United cruised to a win over Combined Counties side Farnham Town in the second round of the Surrey Senior Cup tonight but the win was far from certain at half-time when a thick mist descended over Gander Green Lane only to lift again as the second-half began – much to the relief of United and their fans.
Sutton were in control of the game from the outset, Matt Hanlan laying a ball through to Nicky Bailey in only the fourth minute, but his shot with his right foot went well wide. A few minutes later Matt Fowler had a chance to open the scoring but blazed the ball over the bar after a good build up.
Jon Nurse went closest to the first of the game in the 8th minute when he met Bailey’s free kick with a powerful header from 8 yards but it went just the wrong side of the left post. Nurse was involved again after 15 minutes as the Farnham ‘keeper was called into action for the first time. He placed a through ball past the visiting defence and Fowler ran onto it. With his second touch he side-footed it towards the bottom right corner from the edge of the area but the ‘keeper dived to palm the ball around the post.
With 24 minutes gone, Sutton finally hit the back of Farnham’s net. Nurse controlled a weak goal kick on his chest mid-way inside the Farnham half, beat a defender and then slammed the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal from 25 yards, 1-0.
The one goal lead quickly became two, as Sutton scored on their next attack, Nurse timing his through ball to match Fowler’s run past the defensive line. Fowler collected the ball and beat the ‘keeper before slotting it home, 2-0.
United continued to push to extend their lead, and Matt Gray almost got in on the scoring with five minutes of the half remaining when Fowler held the ball up for him. As Gray ran in from the right wing, Fowler flicked the ball into his path and Gray struck a bouncing shot that went just wide of the far post.
After 44 minutes, Sutton’s lead was increased to three as Nurse beat a man down the left wing and cut the ball back to Fowler eight yards out. With his back to goal, Fowler rolled the ball to the edge of the area where Paul Honey curled a right-footed shot in off the right post. Half-time: U’s 3, Farnham 0.
The U’s got straight back to scoring three minutes into the second half and it was all down to Gray. He collected the ball on the right wing, and beat one man for pace before cutting in across the pitch and dribbling past a second. On his left foot, Gray cracked a twenty-five yard effort into the bottom left corner, 4-0.
Sutton replaced Nurse with Danny Dray and Bailey with Graham Tydeman, but continued to create chances. Fowler’s low cross from the left in the 57th minute was almost impressively side-footed home by a defender, but his clearance went just wide of the left post and spared him any embarrassment.
Any chance Farnham had of getting a consolation was dented with 63 minutes on the clock when one of the centre backs was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence. Two minutes later, United added a fifth, Gray playing a 1-2 with Honey from a corner and crossing to Lewis Gonsalves who glanced a header across the goal and into the bottom right corner, 5-0.
In the final ten minutes Eddie Akuamoah, relishing a rare chance to play upfront after Nurse’s substitution, almost increased the lead further on a few occasions. Firstly, Gray played a pass through to him in the area but Akuamoah could not finish on his right foot. Then, in the 83rd minute, Akuamoah smashed a shot goalwards and the stunned goalkeeper could only stand in the way and let the ball hit him in the chest. The rebound fell to Fowler but he knocked it over with his first touch.
Akuamoah continued to be a thorn in the visiting defence’s side, placing a great cross into the box with two minutes remaining and Tony Quinton was first to the ball but chipped it up onto the bar from six yards. With the game almost over, Fowler took a quick free kick to Akuamoah, he exchanged passes with Quinton and struck a left-footed shot over the ‘keeper to the far post but it bounced just wide. Full-time: U’s 5, Farnham 0.
Goals: Nurse (24), Fowler (26), Bailey (44), Gray (48), Gonsalves (65).
U’s v Carshalton Athletic (27/12/03)
Yessss! Six-nil! SIX! To nil! Did I mention the six goals? Here’s a nice little tale of Christmas joy for United fans: Sit back and enjoy the story of how the Super U’s destroyed Carshalton on 27 December 2003 (presented with quotes from the voice of reason and calmness). It all began at 3pm……
United may have taken the lead within the first thirty seconds. Eddie Akuamoah broke down the left wing and swung in a low cross that was just inches away from Jon Nurse’s boot in the middle of the area. A minute later, Nicky Bailey also hit a great left-footed cross into the box that the Carshalton defence failed to deal with but there was no-one there to finish.
Sutton continued to press forward and took the lead in the ninth minute. Matt Gray laid the ball to the feet of Nurse, who controlled it and crossed into the middle to Matt Fowler. From near the penalty spot Fowler struck a sweet volley that cannoned off the bar and rebounded to the edge of the area where Nurse side-footed a volley into the net past the ‘keeper, still on the floor from trying to save the Fowler shot, 1-0. (“An early goal is always good but there’s a long way to go yet.”)
Matt Hanlan left the field in the nineteenth minute, and was replaced by Lewis Gonsalves. A quick reshuffle saw Gonsalves slot in at left wing back and Akuamoah move into the centre of the midfield.
Danny Bolt returned to Gander Green Lane but could not inspire a Carshalton side that is masquerading as a team worthy of second place in the league. Maybe that team exists, but they didn’t show up at GGL today! His dangerous crosses during the Robins best period of play of the game were wasted.
With Carshalton threatening to get back in the game, Nurse was fouled on the edge of the area after 27 minutes and Akuamoah and Bailey set up a free kick for Gray to curl the ball around the wall into the top right corner of the goal past the helpless Stuart Searle, 2-0. (“Two-nil, but there’s a long way to go yet”)
The lead could have been increased further before the break. First Akuamoah broke with the ball down the centre of the pitch and beat one before laying the ball to Nurse. He cut inside past another defender before shooting low across goal only for the ball to strike the bottom of the right post.
Akuamoah was involved again as Fowler laid him in for a chance after 35 minutes but his shot from a tight angle was saved by Searle, who grabbed the ball at the second chance after palming the original shot.
A minute later, Fowler chased a through ball and beat the defence to it, but after knocking it around the ‘keeper could not keep his balance and the ball rolled out of his reach and was cleared by the defence. At the break: U’s 2, Carshalton 0.
United started the second half in the same manner as the first, having a chance within the first minute. Bailey ran the ball down the left wing and crossed high into the box where Fowler should have added to the scoring but misjudged the flight of the ball. With the ball loose in the box, Nurse slid in and hooked a shot towards the far post but it went wide.
After 52 minutes, Ryan Palmer collected a half-cleared corner on the edge of the area and hammered a shot at goal that was tipped narrowly over by Searle.
Finally, on the hour, United got the third goal that had been coming for the past half an hour. Nurse turned provider to cross the ball to Fowler, who planted a diving header past Searle, who could get a hand to it but not keep it out, 3-0. (“A three goal lead is fine, so long as we keep the ball in their half”)
Sutton kept their foot on the pedal, and were looking like they could score with every attack. This was typified with the next surge forward, when Bailey played the ball to Fowler and he worked his way into the area. Four United shirts were waiting for a pass as the ball was scrambled away from Fowler – everyone was getting forward in an effort to add to the tally.
With twenty minutes to go, Andy Iga made his key contribution to the game, reacting excellently to tip the ball over after a header from point blank range. Four minutes later, and United were entering the comfort zone, with Fowler scoring his second of the game. A corner from the right dropped to Nurse on the edge of the area, and his low shot was controlled by Fowler about 8 yards out and he turned and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner, 4-0. (“Four-nil. A fifth goal would make it comfortable”)
Carshalton were in disarray, unable to cope with the U’s forward play. In the next attack, Nurse beat his man and was pulled down as he ran towards goal. The referee immediately gave a penalty but only booked the defender when a sending off would have been more suitable. Fowler, with the prospect of a hat-trick against his former club, jumped at the chance of taking the penalty, but blasted the ball over the bar and out of the ground.
Minutes later, United came forward with devastating effect once more. Fowler chased onto a long ball and when his cross was headed away, Paul Honey ran in to strike the ball on the half-volley from fully 30 yards out. The ball rocketed into the bottom left corner of the goal – an unstoppable shot, 5-0. (“If we’d scored that penalty, the game would really be in the bag now”)
With only five minutes left, Fowler finally secured his hat-trick, Nurse bringing the ball from the halfway line before knocking it to Akuamoah. He pushed it out wide to Gray, whose cross from the right wing was met with a powerful downward header by Fowler, 6-0. (“Six. Still, it’d be nice to make sure that we keep a clean sheet”)
The killjoy referee booked Fowler for his celebration but there was no denying him his glory – he went off to rapturous applause from the U’s fans as he was subbed late on, and when the referee finally put Carshalton out of their misery, the Sutton supporters clapped off a team that could all have been man-of-the-match. It was a team performance to be proud of. Final score: U’s SIX, Carshalton nil, zero, nothing, nada, nichts, rien.
Goals: Nurse (9), Gray (27), Fowler (60, 74, 84), Honey (80).
Right, Matt Gray strikes a corner.
U’s v Dunstable Town (03/01/04)
United crashed out of the League Cup on Saturday, going down 3-2 to Dunstable at the Lane. Dunstable, flying high in Division 1 North, caught the U’s napping in the opening half hour to leave Sutton with an uphill battle.
The U’s found themselves a goal down with only seven minutes on the clock. A low corner to the near post was not cleared and nobody was marking the Dunstable goalscorer, who had time to control the ball and squeeze a shot through Andy Iga’s legs, 0-1.
United’s heads didn’t drop, though, and almost equalized straight away, when Nicky Bailey cracked a shot from 25 yards. The visitors’ ‘keeper reacted well, though, to tip the ball over the bar. In more or less their next attack, though, Dunstable stretched their lead to two goals, once again reacting to some generous U’s defending to bundle the ball over the line with twenty minutes gone, 0-2.
Sutton came straight back again, but went short of reducing the arrears when Bailey’s second attempt at a cross was headed against the post by Lewis Gonsalves.
Dunstable were in dream land in the 27th minute, as a counter attack left a man over in the middle to side-foot home into the bottom left corner past Iga after a cross from the left, 0-3. United controlled the match until half-time, but a stubborn Dunstable defense kept the U’s at bay. Half-time: U’s 0, Dunstable 3.
Sutton attempted a spirited fight back in the second forty-five, camping inside the Dunstable half for much of it. Within a minute of the restart, a United free kick found the head of Jon Nurse but was deflected just wide of the post for a corner. Minutes later, Gonsalves went close for a second time in the match with a low drilled effort from eighteen yards but it was flicked around the post.
For all United’s pressure, a goal just would not come until the 73rd minute, when Nurse played in Paul Honey and he was tripped in the box. Matt Gray took up penalty-taking duties and dispatched it into the bottom right corner via the hand of the Dunstable ‘keeper, 1-3.
For all the United pressure, much of the problem in pulling the goals back was coming from an inability to create clear-cut chances. It took a further eight minutes after the goal before the visitors net was seriously threatened again but Nurse headed over an excellent cross from Gonsalves.
With five minutes to go, Sutton set up a frantic end to match by hauling themselves back into contention. Gray’s corner from the left sailed to the back post where Nurse headed down into the bottom right corner past a crowd of defenders, 2-3.
But when the U’s needed to be on the attack, Dunstable finally refound a bit of composure and managed to hold the ball in the United half. A frustrated Sutton team knew they had given themselves too much to do after a poor opening half hour. Final score: U’s 2, Dunstable 3.
Goals: Gray (73 pen), Nurse (85).
U’s v Forest Green Rovers, FA Trophy 3rd Round (10/01/04)
United were knocked out of the FA Trophy on Saturday, but the 4-0 scoreline flattered a Forest Green side that played much of the game on the counter attack after establishing an early lead.
A sleepy start from the U’s let their Conference opposition score in the fifth minute. A free kick from the right wing found Scott Rogers unmarked just inside the area and he hit a first time side-footed effort that Andy Iga could get a hand to but not keep out, 0-1.
It was a nightmare start for United, because from then on they were having to chase the game. To the U’s credit, though, their heads did not drop and looked to be Forest Green’s equal for much of the first half. Three minutes after going behind, Matt Gray took a quick throw to Nicky Bailey and he struck a looping twenty yard shot that glanced off of the top of the left upright and went wide.
Bailey went close again after twenty minutes, side-stepping a challenge just outside the area and then striking the ball towards the top right corner. The Forest Green ‘keeper reacted well to dive and push the ball high and wide of the goal.
The biggest difference between the teams seemed to be their physical strength and this helped the home side to dominate the game in the air. With 34 minutes gone, this advantage was ruthlessly demonstrated as Neil Grayson rose at the back post to head home a corner despite being challenged by a U’s defender, 0-2.
Two minutes later, Sutton had their best chance of the half. Eddie Akuamoah hooked the ball over his shoulder and back into the box where Jon Nurse tried an acrobatic overhead kick. As the ball shot across goal it came to Bailey within the six yard box. He sent the ball towards a certain goal only for the ‘keeper to somehow throw himself across the line and block the ball.
As half time approached Nurse almost continued his scoring streak when he headed over a Bailey free kick that he himself had won. United could also have slipped further behind, when Forest Green put a free header wide of the post after a counter attack down the left wing. Half-time: U’s 0, Forest Green 2.
Iga had to be alert straight after the break to hold a headed effort that could have put the game beyond United. A couple of minutes later, Lewis Gonsalves pulled off a fantastic saving tackle to prevent a Forest Green forward having a clear run on goal.
The U’s almost got on the score sheet after 51 minutes when the ball broke from a corner to Bailey on the half way line and he ran the ball all the way into the area only for a defender to get in a block as the Sutton midfielder let fly with a shot.
Hopes of a Sutton comeback were raised in the 53rd minute when Forest Green were reduced to ten men. As United prepared to take a throw-in an arm was raised into the face of Matt Fowler and the culprit got his marching orders from the referee.
What could have been the turning moment of the game, came shortly after the hour, as Nurse was hauled over in the box for what looked like a stonewall penalty. The referee and his assistant barely reacted, other than for the former to wave play-on.
Forest Green killed off the game during a three minute spell with around ten minutes left on the clock. First, a break down the right wing resulted in a cross that left Martin Foster with the simplest of tap-ins (0-3), then Iga was adjudged to have brought down a Rovers forward in the area and the penalty was slotted in to the right side of the net, half way up the post, 0-4.
That left the game beyond United, but the team continued to search for a goal, Bailey shooting over from twenty yards and then substitute Glen Boosey drawing a save out of the ‘keeper with a shot from the edge of the area. Final score: U’s 0, Forest Green 4.
U’s v Kettering Town, 07/02/04
On a weather-beaten Gander Green Lane pitch, Kettering almost won an undeserved point with a late effort, only for United to seal the victory in injury time. With Nicky Bailey out suspended, Glen Boosey remained in the team in midfield and turned in another impressive performance.
Sutton took the lead with their first real attack with eleven minutes on the clock. Matt Gray collected the ball wide on the right and cut inside past a couple of players before sliding a pass towards Matt Fowler. From just inside the area, Fowler slid on to the pass and poked the ball past the ‘keeper towards the bottom corner only for it to rebound off the left post. As the ball bounced out, Boosey was running in and had the simplest of tasks in side-footing the ball into a now unguarded net, 1-0.
Within minutes the U’s could have extended their advantage when Matt Hanlan laid the ball to Eddie Akuamoah, who burst into the area only to have his run ended by a solid defensive block.
United did not give Kettering much in the way of chances during the first half, but the visitors’ best period of play with just over twenty minutes gone could have produced an equaliser, some frantic defending from Sutton preventing a goal during a series of dangerous corners. Kettering did have the ball in the back of the net in the 26th minute, but an offside flag correctly ruled it out.
An impressive spell towards half-time could have seen United increase their lead. Firstly, Akuamoah and Boosey combined down the left wing for Boosey to cross in to the box but Jon Nurse could not quite make a connection. Two minutes later, Akuamoah collected a Gray cross on the left touchline and was clumsily pulled over as he entered the area. The referee appeared to pause, considering whether it was a free kick or penalty before finally pointing to the spot. Gray stepped up to take the penalty but his shot towards the bottom right corner was comfortably saved by the Kettering goalie.
In stoppage time at the end of the half, Tobi Jinadu made an excellent tackle to deny a Kettering forward a scoring chance as he took the ball into Sutton’s area. Half-time: U’s 1, Kettering 0.
With the second half barely a minute old, United may have felt unlucky not to have a second penalty when Nurse appeared to be bundled over on the left hand side of the box.
After ten minutes with neither team having a sight of goal, United stepped up a gear for a few minutes around the hour mark. Boosey was giving the Kettering back line a torrid time and beat two defenders with some deft control inside the box before the ball broke to Paul Honey eighteen yards out but his drive went over the bar. In the next attack, Fowler chased on to a ball over the top and pulled it back from the right side of the area to Nurse in the middle but his sliding effort smacked into the right post and went wide.
Nurse was denied another penalty with twenty minutes remaining. After chasing a long ball, he flicked the ball over the ‘keeper and was completely taken out by the Kettering number one, who was nowhere near the ball. With the ball bouncing towards goal, a Kettering defender came in to clear it away for a corner.
Ten minutes later, Nurse proved too much to handle for the Kettering defence once more, when he was brought down from behind on the edge of the area with only the goalkeeper to beat. Inexplicably the referee gave only a yellow card.
With only three minutes remaining, the visitors looked like they had won an undeserved point when Andy Iga failed to hold a headed effort and the ball was bundled home from close range, 1-1.
But two minutes into injury time, Nurse again found himself through on goal and, although the ‘keeper saved his first effort, the ball bounced up in the air towards goal and Nurse ran on to head the ball across the line and give victory to United. Final score: U’s 2, Kettering 1.
Goals: Boosey (11), Nurse (90).
Right, Jon Nurse goes down under challenge in the box.
U’s v Hitchin Town (14/02/04)
United extended their run of wins to five with a 4-2 away win against Hitchin. Glen Boosey was replaced in the starting line-up by Matt Hanlan but otherwise the team is the same that beat Aylesbury 6-0 in midweek, with Matt Gray serving his second game of a two match suspension, Dean Hamlin continued at right wing back.
Sutton started the game slowly and Hitchin perhaps should have taken advantage by scoring in an opening twenty minutes that they dominated. A mistake by Ryan Palmer in the seventh minute almost gifted a chance to a Hitchin forward but Andy Iga was off his line quickly to clear the ball from the edge of the area. A minute later Iga had to be on top form again to palm the ball away from under his bar as a corner threatened to go straight into the back of the net.
The U’s had Iga to thank again before the match was fifteen minutes old when he changed direction and dived low to his right to tip a deflected shot around the post after some creative Hitchin play had opened up the United defence.
With 22 minutes gone Sutton finally created a chance, Hamlin exchanging passes with Tony Quinton before swinging over a cross that was met with a diving header by Jon Nurse that the ‘keeper just managed to divert away from the bottom right corner of the goal. In the next attack, Matt Fowler flicked the ball through to Nurse and he rounded the ‘keeper only to be forced wide. Nurse beat the ‘keeper again but was tackled as he was about to shoot from within the six yard box.
Hamlin continued to be involved down the right wing and when his cross was only cleared as far as Hanlan, the captain’s sweetly struck shot from the edge of the area went narrowly wide of the left post.
Five minutes before the break, Sutton got the opening goal of the game. Hanlan was fouled from behind just inside the area as he was preparing to shoot and Nicky Bailey put the resulting penalty just out of reach of the ‘keeper inside the left post, 1-0.
A drop in concentration straight after the goal let Hitchin pull level almost immediately. A cross from the right wing was not cleared and Mark Bridge managed to bundle the ball into the goal, 1-1.
There was more to come before half-time, though, as a United corner from Bailey two minutes into stoppage time was met by Nurse on the edge of the area and Fowler cleverly deflected Nurse’s shot past the ‘keeper from the edge of the six yard box. Half-time: U’s 2, Hitchin 1.
Sutton began the second half in positive fashion and extended the lead in the 51st minute. A Bailey corner from the right was met by the head of Tobi Jinadu who towered above the home defence to slam an unstoppable power header into the top right corner, 3-1.
Hitchin continually struggled to deal with Bailey’s corners and the headers of Jinadu who made contact with at least another three and was unlucky not to find the back of the net for a second time. Quinton almost benefited from a Bailey corner in the 66th minute when he controlled the ball and turned to shoot from the corner of the six yard box. His low shot was just blocked by the ‘keeper, though.
Sutton were controlling the game in the second half, and could have had a second penalty with 67 minutes gone when Nurse ran with the ball from the halfway line and appeared to be hauled over from behind as he reached the area but United’s appeals fell on death ears.
Fowler could have had his second of the game five minutes later when he raced on to a through ball to be one on one with the ‘keeper but his low shot to the ‘keepers right hand side was saved by the ‘keeper who got down well to palm the shot away.
The U’s misses could have proved costly, as Hitchin reduced the lead in the 74th minute. A long throw from near the right corner flag somehow found an unmarked Hitchin player at the back post and he shot low past Iga from close range, 3-2.
Two minutes later a hassled Hitchin defence were penalized for a back-pass but United’s freekick from the edge of the six yard box was blocked by the home goalkeeper.
Bailey could have sealed the game for Sutton with 11 minutes remaining when Nurse laid him in inside the area but the midfielder miscued his right-footed effort across the face of the goal. A minute later, though, Nurse was brought down by the ‘keeper as he rounded him inside the area and Bailey did the business from the penalty spot for the second time in the afternoon, this time blasting the ball into the top right corner of the net. Final score: U’s 4, Hitchin 2.
Goals: Bailey (41 pen, 80pen), Fowler (45), Jinadu (51).
Right, Nicky Bailey scores the opener from the penalty spot.
U’s v Northwood (21/02/04)
United were held to a draw on Saturday afternoon by a determined Northwood side that frustrated a dominant U’s team who did all but score a winning goal. With Tony Quinton out suspended, Dean Hamlin took up a role in the centre of defense and Matt Gray returned to right wing back after a two game ban.
After a slowish start to the game, a Gray long throw after seven minutes released Jon Nurse, who controlled the ball on his chest but struck his low shot wide of the left post from 18 yards.
Northwood barely managed an attack in the first half - when they threatened to break through in the ninth minute Andy Iga rushed off his line to claim the ball at the feet of their striker on the edge of the area.
Minutes later, Sutton produced a flowing move that almost ended in spectacular fashion. Matt Fowler collected the ball wide on the left and held the ball up as the midfield joined the attack. Fowler rolled it inside to Paul Honey, who immediately touched it on to Matt Hanlan. He took one touch and then hit a sweet shot from twenty five yards towards the top right corner that the ‘keeper just managed to push onto the bar with a full length dive.
Gray and Tobi Jinadu both narrowly missed the goal with headed efforts within the next ten minutes before United’s best chance of the half in the 26th minute. Fowler ran on to a through ball and turned past a man inside the area and laid the ball across to Nurse. His first time shot was deflected away by the ‘keeper but Nicky Bailey somehow kept the ball in play and flicked it back from near the post to Nurse but the bounce seemingly deceived the U’s striker and he miscued his effort across the face of the goal.
Nurse was involved during the next United attack and the Northwood defense found him too much to cope with, hauling him over on the edge of the area. Gray drilled the free kick past the wall but it was straight at the ‘keeper. A minute later a free kick in an identical position was taken by Bailey but was blocked by the visitors’ wall.
United continued to lay siege to the Northwood goal. With 39 minutes gone, Bailey whipped over a free kick from the right wing and Ryan Palmer, in space at the back post, could only knock the ball tamely towards the ‘keeper. Before the interval, Fowler rifled a dipping effort from thirty yards but it looped just over the bar. Half-time: U’s 0, Northwood 0.
Sutton continued their dominance in the second half. Within a minute of the restart, Bailey burst into the area, ran between two defenders and drilled the ball towards the far corner only for it to go straight across the area. A corner resulting from the move broke to Palmer at the back post but he volleyed over the bar.
Jinadu headed a corner narrowly over twenty minutes into the half and, shortly later, United were almost made to pay for their missed opportunities when a Northwood attack resulted in their only shot of the game. Fortunately, their forward struck a powerful shot from a tight angle past Iga but just wide of the far post.
As the U’s tried to break the stubborn Northwood defense down, Fowler was forced to come deeper and wider for the ball and his hard work almost laid the foundations for an excellent scoring move with ten minutes to go. Collecting it on the right touchline, he fended off an opposition defender before playing the ball to Eddie Akuamoah. He threaded a ball to Bailey inside the area who turned past his man and struck a low shot from the left of the area that the ‘keeper blocked with his legs.
In a frantic finish to the game, a cross from Nurse was touched onto the bar by Fowler, Glen Boosey struck a shot across goal that was deflected wide of the left post and Fowler headed into the side netting at the near post after a cross from the right. A series of corners failed to pressurize Northwood into conceding a goal and the one time the ball was heading past the ‘keeper towards the goal line, it was clear that Fowler had handled the ball. Final score: U’s 0, Northwood 0.
Right, Eddie Akuamoah bursts into the Northwood box.
U’s v Hayes (24/02/04)
An explosive start from United secured three points against Hayes on Tuesday night, despite the best efforts of the referee, who had a second half shocker. With Tony Quinton and Tobi Jinadu out, John Rains took the opportunity to give starts to Craig Howard and Martin Dunne in the centre of defence, otherwise the team was unchanged from the one that drew 0-0 against Northwood on Saturday.
With just three minutes gone United went close when Jon Nurse flicked the ball up in the air and it dropped to Paul Honey near the edge of the area but his shot was deflected narrowly wide of the left post. A minute later Matt Hanlan planted a superb header past the goalkeeper after a cross from the right wing but Nurse had been ruled offside.
The pressure finally told after seven minutes when Matt Gray’s low corner from the left was missed by the Hayes defender standing on the near post and Matt Fowler tapped the ball in from about two or three yards out, 1-0.
Sutton didn’t let up after the early goal. Within a minute, Nicky Bailey broke into the area and hit a left footed shot across goal but it was saved by the ‘keeper. The ‘keepers clearance was won by the U’s and played out to Nurse on the right wing. He swung a cross into the middle, straight into the path of Bailey’s run and the United midfielder crashed a header passed the goalie, 2-0.
Hayes threatened to battle back in the next ten minutes and Andy Iga twice had to be at his best to prevent them pulling a goal back. Firstly he palmed a drilled twenty-five yard effort around the post and then had to be quickly off his line to block a one on one chance after a through ball had cut open the United defence.
The U’s made Hayes pay for their missed opportunities with twenty minutes gone by extending the margin to three. Bailey played a free kick wide to Gray and, after he beat a defender for pace, his cross to the near post was expertly glanced home by the head of Fowler, 3-0.
Gray almost laid on another goal minutes later when his low cross was half cleared to Honey but he side-footed narrowly over when off balance. It was to be Honey’s last contribution to the game as he was taken off shortly after with a suspected broken rib and replaced by Glen Boosey.
Once again Iga had to be relied upon to keep the U’s clean sheet intact 38 minutes into the half when he dived to palm away a Hayes shot. The rebound fell to a striker around eight yards out but Ryan Palmer put in an excellent slide tackle to prevent a shot.
With half time approaching Nurse almost laid on a goal for Boosey but his shot was deflected just wide of the left post. Straight afterwards, Hayes took the ball down the other end and the ball was chipped over Iga but Howard was there to knock the ball behind for a corner. Half-time: U’s 3, Hayes 0.
Hayes began the second half much more positively than the first and Iga had to save with his legs in the opening minutes of the half. United kept on attacking as well, though, and produced a great flowing move with the game 57 minutes old. Bailey took the ball down the left wing before laying it back to Eddie Akuamoah, he worked some space for himself and rolled it in to the box to Nurse, who span off his marker but his shot was saved at the near post.
A minute later the Hayes defence caved in again, as Bailey latched onto a pass just outside the box and breezed past their last man only to hit his left-footed shot from a tight angle straight along the floor at the ‘keeper.
A certain amount of complacency seemed to creep into United’s play and for the next fifteen minutes, Hayes were in control for the only time in the match. With Iga having to make two diving saves either side of the half hour, the warning signs were there that the visitors could pull a goal back but it took some monumental assistance from the referee, when he awarded a truly baffling penalty against Palmer when it looked like his tackle had won the ball. Hayes duly dispatched the penalty to the right of Iga to pull a goal back just short of the seventy minute mark, 3-1.
With the momentum now in Hayes favour, United needed to re-establish themselves on the game before the lead was further reduced and they did just that after 76 minutes. Nurse collected the ball on the halfway line and slid the ball past a defender down the wing to Gray. He carried the ball down the pitch then cut into the area before drilling the ball low across the face of the goal where Boosey slid in to poke the ball past the goalkeeper, 4-1.
The goal ended any chance of a Hayes fightback and the U’s dominated the remainder of the game. Sutton kept the pressure going into injury time and could have added a couple more. First Matt Hanlan had a shot tipped over the bar and then Gray’s left footed drive from the edge of the area was pushed around the post. With the game almost over Fowler struck a shot from outside the area that the ‘keeper could not hold and Nurse slid on to the rebound to push it past him but as the ball crept towards the line, a Hayes defender ran in to clear the ball away. Final score: U’s 4, Hayes 1.