Att : 487
SUTTON UNITED – 1 [Gray p89]
BISHOPS STORTFORD – 1 [Morison 50]
Bishops Stortford. One of those clubs we’ve been knocking heads with for years now, yet in recent years, meetings between the 2 sides have hardly set the world alight. The most common outcome has been a draw. With one season, 4 meetings producing 4 draws, with Stortford coming out on top in one of those, a cup replay, only by virtue of a penalty shoot out.
Of course, we await this meeting with baited breath…..no really.
With JR now entering probably the last couple of weeks of his time in charge, we’re hoping that a win today could all but confirm our Conf South place for next season and at least allow the new man in charge (whoever that may be) a nice comfortable last month and a bit of the season to settle in and take stock of exactly what he’s inherited.
And barring astounding performances against Lewes and Weymouth in the next 7 days, this is likely to be John’s last genuine chance to earn 3 points for the club he’s served for so long.
As befits a home game, I stroll into the Hood around 2 and find Mr & Mrs C already supping. No Windy & Greek though, the former is most likely down at the club making early arrangements for the Race Night we’ve been roped into organising.
Yes yes, I know what you’re thinking “You lot?? Organising something?? That’ll be a laugh!”.
But, believe it or not, the club have entrusted us (well, mainly Windy, which is in itself quite worrying!) to organise and run a social event. And a proper one at that.
We’re talking a buffet and everything here!
Which, when you consider our idea of organising a ‘social event’ involves deciding which pub to meet in with the sole aim of consuming as much of it’s alcoholic liquid contents as possible in an allotted timeframe, is quite a brave move by those at SUFC!
Still, that’s later. Now is pre-match pint necking time.
Pint & a stroll later, it’s through the turnstiles, ready for another enthralling 90mins in the U’s season.
The side is again, pretty much unchanged. Only Cornwall is missing, dropping back to the bench with Peter Fear restored to the centre of midfield. Still, at least the pitch looks like it’s finally been rolled!
Things start badly for the U’s. Inside the first minute, Gonsalves puts Wilson into trouble with an awful backpass. The customary lurking attacker naturally snaps up the chance and prods the ball past our stopper and a goal looks certain until Scarborough recues his fellow defender with a clearance off the line.
Sutton soon find their feet though and about 5 minutes later, carve out their first chance of the afternoon. A pass through the centre sends Douglas through on goal. He shows good strength to hold off the accompanying defender, but his finish is a little hesitant and in the end, the ‘keeper does enough to block and deflect it away from goal. Bizarrely, as a defender tries to prevent a corner, he slips on the byeline and rather than let the ball run out of play, swipes out an arm and keeps it in!
Naturally, it seems every other bugger in the ground has seen this except the ref and he awards a corner. Thus setting the tone for most of his performance on the afternoon.
That first minute scare is soon a distant memory as We take the game to the visitors. On 15 mins, Watson brings a save out of the ‘keeper at his near post, despite having been blatantly bundled off the ball in the corner of the 18 yard box, he manages to retain possession and regain his feet for the shot.
On 24 minutes, Douglas again finds himself bearing down on goal, chasing a through ball. This time, the ‘keeper is quick off his line and as Douglas toes the ball past him, is flattened on the 18 yard line.
Naturally the crowd bay for the red card, but with Steve having nudged the ball to the ‘keepers left and thus away from the goal, it could be argued that a goalscoring opportunity hasn’t been denied. The ref seems to think so anyway and flashes only a yellow. As the visitors organise themselves for the set piece, Gray quickly fires the ball through the crowded box. But a quick change of direction from the ‘keeper foils the effort and he manages to smother it on the line.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of the half is devoid of any serious goalmouth action. Although the U’s are well on top, they fail to turn their possession in the final third into chances and sadly, despite the promising play, go in level at the break.
A quick dash to the bar for a swift half and a chat with the Stortford lot later and we’re back out into the chilly, but sunny March air for the second half.
Sutton start as they left off, on the offensive and a couple of minutes in, a Matt Gray corner from the right is flicked on at the near post by John Scarborough. But despite it dropping so invitingly a few yards out at the far post, no one can get a foot in to finish off and after a brief scramble, the danger is eventually cleared by Stortford.
As per our miserable season, the oppo have a chance a couple of minutes later and convert.
Douglas is blatantly tripped right in front of the ref about 30 yards out from our goal on the left. No free-kick is awarded and the offender feeds the loose ball into the channel and as the defence tries to track back following their failed appeals for the foul, the attacker bobbles a shot across Wilson and inside the far post.
Well isn’t that just fucking typical.
FOllowing the goal, the U’s lose their way somewhat and start finding the defence they were causing a fair few problems in the first half, an almost impassable obstacle and it’s not until just past the hour that they threaten again.
Conroy, again well involved in proceedings, wins a challenge out on the left. He steps inside a challenge, comes infield and ignoring Gray screaming for the ball out on the far side, tries his luck with a curling effort from 18 yards that skips just wide of the far upright.
Not that this impresses Matty, who loudly berates his team-mate for not feeding him the ball!.
The visitors are more active than they were and a couple of minutes after Conroy’s chance, Scarborough loses the ball out on the right allowing the visitors to break. A cross comes in from the byeline, but it just evades the head of a colleague arriving in the centre.
JR decides to shake things up and in a bold move, replaces the tiring Fear with Glenn Boosey. And instantly, the twinkle toed midfielder bursts up the middle of the field with the ball before feeding Gray on the overlap to the right, but his first time effort is belted narrowly wide of the near post.
The introduction of the skilful attacker lifts Sutton and they start to really press for the equaliser. Their cause his helped somewhat with 10 minutes to go when an untidy passage of scrambling about for the ball on the right ends with Gray trying to win a header, only for the Stortford skipper Rainford to jump into him, leading with his arm. Gray crashes to the ground and a brief scuffle breaks out as incensed U’s players clash with their opponents. Scooby and Conroy looking particularly miffed!
Having finally settled things down, the ref flashes a red card, to which, Mr Rainford reacts badly and goes to have a ‘word’ with Gray who has just regained his feet. He’s prevented from ‘discussing’ the decision by players from both sides and is eventually led away, although Matt himself isn’t impressed with the apparent accusations he’s dived and also has to be prevented from reciprocating Rainford’s offer of a ‘chat’!
With the man advantage, the U’s press on and a couple of minutes later a ball in from the right causes all sorts of problems. Another scramble takes place, with Boosey at the heart looking to get the final touch. And he almost does, but not quite how he intended! A defender putting his boot through the ball, only to crash it against the midfielders legs and have it rebound just the wrong side of the post.
Sutton keep going and Boosey is involved again with 4 minutes to go. Displaying some of that mesmerising close control of his, he leaves 4 opponents for dead out on the left, before again feeding Gray out on the right. His low cross in is deflected up into the air and loops towards goal. All it needs is a touch, but Douglas stretching at the back post can only help it over the bar.
With the chance of the goal the performance deserves seemingly gone, the U’s launch a last ditch effort to salvage at least a point.
Then, with time almost up, another overlap is worked out on the right and Conroy feeds Gray a super ball into the box. Bearing down on goal and about to pull the trigger, he recieves a nudge from behind, sending him sprawling on the turf and the ref immediately points to the spot.
Matt picks himself up to take the kick, sending the keeper the wrong way and planting it into the bottom left corner.
To the lads credit, they sniff a possible win and go looking for all 3 points instead of settling for the one.
And with injury time running out, they almost get them. A free-kick on the edge of the box is laid out to the right where Boosey tees up a shot. But he drives his effort into the ground and it loops up into the air. Honey leaps highest to nod it backwards onto goal, but the ‘keeper is just equal to it and touches it over the crossbar.
There’s just time for the corner to be taken, but it comes to nothing and the final whistle ends the goal chase. We head into the bar thankful for the point, but a little frustrated at not having claimed all 3. Still, at least we can get into the bar and get a few beers down us.
Oh, hang on, we’ve got that Race Night to do haven’t we?
MAN OF THE MATCH : Paul Honey. Back to his best! Absolutely dominated the midfield.
ENTERTAINMENT : 6. Not a bad game considering the surface.
TEAM : Wilson, Scarborough, Gonsalves, Palmer, Conrony, Fear, Gray, Honey, Akuamouah, Douglas, Watson SUBS : Adams, Emberson, Cornwall, Boosey
THE REFEREE’S………absolutely rubbish in the first half, blowing up for some absolute crap and being utterly random with it as well. But, we must be fair and he did get the 2 big decisions right in sending off their man and awarding the pen.