins clipped effort just wide of the post. Right on half time, he’s in action again with Gray’s whipped free-kick being met by Quinton’s header. The ‘keeper diving to his left to make a good 1 handed stop.
Wandering round at half time, we’re fairly happy with the performance so far. No goals yet, but it’s been a fairly fast paced tie to keep the interest and we’ve had probably the better of things overall.
Sadly though, we fail to carry that over at the start of the second half and within a minute of the restart, Wilson has to pull off a brilliant save to keep the scores level. The ball is given away cheaply by the corner flag on the left and a quick cross is fired in. It reaches an attacker slightly beyond the near post and he does well to stretch and get his header on target. From our vantage point at the far end, it’s sneaking right inside the post until Phil dives to his left and more than equals his counterpart’s stop just before the break.
Clearly though, the Dons tails are up (actually, there’s a question. Do Wombles actually have tails?) and they press forwards. Nurse concedes a pointless free-kick out on the right, which earns him a card. From around 25 yards out, the ball is driven in and picks out the towering no5 at the back post and he powers a close range header past the despairing dive of Wilson.
Now, normally this season, the visitors opening the scoring would tend to mean a collapse that would make the England batting order look positively dogged in it’s resistance. Tonight is no exception. Almost.
Barely a minute later a speculative ball down the right hits a defender and falls kindly for a blue shirt. Taking a touch, he drives a low effort across Wilson only to see it come back off the foot of the far post. The loose ball is fired back in on a practically empty goal, only for Gray to get back and hack the effort of the line.
Erm, lads? LADS?
After taking a couple of minutes to regain their composure, Sutton’s initial response is promising. On 54 minutes, Gray’s wickedly delivered free-kick from the right gives an unmarked Brake the simplest of tasks of just nodding in from a yard or two out at the back post. Somehow, he construes to head his effort inches the wrong side of the upright. Oh for fucks sake. Two minutes later, another Gray free-kick from the right invites conversion, but Nurse’s header lacks power is desperately headed out from under the cross bar.
This really should be the sign that it’s really not going to happen tonight and that we should all piss off back to the pub now to get a nice run at last orders. But sadly, we’re stupid and don’t heed the warning signs despite having seen them a thousand times already this season. I know I know.
Momentarily, it seems our response has rattled the visitors as 2 rather agricultural attempts to stop Honey’s charging run forwards bring a yellow card and a brief handbags scuffle soon follows. The reaction of the Wombles bench ends with both their manager Dave Anderson and his assistant being banished to the stands. The whole process taking several minutes as both continue to remonstrate with the officials.
Erm, could you fuck off please? We’re trying to hold a football match here. The “Stampy tantrum like a 5 year old” competition is NEXT Tuesday. Still, Anderson’s dismissal is at least mildly amusing. Kicking out at a defenceless water bottle on his way off and missing it completely! Whoops.
The lengthy stoppage though seems to upset the U’s more than the visitors and we’re rarely a threat from this point forwards, aimlessly thumping balls forwards at no one in particular instead of trying to make use of Gray on the right and keeping the ball on the deck to try & stretch them.
Just on the hour, another free-kick around our box, goes close to extending the Wombles lead. The deep ball in being headed out and then being volleyed back in on goal, flashing about a foot wide of Wilson’s right hand post.
The remainder of the match from our point of view is a complete and utter shambles. In between just kicking the ball as hard and as far up field as we can at every opportunity, we lose Akuamouah to a head injury. The forward departing on a stretcher and being replaced by Sam Hewitt, which requires a reshuffle too complicated to go into here and is one I probably never quite worked out or understood anyway.
Any real hope of rescuing the tie properly disappears several minutes after Eddie has gone, as Watkins pulls up sharply chasing another pointless and hugely over hit ball forwards. It looks like its a hammy injury and it’s his last act as he limps off to be replaced with Blackwell as JR once again has to reshuffle and try to fashion a team out of what’s left.
Just how poor we are in the last 30 minutes or so can really be summed up in the fact that our only serious threat to the visitors lead is supplied by Sam Hewitt’s huge long throws into the box from the touchline. It’s with time running out that one of these serves to really rub in just how bad this second half has been from us.
The Wombles ‘keeper jumps under pressure at the near post from a Hewitt bomb and comes to earth quite heavily. After a good few minutes treatment, he trudges off with what we can only assume is a dislocated shoulder and with no sub available, is replaced between the sticks by their goalscorer, Mr no5. So with 8 minutes of time left and tons of injury time to be no doubt added for the incident involving their bench and that injury to the keeper, you’d expect most sides to punish opposition with a nervy looking defender in goal. Oh no, not us.
Most of the game is seemingly played out in our half rather than theirs and still we continue to simply pump balls forwards with little thought or direction. Again, our only 2 real opportunities come from Hewitt throws. One from the left is nervously fumbled by the stand in ‘keeper, but ends up rebounding off Honey for a goal kick and one other being weakly headed out to the right, where Gray fires it back in. Again the stand in gets in the way, fumbles and a defender comes to his rescue, nodding the bouncing ball from under the bar before it’s eventually smuggled out for a corner.
Our night, if not our season, is summed up with said corner. Needing a good delivery to put a clearly rubbish ‘keeper under pressure, Gray mishits it low along the ground and the first man clears the ball from the 18 yard box without any fuss. Finally, the ref puts us out of our misery and blows his whistle after god knows how much stoppage time and the Wombles celebrate their win wildly. We decide not to bother acknowledging the shambles passing as the home team and walk swiftly to the exit and a miserable pint back at the Hood to drown the sorrows.
So, our last chance of claiming something positive from this season in the form of a cup final, has now gone. Ironically with quite possibly the most depressing 45 minutes we’ve had to endure in what’s proving to be the frequently miserable task of watching Sutton United at Gander Green Lane this season.
And we’ve got no fucker left to play up front now either. Should make Saturdays home defeat to Basingstoke a right old laugh that. Cheers.
MAN OF THE MATCH : Matt Gray. Lets face it, he’s the only attacking option we’ve got.
ENTERTAINMENT : 7. For the 1st half. Very entertaining. 2. For the 2nd half. Utter shambles.
TEAM : Wilson, Howard, Quinton, Gonsalves, Gray, Nurse, Honey, Tydeman, Brake, Watkins, Akuamouah. SUBS : Blackwell, Stevens, Dray, Iga, Hewitt