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2003/04 Reports:
U’s v Hendon (02/09/03)

Sutton got back to winning ways after Saturday’s slip-up against Ford by beating Hendon 2-0 at Claremont Park tonight. United’s line-up had several changes from the loss against Ford - Matt Gray started alongside Rob Collins, Paul Honey replaced Danny Bolt in the middle of the park and Dean Hamlin began the game in defence.

United got off to a flying start, taking the lead after five minutes. A second successive corner sailed over the box, where Ryan Palmer, as always, collected the ball. Instead of looping it back into the area, though, Palmer drilled a low ball across the six yard box, where United’s forwards and the Hendon ‘keeper scrambled for possession before it trickled to Danny Hodges who poked it home from five yards out.

The game settled down, but Sutton remained the better side for the opening twenty minutes, Nick Bailey had a low, curled free-kick saved after Scott Corbett had been fouled and Collins just failed to get on the end of a high through-ball.

The U’s didn’t have it all their own way as Hendon began to impose themselves around the half-hour mark, firstly heading narrowly over from a corner and then being denied by a diving save from Andy Iga after one of their forwards had twisted past the United defence and shot from the edge of the area.

With half-time approaching, the game became an end to end affair, Eddie Akuamoah playing a one-two with Collins to cross to Honey at the back post only for Honey to be flagged offside and Hendon curled a free-kick just wide after Lewis Gonsalves had been booked for fouling on the edge of the area. Corbett then almost lit up the game with a thirty yard left-footed drive, that beat the ‘keeper but went narrowly over. Half-time: Hendon 0, U’s 1.

Sutton remained positive after the break, and had a number of chances despite not always being in charge of the match. Corbett continued to have a good game, setting up Collins for a long shot shortly after the interval, but his shot was straight at the goalie. Collins almost scored a couple of minutes later, but neither he nor Bailey could reach Gray’s low cross.

Collins continued to trouble the Hendon back line, making the most of Bailey’s cross-field pass on the hour to trick his way past a defender and shoot. On this occasion, a touch on the shot by a Hendon defender deflected the ball harmlessly to the goalkeeper. With fifteen minutes to go, Gray’s half-cleared cross fell to Corbett and his shot-come-cross just eluded Collins at the back post as United struggled to put the game to bed.

Whilst Hendon had large amounts of possession throughout the half, they also looked like a team that was never going to put the ball in Sutton’s net – even when they had a period of intense pressure with numerous unmarked shots inside the area, United’s defence scrambled, blocked and cleared the ball away. And minutes later a Hendon forward turned past Palmer but shot a mile wide from within the area.

The missed chances proved costly, and with the game reaching its conclusion, Gray left his marker on the floor near the halfway line and, with a clear path to goal, ran with the ball into the area, and tucked it past the ‘keeper at the near post to seal the game. Full-time: Hendon 0, U’s 2.

Team: Iga, Gray, Akuamoah, Palmer, Gonsalves, Bailey, Honey, Corbett, Collins, Hamlin, Hodges. Subs (n/u) Bolt, Cole-Bolt, Drew.

Goals: Hodges (5), Gray (90).

Left, Matt Gray controls the ball during a Sutton attack.
Right, Rob Collins beats a Hendon defender and shoots.

U’s v St. Albans (06/09/03)

United slipped to a second defeat of the season at rain-soaked St. Albans this afternoon. Sutton fielded the same team that had beaten Hendon on Tuesday but were unable to reproduce the same performance.

Sutton started the game brightly, Eddie Akuamoah crossing to the back post where Dean Hamlin looped a header into the danger area – neither Rob Collins nor Nick Bailey could scramble the ball in, and when it broke to Paul Honey on the edge of the area, his shot was well over. Immediately afterwards United were on the back foot, though, a St. Albans forward turning past Ryan Palmer and hitting a low shot that Andy Iga did well to save diving to his left.

With only nine minutes on the clock, St. Albans pressured the U’s into some sloppy defending – United giving away possession near the edge of the area and, when the ball was crossed in low from the left, Gary Wraight was left unmarked and free to knock it past Iga from six yards out.

United tried hard to get back in the game, but struggled to create any clear cut chances in the next fifteen minutes, Bailey almost reached a through ball ahead of the goalkeeper after good work from Collins and Matt Gray, who later shot just wide with a left-footed drive from twenty-five yards out.

On the half hour, Sutton’s defence almost conspired to gift a second goal to their opposition – a dreadful back pass to Iga could only be half cleared and ex-pro Miguel De Souza shot across the goal and wide after beating the U’s defence. De Souza continued to trouble United with his strength and pace, ghosting past his marker minutes later only for Iga to save well at his feet. There was no breathing space for Iga, as he was called into action again a minute later, palming away an attempted chip by their number seven after he had beaten Sutton’s offside trap.

Sutton almost equalised in injury time in the first half. The St. Albans keeper rushed to the edge of his box to clear the ball but only knocked it up in the air and about ten yards down the pitch to Gray, who controlled and volleyed it before the ‘keeper could get back in his goal but it went just wide of the left post. Half-time: St. Albans 1, U’s 0.

After the interval, St. Albans quickly dented Sutton’s aspirations of a win when they scored for the second time – Graeme Tomlinson getting between the back line and Iga and cleverly flicking it over United’s goalie.

The second goal gave the home side the option of sitting back, but whilst Sutton now had a large amount of possession inside the Saints half, goal scoring opportunities were still not forthcoming. Matt Hanlan and Gray worked well to get the ball to Bailey on the touch line and it looked as if he was bundled over as he got into the area but the referee maintained his policy of making very few decisions by ignoring the incident.

St. Albans attacking threat was now almost solely through De Souza and he almost created a goal for them in the sixty-fifth minute when he ran easily past United’s central defenders only to shoot past the far post for the second time in the match.

Sutton were now desperately searching for a goal, Akuamoah and Gray pushing forward a lot in support of Collins and Hanlan and the pressure finally forced a free-kick in shooting range but Bailey’s on target effort was deflected wide by a defender. With five minutes remaining, United’s afternoon was summed up when Collins ran onto a high-ball that skimmed off the head of a defender, beat the ‘keeper and rolled it into the net only for the linesman to have incredibly raised his flag for offside when Collins had plainly run from an onside position.

In the lengthy injury time, Sutton could not pick up a consolation goal, and would have gone three goals behind if Danny Hodges hadn’t cleared off the line in the closing moments. Full-time: St. Albans 2, U’s 0.

Team: Iga, Gray, Akuamoah, Palmer, Gonsalves, Bailey, Honey, Corbett, Collins, Hamlin (Hanlan), Hodges. Subs (n/u) Brooker, Bolt.

Left, Dean Hamlin gets his head on the ball at the back post.
Right, Ryan Palmer steadies himself before chipping the ball back into the middle of the area.

U’s v Thurrock (09/09/03)

Sutton failed to bounce back from the weekend defeat at St. Albans with a disappointing performance against Thurrock. Matt Hanlan starting instead of Dean Hamlin was the only change from the weekend’s line-up.

In a nightmare start for United, Thurrock took the lead after only four minutes. A corner from the left by David Collis was watched by the U’s defence and Akurang jumped unmarked to head past Andy Iga.

Thurrock were in complete control during the opening twenty minutes - Iga saved at the feet of Akurang after ten minutes to keep the score at 1-0 and Paul Honey made a brilliant sliding block to prevent a goal five minutes later. Sutton were continually troubled by the set pieces of Collis, and Iga had to be on his toes to deny the defender when he curled a free-kick from twenty-five yards.

Sutton finally had a chance after twenty minutes, but Danny Hodges’s downward header bounced up and over the bar after a dangerous corner from Nick Bailey. United’s chance was not a turning of the tide, though, as Thurrock were immediately back in control, hitting the post with a lob and working the ball past the defence only for Iga to save at the forward’s feet again. The pressure eventually told in the 37th minute, when a Collis long throw was flicked on at the near post and Paul Linger walked in unmarked to side-foot the ball past Iga.

A minute later, and it was 3-0 to Thurrock - Lewis Gonsalves stepped on the ball as he controlled it, and Chris Lee pounced on the mistake to collect the ball forty yards out, run into the area and slot it into the bottom left corner past a helpless Iga. Half-time: U’s 0, Thurrock 3.

With a three goal cushion, Thurrock were afforded the luxury of sitting back and containing United in the second half. Sutton were an improved team in these circumstances, but still found it very hard to get past the strong back line of the visitors. Rob Collins had a couple of half chances, but shot high and wide from a tight angle seven minutes into the half and curled the ball just wide of the angle on the hour.

With close to twenty minutes remaining, Sutton almost scored the goal that would have raised hopes of earning a point but the Thurrock keeper produced a one handed save to deny Matt Gray’s close range flick from Bailey’s fast, whipped-in free kick.

Further misery befell Sutton with ten minutes remaining when Scott Corbett was harshly given a second yellow card for what was deemed a high tackle, and United were forced to finish the game with only ten men. Final score: U’s 0, Thurrock 2.

Team: Iga, Gray, Akuamoah, Palmer, Gonsalves, Bailey, Honey, Corbett, Collins, Hanlan, Hodges. Subs (n/u) Bolt, Brooker, Hamlin.

U’s v Bishop’s Stortford (13/09/03)

After back-to-back defeats, United were looking to get back to winning ways at home to Bishop’s Stortford this afternoon. Danny Bolt and Mark Watson returned to Sutton’s starting line-up, replacing Paul Honey and Matt Hanlan respectively, who both dropped to the bench.

United started strongly, Ryan Palmer almost scoring after five minutes, but his looped header from Bolt’s corner dropped short of the far corner. Danny Hodges and Watson attempted to convert Palmer’s header but their efforts were cleared and Watson was also denied minutes later when a defender just managed to get a tackle in after he had chested a ball into the area.

After ten minutes, Sutton’s positive start was rewarded when Scott Corbett ran onto Watson’s pass and was brought down in the area as he went past a defender. Bolt stepped up for penalty duty and duly despatched the kick into the bottom right corner.

The U’s continued to look the better side, and were clearly benefiting from Watson’s return to the side. He was involved again as he held up a long ball and knocked it wide to Matt Gray, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and hit a low drive just wide of the right post. Rob Collins also looked dangerous, and almost increased the lead when his soft shot from inside the area almost wrong-footed the ‘keeper, who struggled to tip it just wide.

With the game still only twenty minutes old, United were laying siege to Stortford’s goal, Bolt chipping a free-kick to Watson, whose shot on the turn was deflected wide. Two minutes later, Bolt’s powerful, low free-kick was saved but Nick Bailey was first to the ball and muscled his way past a defender before rolling the ball across the six yard box. As Watson ran in for the finish, though, a defender stretched out a leg to flick the ball away.

The match looked to be heading beyond Stortford in the 37th minute, when Grant Cooper was sent-off for comments made to the referee that were deemed worthy of a straight red. Despite this, it was the visitors who finished the half stronger, as a weaving run past three or four United players was finally stopped in the U’s area by Gray. Half-time: U’s 1, Bishop’s Stortford 0.

The second half was a case of Sutton struggling to make the extra man count. With the half ten minutes old, Eddie Akuamoah and Bolt combined to release Collins but he shot high and wide when Watson was open ten yards out. At the other end, Ryan Palmer had to be alert to run back and clear the ball away from the line after a forward had lifted the ball over Andy Iga.

When Sutton did create chances, they suffered from an inability to finish, Bolt chipping the ball straight at the ‘keeper when he had time in the area to place his shot, Gray shooting right across the face of the goal from the corner of the area and Collins failing to have a shot after shrugging off a defender on the edge of the area.

Finally, with ten minutes left on the clock, Watson’s pass was handled in the area and Bolt had a chance from the spot to put the game to bed. For the second time in the game he kept his head and drilled the ball into the bottom right corner.

With the game seemingly won, Stortford mounted a final five minute onslaught and Barnett scored what should have been a consolation goal when he headed in a corner with only three minutes left. But, with almost the last kick of the game, Roy Essandoh connected with another corner, sending the ball down into the ground, and it bounced up and over Iga for an unlikely equaliser. Final score: U’s 2, Bishop’s Stortford 2.

Team: Iga, Gray, Akuamoah, Palmer, Gonsalves, Bailey, Bolt, Corbett (Honey 63), Collins, Watson (Hanlan 82), Hodges (Hamlin 71).

Goals: Bolt (pens 10 & 81).

Att: 503.

Left, Rob Collins shoots across goal in the second half.
Right, Danny Bolt strikes his second penalty of the afternoon.

U’s v Canvey Island (20/09/03)

On the back of a win against lowly Harrow Borough in midweek, Sutton entertained Canvey Island in need of a good result to start a run of point-scoring games. Ronnie Fletcher, a former West Ham youngster, made his home debut in central defence and Dean Hamlin started at right back with Matt Gray pushing up to play alongside Mark Watson.

Sutton made a good start, and Ryan Palmer volleyed high and wide from a Nick Bailey free kick to the back post after only five minutes. A second free kick moments later also found its way to Palmer at the back post but this time his diving header hit the side netting. Andy Iga also had to be alert early on to block a low shot that was bound for the bottom corner.

After eleven minutes, it was bad news for Sutton, as Scott Corbett had to be taken off with a back problem and he was replaced by Paul Honey.

United still looked the more dangerous in these early stages - Fletcher’s long ball was crossed into the area by Danny Bolt but Watson could not find the net with his shot on the turn. A Canvey corner after fifteen minutes marked a turning of the tide in the match, though, and they should have scored when Iga missed the ball but it was turned wide at the back post. They did have the ball in the back of the net ten minutes later but the headed goal was ruled out for a foul on Iga.

The disallowed goal did not serve as sufficient warning for Sutton to tighten up at the back and, in the 29th minute, Chris Duffy was given time to control the ball, line up his shot and curl it into the top right corner from the edge of the area for the opening goal of the game.

On the stroke of half time, Canvey almost increased their lead, when the ball was laid back to the penalty spot and was met with a powerful side-footed shot. Iga reacted brilliantly, though, to dive across the goal and palm the ball away. Half-time: U’s 0, Canvey 1.

In the second half, the visitors controlled the game, rarely allowing United a chance to score, but having a number of chances to increase their lead. With the half barely a minute old, a ball across the box looked to be heading towards the corner of the goal until Hamlin slid in to clear the ball away for a corner.

Looking to get back in the match, John Rains made a double substitution in the 65th minute, bringing on Rob Collins and Sean Gorman for Hamlin and Mark Watson. There was no immediate attacking threat from United, as Canvey kept coming forward, Iga pushing a shot for a corner and collecting the cross and then tipping a curled effort from the edge of the area over the bar.

United looked better towards the end but could not create a clear cut chance, Gorman volleying over from the edge of the area and hitting the bar with ten minutes remaining only for the referee to say he used his hand. Rob Collins also connected well with a Gray cross but was adjudged to have fouled the defender. Full time: U’s 0, Canvey 1.

Team: Iga, Hamlin (Collins), Akuamoah, Palmer, Gonsalves, Bailey, Bolt, Corbett (Honey), Gray, Watson (Gorman), Fletcher. Sub (n/u) Williams.

Left, Mark Watson turns with the ball in the Canvey area.
Right, Nick Bailey challenges for the ball with the Canvey 'keeper.

U’s v Maidenhead United (23/09/03)

After Saturday’s defeat against Canvey, Sutton looked to get back to winning ways with a trip to Maidenhead. Scott Corbett, still injured from the weekend and serving a one-match suspension was replaced in the starting line-up by Paul Honey with the captain’s armband passing to Mark Watson.

A chance in the opening minutes fell to Matt Gray, when Nick Bailey rolled the ball through the defence but Gray’s right footed shot was straight at the ‘keeper. Minutes later, Gray controlled a high ball and drilled a low cross into the area but it was knocked away by a defender. From the resulting corner, a poor clearance that went straight up in the air was headed wide from two yards by Nick Bailey.

Fifteen minutes into the game, Sutton let their concentration slip for a couple of minutes and found themselves two goals down. Firstly a through-ball caught the defence flat-footed and a Maidenhead forward ran in to flick the ball past Andy Iga. Then, two minuets later, a cross from the left found an unmarked striker and he headed firmly past Iga for the second.

Sutton struggled to recover from the blow of conceding two goals in quick succession, and could only muster two attacking chances in the remainder of the first half – Bolt just missing the target from a free kick and, just before half time, chesting down a Dean Hamlin cross but volleying over. Half-time: Maidenhead 2, U’s 0.

Maidenhead offered little in the second half, apparently happy to sit on their two goal margin. Such tactics made it hard for United to break them down, and it took fifteen second-half minutes for the first goal mouth action. Following good work on the left wing from Eddie Akuamoah, Lewis Gonsalves played the ball to Gray on the edge of the area and he laid it off to Bolt, whose powerful drive beat the ‘keeper but clipped the bar before going over.

Martyn Williams, on loan from QPR, and Rob Collins were introduced in place of Bolt and Ronnie Fletcher to try and give United a more attacking edge but chances were still few and far between. Rob Collins headed a deep cross wide after 78 minutes, and drilled a shot at the ‘keeper late on but otherwise the best chance fell to Maidenhead, when one of their forwards went on a winding run past the U’s defence but shot right across the face of goal from a tight angle. Final score: Maidenhead 2, U’s 0.

Team: Iga, Hamlin, Akuamoah, Palmer, Gonsalves, Bailey, Bolt (Williams), Honey, Gray, Watson, Fletcher (Collins). Sub (n/u) Gorman.

U’s v Bishop’s Stortford, FA Cup 2nd Qual. Round (27/09/03)

For the second time in two weeks, United and Stortford faced off, this time with a place in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup at stake. Both sides would need to better their performances of a fortnight ago, when the game finished 2-2, to book a place in the next round. For Sutton, Danny Hodges replaced Ronnie Fletcher in centre defence, Martyn Williams was given a start up front, with Matt Gray reverting to right wing back and Dean Hamlin dropping to the bench.

In a very quiet first half, chances were few and far between. Nick Bailey headed six yards wide from a Eddie Akuamoah after ten minutes but then almost gifted a goal to the opposition when a weak clearance fell to a striker on the edge of the area. To Bailey’s credit he recovered well to deflect the shot wide.

Mark Watson’s overhead shot after forty minutes was an acrobatic attempt to break the deadlock but it went over. A much better chance was created minutes later as Williams crossed dangerously into the area. Bailey rushed on to meet it but his side-footed volley was blocked by the ‘keeper who had hurried out to prevent a goal. Half-time: U’s 0, Bishop’s Stortford 0.

Just after the break, the best chance of the match was created by Williams, when his deep cross into the box found Watson unmarked at the back post. Unfortunately, Watson’s shot was hit tamely into the ground and was collected easily by the goalkeeper. Shortly afterwards, Hodges’s charging run was ended by a foul on the edge of the box but Danny Bolt’s low free kick was saved.

Ryan Palmer almost opened the scoring in the 52nd minute, but his powerful header at the back post from a Bolt free kick was well saved. Hodges also connected with a Bolt corner but put it wide. At the other end, Andy Iga saved a bobbling shot, and caught a flicked effort one-handed when it looked like it was past him. A Stortford striker also blazed over from the edge of the area when well placed to at least test Iga.

In the final minutes, Gray headed a Bailey cross just wide and Collins turned an Eddie Akuamoah cross goalwards but straight at the ‘keeper. Final score: U’s 0, Bishop’s Stortford 0 – Replay at Bishop’s Stortford this Tuesday (30th September).

Team: Iga, Hodges (Hamlin), Akuamoah, Palmer, Gonslaves, Bailey, Bolt (Hanlan), Honey, Gray, Watson, Williams (Collins). Subs (n/u) Fletcher, Davies.

Left, Andy Iga claims a cross in the first half.
Right, Mark Watson looks to lay the ball off to Danny Bolt.

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