Sutton continued their good form in the league with a 2-1 victory over Basingstoke. It was a game that Sutton dominated for large periods but it looked increasingly as if the second goal would elude them.
The first half was only six minutes old when Basingstoke took the lead. A scramble for possession in the Sutton area finally saw the ball falling to a Basingstoke player who shot home from a tight angle. Sutton struggled to make an impression on the game until the 25th minute, when Eddie Akuamoah raced onto a through-ball and rounded the keeper, only to shoot wide of the goal. This sparked The Uís into life, and in the following minutes Rob Haworth had two chances to score, narrowly missing both. Sutton also had a couple of penalty appeals turned down and Basingstoke were lucky to finish the half with ten men when Akuamoah was held back by the last defender when through on goal, the referee inexplicably deciding a yellow card was sufficient punishment. Half time: Uís 0, Basingstoke 1.
After the break, Sutton continued where they left off in the first-half, and were quickly on level terms when Phil Wingfield shot past the goalkeeper at the second time of asking, although it is possible his first effort was also over the line. Tommy Dunn was rarely tested by the visitors, but a second goal would not come for United who continued to carve out some good chances with their neat passing around the Basingstoke area - Haworth, Wingfield, the tireless Paul Honey and Scott Corbett all failing to find the net. The Uís claimed the victory with a winner inside the last ten minutes for the second game on the trot, when a ball over the top of the visitorís defence was controlled on the edge of the area by Corbett, who slid the ball past the advancing goalkeeper. Corbett continued Michael Mison's trend of elaborate celebrations by pulling his shirt from over his head and striking a triumphant pose. And rightly so. Final score: Uís 2, Basingstoke 1.
Team: Dunn, Gonsalves, Hammonds, Mison, R Palmer, Timothy, Honey, Corbett, Wingfield, Haworth, Akuamoah.
Goals: Wingfield, Corbett.
U's v Hitchin (02/03/02)
Before the game there were already several things that stood out about the Sutton line up:
1. No Mison, still suspended
2. No Timothy, injured
3. The unsuccessful wing back formation, chosen once again. It only took us up to Christmas to realise it didnít work the first time.
Both teams started well with neither having any real grip on the game. However, it was a Uís corner kick that gave the opposition their first goal. A poorly controlled short corner led to a quick clearance, which set free Nolan (the Hitchin no. 10) who calmly went on to chip it over an advancing Dunn. Nolan spent the best part of the game constantly rolling around on the floor. Shortly afterwards it was two, when Dunn picked up a supposed back pass. The resulting free kick was pushed towards the penalty spot and thundered into a well positioned Dunn, who was then unable to keep out the second shot. The third went in a few minutes later when Dunn was caught in two minds as to whether to claim a cross or not. The ball then fell nicely for a Hitchin player who, with Dunn out of position, stroked it home. The Uís then rallied and started to look a bit like the team that have been playing their socks off for the last 10 games. Finally, we pulled one back when the ball managed to bounce through the crowd to a grateful Haworth who slid it home. Many inconsistent and bewildering referee and linesman decisions also did the Uís no favours.
The second half was a different story altogether. The Uís came out and continued as per the end of the first half. Eventually the Uís got the second goal when Haworth was blatantly pushed from behind in the box. Akuamoah confidently converted the penalty. The remainder of the second half hinged on two incidents. The Hitchin keeper obviously handled the ball whilst outside the area, unsurprisingly missed by both the linesman and referee. Secondly, Akuamoah was clean through and failed to trouble the keeper with his shot. Hitchin eventually put an 11th game unbeaten well out of Suttonís reach when a weak challenge from Ryan ĎPatsyí Palmer allowed the Hitchin strikers to capitalise on an overlap. Final score: Sutton 2, Hitchin 4.
Suttonís poor first half performance ultimately lost them the game, however the whole game was marred by some dreadful refereeing decisions. An example of this was, when the Hitchin no. 5 brought down Paul Honey and subsequently their no. 6 was booked. The no. 5 later brought down another Uís player and received what should have been his second yellow card.
Team: Dunn, Gonsalves, Palmer, Hammonds, Wingfield, Honey, Corbett, Howard (Gray), Fowler, Haworth, Akuamoah.
Goals: Haworth, Akuamoah (pen).
U's v Tooting & Mitcham (05/03/02)
Sutton started once again with the now infamous 3-5-2 formation. It took the confident looking visitors about quarter of an hour to score the first. The defence, which all night looked stretched, allowed a Tooting attacker to run on to a low through ball and slot it easily past the advancing Dunn, who had earlier saved a similar one on one chance. Most of the first half passed without incident. Both sides had a few chances, of which Corbettís well driven free kick was the closest and forced a good save from the Tooting keeper.
The second half was a bit of a stale mate until about the last 15 minutes. Firstly Fowler was pulled down in the area, however the penalty from Akuamoah brought out a great diving save from the Tooting keeper. Sutton seemed the more likely to score but couldnít convert their pressure around the box into chances. Tooting then seemed to dig in and found themselves two up. The Tooting no. 10 turned Palmer to whip in a cross which was met, level with the near post, on the edge of the six yard box by his striking partner and volleyed home. Sutton then tried to pull off another last minute comeback, only to see their humiliation complete when a fine strike from outside the area made it three for the visitors.
All in all another disappointing display by the team, which probably isnít even their fault as the blame lies with the choice of formation. A simple change to 4-4-2 at any stage of the game, although preferably before it had started, would have returned the side into a shape they are familiar with and maybe then to the form weíve become accustomed to over the past 10 games (not counting Hitchin).
Team: Dunn, Gonsalves, Palmer, Mison, Hammonds, Wingfield (Fowler), Honey, Corbett, Gray, Haworth, Akuamoah.
U's v Croydon (09/03/02)
A cold blustery day was what welcomed the travelling Uís fans to the Croydon Sports Arena. The almost anti-atmosphere was breathtaking as the pitch was so far from the supporters that it made Gander Green Lane seem claustrophobic.
The first half saw the Uís (with the 4-4-2 formation) kicking up the slight hill and against the ever increasing wind. It began scruffily with neither team settling well in the breezy conditions. It wasnít until almost thirty minutes in that Sutton pulled their act together. A Phil ĎWingersí Wingfield corner bounced somewhere near the middle of the six yard box, and as the Croydon keeper seemed to be stuck behind a line of his own defenders Eddie Akuamoah took the most of the opportunity and somehow managed to flick it through the wall of defenders and keeper into the net. The Croydon players seemed almost as stunned as the Uís supporters, as I still donít know why the keeper didnít claim it or why it wasnít cleared. Unfortunately, this was to be Eddieís last contribution to the match. As no sooner had the ball hit the back of the net, he hit the floor in what seemed to be a great amount of pain, he was eventually taken off on a stretcher. This was the first of three very rare occurrences. Matt Fowler was brought on for the injured Akuamoah. The Uís playerís minds were obviously with their injured team mate as Croydon immediately equalised with a good flowing move from the kick off, that was finished off as their striker rounded Dunn and pushed it home. The rest of the half passed without incident as both teams fought with the windy conditions.
The second half started with the Uís looking the more confident side. Matt Fowler was causing their centre backs problems, as the balls played over the top were carried a bit by the wind, allowing him to run through onto them. Croydon were eventually undone by a chip over the back four that set Rob Haworth free on the right hand side of the box, who unselfishly laid the ball back for a grateful Fowler who buried it into an empty net. Fowler was obviously quite relieved to have broken his duck, which has lasted since the 22nd August. This was the second rare event. The game then settled a bit, with a couple of fine saves from Dunn keeping the Yellowís in the lead, then the final rarity occurred. Minutes before the end, Rob Haworth was chasing a high looping ball, that was played from inside the Uís half. The Croydon keeper was already out of his box in anticipation, but he misjudged the bounce and ended up having to handle the ball outside the box. The Uís fans screamed for his dismissal, however the Ref had been reluctant to produce cards for the entirety of the game. But not on this occasion, the keeper, who had already removed his shirt and gloves, was shown the red card and given his marching orders. The resulting Corbett free kick was deflected wide. The stand in keeper then managed a fine save to keep out Wingfieldís direct attempt at goal from the corner. Shortly afterwards the whistle went and the Uís could lift their heads high after a game made difficult by the weather conditions. Final score 2-1 to the Super Uís.
Team: Dunn, Gonsalves, Mison, Palmer, Hammonds, Wingfield, Honey, Corbett, Gray, Akuamoah (Fowler), Haworth
Goals: Akuamoah, Fowler