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After an unconvincing pre-season campaign, that included defeats against Tooting & Mitcham, Lewes and Carshalton, John Rains warned of a hard season ahead for the U’s. It was ideal then, given their dismal league performance this season, that United started the season against Hampton and Richmond, a 1-0 victory doing much to boost moral and beginning a run that saw us lose only two of thirteen games in August and September. That run included wins over Ford, Chesham and Harrow but it was the 2-0 defeat of Purfleet, unbeatable at home until then, that showed the potential of the young team and lifted Sutton to fourth in the table.

The end of September and start of October saw United face off three times on the trot against Heybridge. After beating them 3-1 away in the league, the Essex side frustrated the U’s with a 1-1 FA Cup draw, before winning the replay at Gander Green Lane. The exit from the FA Cup marked the beginning in a downturn of form and the side went without a win in October, culminating in a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Basingstoke. The lack of points meant a slide down to 9th place by the beginning of November.

With October thankfully behind them, United began November with a 2-1 FA Trophy first round win over Harrow and, following a 4-2 loss in the next game against St. Albans, then went on to win eight games on the trot. This spell saw the U’s progress through to the third rounds of the FA Trophy and League Cup and rise to 2nd in the league – it also highlighted Sutton’s ability to score goals, as we reached the halfway point of the season with 44 goals.

Following this great run, though, United went on a post-Crimbo slump, crashing out of the Trophy and League Cup, and losing twice in the league, before a 3-1 win against Walton and Hersham in the Surrey Senior Cup fourth round took us into a 100% win record February, which due to weather-related postponements unfortunately included only two games. The two wins kept United in fifth place in the league.

March was another good month for United, brushing aside local rivals Carshalton to reach the Surrey Senior Cup semi-final and winning three consecutive league games. Having secured a Surrey Senior Cup final spot by beating Dulwich Hamlet, and starting April with two league wins, United’s challenge for a 2nd or 3rd place finish was hit by injuries and a six game run without a win dropped the team down to seventh.

The league season ended on a high with a 3-1 defeat of Braintree to finish sixth, and four days later the team beat Kingstonian 2-1 to lift the Surrey Senior Cup at Imber Court to cap a fine season.

Outlook for next year: Good, if we can keep hold of most of the squad over the summer.

Some Statistics

Top Scorers: Matt Fowler & Danny Bolt, 21 goals each.
Biggest Win: 4-0, Away v Aylesbury United, Sat. 15th February 2003.
Biggest Defeat: 1-4, Away v Maidenhead United, Sat. 19th April 2003.
Games won in a row: 8, Sat. 9th November – Tue. 17th December 2002.
Games lost in a row: 4, Sat. 11th – Sat. 25th January 2003.
Games without losing: 8, Sat. 9th November – Tue. 17th December 2002.
Games without winning: 6 (twice), Sat. 28th September – Sat. 26th October 2002 & Sat. 12th – Tue. 29th April 2003.
Games without conceding: 3, Tue. 4th – Tue. 11th March 2003.
Games without a clean sheet: 15, Sat. 15th March – Wed. 7th May 2003.
Games without failing to score: 11, Sat. 2nd November – Thu. 26th December 2002.
Games without scoring: 2, Sat. 26th – Tue. 29th April 2003.

'From The Lane' End of Season Awards

From The Lane Player of the Year:
Ryan Palmer.

From The Lane Young Player of the Year:
Nick Bailey.

From The Lane Readers Player of the Year:
Nick Bailey.

Goal of the Season:
Mark Watson v Kingstonian, Surrey Senior Cup Final. Danny Bolt collects the ball in the middle of the K’s half, hits a beautiful pass out to Eddie Akuamoah on the left, he makes mugs of two defenders and cuts the ball back to Mark Watson, who powerfully side-foots it into the roof of the net.
This was a hard one to call, but for pure team build up and importance, it narrowly edged out Nick Bailey’s goal at home to Aldershot and about three or four Danny Bolt efforts. Plus it was Mark’s 100th United goal.

Best Sutton Performance:
2-0, Away v Purfleet, Tue. 17th September 2002.

Celebration of the Year:
U’s fans flood onto the pitch to celebrate the Surrey Senior Cup win with the victorious United side.

The ‘Jar Jar Binks’ Award for most annoying supporters:
Canvey Island – When they beat us 2-0 in April the Canvey supporters really did have a good whinge about the state of the pitch… in a season when Charlton played Chelsea in a sandpit, you’d think non-league fans wouldn’t expect a bowling green surface.

The ‘Spare Change’ Award for most financially crippled Ryman Premier team:
Kingstonian – To be honest, I’d of thrown them out of the league for failing to play their opening half dozen or so games. The more lenient Ryman League didn’t even award the games to their opponents by default.

The ‘What the Blazes?’ Award for most bizarre moment:
The Ryman Premier League fixture people hand us Boxing Day and Easter Monday matches against Aldershot. Ta very much.

The ‘Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Award for unluckiest Ryman Premier team:
Canvey Island retain their award, finishing second again despite amassing over one hundred league goals.

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