United started March with a draw against a Billericay side putting up a decent fight in a bid to stave off relegation. Sutton were slow out of the blocks and had Andy Iga to thank a number of times within the opening ten minutes. With the match only a minute old Iga dived full length to palm away a shot bound for the top right corner and reacted well to save the rebound. From the resulting corner Billericay flicked a header onto the bar.
Five minutes later Billericay carved the U’s defence apart but their forward, one on one with Iga, was denied by the U’s ‘keeper who dived low to his right to push the ball away to Ryan Palmer, who cleared the ball out of danger.
United looked dangerous from crosses, and could have taken the lead ten minutes into the game but Matt Fowler didn’t connect with a volley at the near post.
Fifteen minutes later, a Billericay corner led to a United break down the right wing and Nicky Bailey was eventually fouled on the touchline just inside the Billericay defensive third of the pitch. Bailey dusted himself down to take the free kick and his fast cross was met by Tony Quinton who placed his header into the bottom right corner of the goal via the ‘keeper’s right hand, 1-0.
Shortly after Quinton almost notched his second of the game when he headed a Matt Gray corner goalwards but this time the ‘keeper was able to palm the ball safely away. Sutton went close again when Fowler was pulled down just outside the area but Bailey’s curled free kick eluded everyone in the box and went narrowly wide of the far right post just before the half ended: U’s 1, Billericay 0.
At half time United brought on Dean Hamlin for Fowler with Hamlin going to right wing back and Gray moving up front. Once again Billericay started the half better than the U’s and again were denied by Iga who dived at the feet of a striker to block a firm shot. From Iga’s save, the U’s broke down the right wing and Gray dribbled past two men before rolling the ball across the edge of the area to Quinton but he couldn’t get a shot in.
A moment of inspiration from Gray in the 53rd minute almost resulted in a second U’s goal when, with his back to goal, he backheeled the ball past his marker to Jon Nurse but his shot was palmed away. Hamlin was first to the rebound and crashed a shot from just inside the area at a slight angle to the goal onto the bar, down onto the line and out.
Ten minutes into the half Glen Boosey replaced Bailey after the U’s youngster had a rather heated argument and shoving match with captain Matt Hanlan.
Billericay capitalised on the disarray the in-fighting caused to United by pulling level right on the hour. An angled through ball caught out the U’s defence and the Billericay forward clipped the ball over Iga as he went to ground, 1-1.
Sutton struggled to impose themselves on the game after the equaliser, with too many passes going astray in midfield. On the rare occasion that the U’s did get a site of goal, Billericay managed to just scramble the ball away - a Gray corner that found Boosey in space only for Boosey’s shot to be deflected just wide of the left post being the perfect example.
Eddie Akuamoah went close for United with just over ten minutes remaining but could only chest the ball towards the goalkeeper after Quinton and Hamlin had combined down the right to put over a dangerous cross. Final score: U’s 1, Billericay 1.
Goal: Quinton (28).
U’s v Maidenhead United (06/03/04)
Sutton slipped to a disappointing defeat against Maidenhead on Saturday afternoon – a failure to take some great chances costing United dearly. Paul Honey returned from injury to a place in the starting eleven. Former U’s Danny Bolt and Rob Haworth returned to the Lane to make their first appearances in Maidenhead shirts.
Haworth’s physical presence troubled the U’s back line all afternoon, and his flick on in the eleventh minute created the first chance of the match but his striking partner was tackled from behind by Ryan Palmer and Andy Iga scooped up the ball and cleared downfield.
With Matt Fowler suspended Matt Gray started the game in attack and was quickly on to a ball looped over the Maidenhead defence in the 22nd minute but the visitors’ ‘keeper came out of his box and headed the ball away from Gray.
Five minutes later, Gray collected a Matt Hanlan pass on the side of his right foot and hammered a right-footed effort from the edge of the box but the ‘keeper managed to palm the ball down and then beat Jon Nurse to the rebound. Gray was thwarted again by the ‘keeper in the next attack as Tony Quinton’s volleyed cross was headed towards the bottom right corner by Gray but tipped around the post.
Sutton were denied a penalty in the 42nd minute when Nurse raced onto a long ball and was just entering the box when he was clumsily bundled over from behind by a Maidenhead defender but the referee bottled the decision and waved play on.
A minute later a sweetly struck shot from 20 yards had Iga beaten but cannoned back off of the left post. Half time: U’s 0, Maidenhead 0.
United began the second half positively and should have taken the lead four minutes after the interval when Quinton was one on one but his shot from the edge of the box was too close to the ‘keeper and he pushed the ball away. The ball fell to the feet of Nurse and he struck the ball with his first touch but again it was straight at the ‘keeper.
Sutton kept missing their chances to open the scoring, Nurse and Gray both hit shots at the ‘keeper before Nurse cut a ball back to Quinton near the penalty spot and he beat the ‘keeper to the ball but failed to connect properly with his shot. With the ball still loose in the area Quinton ran in to finish but the ‘keeper dived and reached the ball first with an outstretched arm.
With 68 minutes on the clock Maidenhead took the lead against the run of play when Iga came to claim a long ball from the halfway lane but was beaten to it by Haworth who headed the ball past Iga into the now unguarded net, 0-1.
Hanlan headed over a Gray corner but Maidenhead were now in the ascendancy and doubled their lead with ten minutes remaining when Ben Hammond held off the challenge of Palmer and chipped the ball over a stranded Iga from 25 yards out, 0-2.
A minute later Maidenhead put the win beyond doubt when Hammond crossed from the right and the cross eluded Iga to land right on the head of Ryan Ash, who didn’t miss from 4 yards. Final score: U’s 0, Maidenhead 3.
Right, Tony Quinton is denied by the 'keeper's outstretched arm.
U’s v Chessington & Hook, Surrey Senior Cup QF (09/03/04)
United did just enough to beat Chessington on Tuesday night and advance to the semi-final of the Surrey Senior Cup where they will be away to Kingstonian. Matt Fowler returned from suspension to partner Jon Nurse up front, with Matt Gray reverting to right wing back and Lewis Gonsalves continued his recovery from injury with a place on the bench.
Sutton dominated possession throughout the game and rarely gave Chessington a chance to attack but were plagued by an inability to score that gave the final scoreline a much tighter look than the match should have had.
Nurse could have opened the scoring with ten minutes gone when Gray swung over a fast cross from the right wing but he could only place his header wide of the left post. Minutes later a Gray free kick forced a save from the visiting ‘keeper, although he hardly had to stray from his position on his line.
With eighteen minutes on the clock a Gray cross from the right was met ten yards out by Tony Quinton, whose bullet header crashed into the back of the net via the top of the left post for his second goal in three games, 1-0.
Gray was involved yet again a couple of minutes later when he raced on to a ball looped over the top of the Chessington defence before cutting it back to Fowler. He was prevented from shooting from within the area but the ball was only cleared to Paul Honey on the edge of the box. His curled effort went narrowly wide of the right post to the despair of the U’s fans.
Chessington gave the U’s a scare half way through the first forty-five when a cross flashed across the United box and was eventually deflected behind for a corner but that proved to be their best period of the half.
After a quiet spell in the game, Sutton could have had a sack of goals in a couple of minutes leading up to half time. Nurse and Fowler both went close to doubling the U’s lead and Tobi Jinadu was twice denied, firstly by the crossbar and then the ‘keeper. At the break: U’s 1, Chessington & Hook 0.
Gonsalves made his return to first team football, replacing Eddie Akuamoah at the start of the second half.
The second half was much the same as the first, with United controlling the play but failing to put the game beyond Chessington. Gray rolled a free kick to Honey, who drilled the ball just wide of the left post from twenty-five yards in the 65th minute after an uneventful start to the second half.
With twenty minutes remaining, Chessington came dangerously close to levelling the game when one of their forwards lifted the ball over Andy Iga but a lack of pace on the effort gave Iga enough time to run back and grab the ball before it crossed the line.
Sutton didn’t let the momentary blip in defence allow Chessington to take control and went close twice in the next ten minutes. First Nurse span and shot from inside the box but his powerful effort was blocked by the ‘keeper and then Quinton was just beaten to the ball by the ‘keeper.
After 83 minutes Honey won the ball on the left side of the area and pass across the goal to Jinadu but his low shot was straight at the ‘keeper and he palmed it away.
In injury time, United almost put the game beyond doubt when Honey rolled the ball into the path of Nurse and he struck a first time shot from the left of the area but it hit the inside of the ‘keeper’s left leg and deflected across goal and wide of the right post. Final score: U’s 1, Chessington 0.
Goal: Quinton (18).
U’s v Canvey Island (13/03/04)
United put an end to Canvey’s unbeaten home record this season with a brilliant 3-1 win. Nicky Bailey returned to the United midfield with Tony Quinton dropping back into central defence but otherwise the team was unchanged from Tuesday night’s narrow win over Chessington & Hook.
Sutton started the match positively against the league leaders and a Matt Hanlan freekick was headed into the side netting at the back post by Bailey with only four minutes on the clock. Two minutes later United went close again as Matt Gray took a short corner to Bailey and his cross was placed wide by a stooping header from Tobi Jinadu twelve yards out.
Gray and Bailey combined from a corner again four minutes later but Hanlan headed wide of the near post from ten yards.
Whilst a strong wind blowing across the pitch made balls to one side of the pitch sail out of the ground on a regular basis, cross field balls towards the Sutton left side were holding up in the breeze and this caught out Eddie Akuamoah in the sixteenth minute but the cross along the six yard box was not finished by any of the Canvey forwards and Jinadu cleared down the pitch.
Gray almost opened the scoring in spectacular fashion after 19 minutes when he cut in from the right wing and slammed a left-footed drive towards the top left corner but it went narrowly wide of the angle.
Sutton continued to have the best of the chances even if the possession was split evenly between the two sides. Jon Nurse and Matt Fowler linked up well with 26 minutes gone and Fowler slid the ball to Bailey but his shot across goal was blocked by the legs of the ‘keeper.
Shortly after, Gray beat two defenders on the right wing and his low cross found Nurse at the front post and he span off his man to hit a low shot only for the goalie to get his legs in the way of that shot as well.
It was not all Sutton in front of goal, though, and the hosts almost got very lucky just after the half hour when a shot from outside the area deflected off of Bailey and looped over Andy Iga but it landed just the wrong side of the far post for a corner. As the U’s cleared the corner down the pitch, Fowler got ahead of their defender and was completely taken out by the defender, who bundled him over from behind around thirty yards out. With little option but to send the man from the field, the referee bottled the decision and showed only a yellow card.
Lee Boylan, who has netted 46 times for Canvey so far this season missed a golden opportunity to give them the lead after a defensive error left him in possession and one-on-one with Iga but he chipped the ball well over the bar.
With a minute remaining before half-time, United stunned the home crowd with an amazing goal. After a good build up resulted in Bailey getting possession on the edge of the area, his shot couldn’t beat a crowd of defenders and was cleared away. Jinadu, though, ran from the halfway line to beat a Canvey player to the ball around forty yards out and dribbled it forward fifteen yards before unleashing a low left-footed power-drive into the bottom left corner past a despairing dive from their ‘keeper. Half-time: U’s 1, Canvey 0.
Only two minutes after the break Canvey pulled level in fortuitous circumstances as a cross from the left wing was met by a striker six yards out, and although Iga blocked the shot it rebounded out into the legs of Jinadu and back past Iga into the net, 1-1.
The equaliser awoke Sutton and within minutes Jinadu could have scored at the right end again when he slid in and connected with a Bailey free kick at the back post but his effort went straight across the face of the goal.
As the game approached the hour mark, Fowler chased a through ball into the box and was comprehensively brought down by the ‘keeper. Although he escaped punishment for what looked like a two-footed lunge, the referee awarded a penalty after the linesman flagged for the foul.
Bailey placed the ball on the spot and struck it neatly into the bottom right corner as the ‘keeper dived the other way. The U’s fans went wild and Bailey had even been announced as the scorer of the second Sutton goal before it was clear that the referee had spotted a U’s player encroaching into the box and ordered the kick to be retaken.
After the fuss had died down Bailey shot this time to the ‘keeper’s right but the goalie had guessed that way and pushed the ball away before it was cleared up field. As the Canvey fans celebrated, though, the linesman remained in his position at the edge of the area and raised his flag to his chest – the ‘keeper had moved off his line before Bailey had struck the ball and the ref’ once again ordered a retake.
Once the incensed Canvey players had been sent away by the referee, Bailey steadied himself for attempt number three and this time blasted the ball down the middle of the goal, past the ‘keeper who had again dived to the right, 2-1.
But the penalty drama was far from over for the match. As a frantic Canvey began to attack at pace, Ryan Palmer tripped a man in the area and the referee pointed to the spot for the fourth time in the match. Boylan took the kick and struck it low towards the bottom corner but Iga dived to his left to push the ball away for a corner.
With only one goal separating the teams, Hanlan could have settled the game in the 85th minute but, after Fowler had headed a long ball into his path, the U’s captain struck a weak right-footed effort at the goalkeeper.
Three minutes later Sutton did secure the three points when Fowler played a ball down the left wing to Nurse and he beat the challenge of his marker and raced in towards goal. As the ‘keeper came out Nurse hit a low shot to his right and, despite the ‘keeper’s block, the ball rebounded to Nurse who took one touch before rolling the ball left-footed into the empty net and sending the U’s travelling fans wild, 3-1.
In the 90th minute, Nurse almost added further to the scoring but his beautifully executed chip came back off of the bar. Iga then had to make a number of excellent saves in injury time to prevent Canvey setting up a nervous last few minutes and on one occasion pulled off a double save before diving gratefully onto the ball. Final score: U’s 3, Canvey 1.
Goals: Jinadu (44), Bailey (63 pen), J Nurse (88).
Top Right, Matt Fowler's run into the box is about to be ended by a clumsy challenge from their 'keeper (59 mins).
Middle Left, Nicky Bailey slots the first penalty into the right side of the goal (60 mins).
Middle Right, How far is the 'keeper off his line as Bailey hits the second penalty? (61 mins).
Bottom Left, Bailey slams the third penalty down the middle of the goal (63 mins).
Bottom Right, Jon Nurse strikes the ball at the 'keeper, before it rebounds to him for the third U's goal (88 mins).
U’s v Hornchurch (20/03/04)
United followed up last week’s victory over league leaders Canvey by beating 8th placed Hornchurch by the same margin this Saturday. The starting line-up was rightly unchanged from the Canvey game.
Sutton were unlucky not to get an early penalty when Matt Fowler collected a high ball in the box and looked like he was pushed over from behind by a defender who had misjudged the flight of the ball.
There was very little in the way of chances in the first half. Matt Fowler volleyed over from 18 yards after 25 minutes before Sutton took the lead two minutes later. Jon Nurse broke with the ball and ran towards the area before rolling a pass into the box to Matt Gray, who sprinted past the defence and cut the ball back from the touchline to the edge of the six yard box. Fowler miscued his side-footed effort but Nurse had continued his run into the box and slid in to poke the ball into the bottom left corner, 1-0.
The U’s couldn’t hold the lead until half-time, though, as the visitors pulled level with 41 minutes gone. A corner from the right wasn’t cleared and, although Andy Iga dived to save a first effort, the ball fell kindly to Andy Douglas who shot into the roof of the net. Half-time: U’s 1, Hornchurch 1.
United controlled the play in the second half and deservedly retook the lead on the hour. A Gray corner was cleared off of the line but when Tony Quinton drifted the ball back into the area, a defender felt pressured enough into holding down Fowler and the referee awarded a penalty. Nicky Bailey took the spot kick and hammered it just to the right of the centre as the ‘keeper fell to his right, 2-1.
Fifteen minutes later Sutton wrapped up the points with the best goal of the game. Quinton headed the ball down the right touchline to Gray and, with his first touch, he hooked the ball on to Nurse. He brought the ball under control and then cut back past a defender and into the area before rifling a left-footed shot into the bottom left corner, 3-1.
Nurse almost notched his first U’s hat-trick two minutes later but his bouncing drive from outside the box was unconvincingly palmed wide by the ‘keeper.
Gray was continuously a thorn in the side of the Hornchurch left back and, with ten minutes to go, turned him inside out and sent over a cross from the right wing. The ‘keeper had to tip the ball away from underneath the bar and it fell to Eddie Akuamoah but he flicked the ball up and over from eight yards.
In injury time Bailey and Nurse combined to work the ball to Gray inside the area and it looked like he was tripped from behind. The referee was unmoved but the ball broke to Fowler who connected sweetly to send a low shot towards the bottom right corner but it was knocked wide by the outstretched boot of the ‘keeper. Final score: U’s 3, Hornchurch 1.
Goals: J Nurse (27, 74), Bailey (61 pen).
Left, Nicky Bailey beats a Hornchurch player.
Right, Jon Nurse is challenged in the box.
U’s v Harrow Borough (23/03/04)
United continued their run of good form and were rewarded for some excellent play against Harrow tonight with a third successive league win. Chris Nurse made his debut for Sutton in place of Matt Hanlan in the U’s midfield, with the captain’s armband passing to Eddie Akuamoah.
The U’s almost grabbed an early goal when Jon Nurse’s eighth minute shot was deflected goalwards by a defender and, when the ‘keeper could only palm the ball to the edge of the six yard box, Akuamoah was first to the ball but could not force it past the ‘keeper.
Harrow offered very little by way of attacking threat in the first half, and their only significant chance was snuffed out by Andy Iga who blocked a one on one effort after a defensive error had let in a striker. From the resulting corner Iga was first to the ball and punched it clear.
Two minutes later, with the game 22 minutes old, Jon Nurse curled the ball onto the left wing to Nicky Bailey, who touched the ball past the last defender and into the area before hammering the ball low at goal. The ferocity of the shot caught the ‘keeper out and when he fumbled the ball Matt Fowler reacted first to beat him to the rebound and knock it into the net, 1-0.
The lead should have been doubled shortly later when a corner from the left picked out Tony Quinton unmarked in the area, but he planted his header wide of the near post from ten yards when he should have at least made the ‘keeper work. With ten minutes of the half remaining Quinton connected with another corner and this time the ‘keeper had to claim the ball from just under the bar.
Deep into injury time Harrow should have been reduced to ten men when their number nine clattered into Iga without making so much as an effort to avoid contact. The referee bizarrely only produced a yellow card for the disgraceful challenge. Half time: U’s 1, Harrow 0.
The pattern of the first half was repeated in the second but this time United took their early chance in spectacular fashion. Seven minutes into the half Bailey beat two men before passing it inside from the left wing to Jon Nurse. He muscled his way into the area, holding off two defenders before turning back on himself, dragging the ball with him and then curling it right-footed into the top right corner, 2-0.
Sutton fended off a brief period of pressure from Harrow around the hour mark when they twice exploited space on the left wing to play over dangerous crosses but the ball was first struck over and then knocked wide on the second occasion.
Chris Nurse almost capped his debut with a fine goal after seventy minutes when he chested the ball down twenty five yards out but his well struck low shot was unfortunately straight at the ‘keeper.
Fowler twice struck over from outside the area and Bailey placed a shot into the ‘keeper’s arms from inside the area before United made sure of the three points with 6 minutes remaining. After Matt Gray was fouled on the edge of the area, Jon Nurse and Bailey combined in a set-piece that culminated with Gray running in and curling the ball wide around the Harrow wall and inside the right post about halfway up, 3-0.
Glen Boosey replaced Fowler for the final few minutes of the game and almost made his mark with a drilled effort from the edge of the box in stoppage time but the ‘keeper dived to save. Final score: U’s 3, Harrow 0.
Goals: Fowler (22), J Nurse (52), Gray (84).
U’s v Kingstonian (30/03/04)
United booked a place in May’s Surrey Senior Cup final by beating Kingstonian 3-1 at Kingsmeadow on Tuesday night. After two three-nil victories U’s manager John Rains named an unchanged starting eleven for a third straight game.
Sutton dominated the first five minutes with some quick passing and rapid closing down in midfield, but the match settled down and was fairly even until United broke the deadlock with a quality goal in the eighteenth minute. Jon Nurse won the ball on the left wing and shrugged off the challenge of former-U Dave Timothy. He broke towards the box and although his run was ended by a defensive block he retained possession before back-healing the ball past the Kingstonian defence and into the path of Eddie Akuamoah’s run. He cut inside past the last defender and struck the ball right-footed from ten yards out into the bottom right corner, 1-0.
Nine minutes later United doubled the lead from a set-piece free kick. Nicky Bailey was fouled on the edge of the box and he, Matt Gray and Jon Nurse stood around the ball. As the ref blew his whistle Bailey tapped the ball to Gray who stopped it dead. Jon Nurse ran in as if to strike it but Gray rolled the ball back to the centre of the edge of the area where Bailey had taken up a position to smash it halfway up the inside of the right post, 2-0.
The U’s remained in control of the game and nearly extended the lead further in the 35th minute but Ryan Palmer’s volley at the back post cannoned back off the bar with K’s ‘keeper Lance Key well and truly beaten.
Kingstonian’s best chance of the half was a curled effort from a free kick twenty yards out but Andy Iga judged the flight of the ball well and dived to his left to save. From Iga’s clearance Gray collected the ball and beat two defenders but drove it just wide of the left post. Half-time: U’s 2, Kingstonian 0.
Sutton visibly eased off after the break but were still far and away the better team. Within ten minutes of the restart Gray had tested Key from a low curled free kick and Tobi Jinadu towered over the Kingstonian defence but headed Bailey’s free kick at the ‘keeper.
United’s passing was inspirational at times, especially the long, cross-field balls of Bailey, who twice picked out Gray a full fifty yards or so away. One such pass released Gray with 16 minutes remaining and he beat a defender for pace but his shot skimmed across the face of the goal and wide.
For a few minutes it looked as if Sutton might pay the price for not killing off the match when Stafford Browne found the space to rifle the ball past Iga and into the bottom left corner to score a goal that could well have set up a nervy last 15 minutes, 2-1. But two minutes later Bailey received the ball on the left wing and played it inside to Jon Nurse. He ran on to the pass and hammered it low under Key from the left side of the area, 3-1.
Iga prevented the K’s pulling another goal back by producing an excellent diving save with ten minutes remaining before United almost ended the game with a flowing team move. Chris Nurse won the ball in midfield and laid it down the right wing to Gray. He found space for the cross and Matt Fowler looked like he would place a diving header home at the near post but could only flick the ball across goal to the back post where Bailey slid in only to guide the ball over the bar. Full time: U’s 3, Kingstonian 1.
Goals: Akuamoah (18), Bailey (27), J Nurse (77).