United extended their winning run to seven games and gained revenge for a 3-2 loss to Ford earlier in the season by winning 4-2 at the Oakside Stadium. Once again the Sutton starting eleven remained unchanged.
The U’s played against the elements in the first half - a strong wind that made any long balls a bit of a lottery. An uneven playing surface made the alternative just as difficult, as the ball bobbled around when passes were kept on the deck.
Sutton played the conditions well, though, and took the lead after 15 minutes with Nicky Bailey’s 18th goal of the season. Tony Quinton hoofed the ball up field from defence and the defender knocked his free-header down to the feet of Bailey, who brought it under control, darted between two defenders and then slammed it from the edge of the area low to the ‘keepers left, 1-0.
Aside from Bailey’s quality finish the main talking point of a quiet first half was the somewhat erratic decisions of the referee, who continually baffled United and their supporters with his one-sided take on virtually every fifty-fifty challenge.
Just before the end of the half, the game came back to life as Ford went dangerously close to equalising. A free kick swirling in from the right wing proved problematic for Andy Iga who could only tip it onto the head of their striker but it fortunately went narrowly wide.
The U’s responded immediately as Matt Fowler collected a long ball and held off his marker as he ran into the left side of the box. With players rushing to join him in the attack, he stopped the ball dead and rolled it to the centre of the edge of the area where Paul Honey struck the ball cleanly only for it to deflect up off of a defender and loop just wide of the right angle. At the break: U’s 1, Ford 0.
With the first half conditions successfully negotiated any hope of United playing Ford off of the pitch in the second half were quickly dented as they pulled level seven minutes after the interval. Bradley Allen reacted first to a ball hooked over the top of the U’s defence and had time to bring it down and slot it past Iga into the bottom right corner.
As with Kingstonian’s goal on Tuesday night, Sutton went straight back on the attack and Matt Gray crashed a volley narrowly over the bar from twenty yards. The warning wasn’t heeded by Ford, though, and United reclaimed the lead only four minutes after the equaliser. Gray played the ball up to the edge of the area and Fowler flicked it on with his head. Bailey jumped to challenge the ‘keeper for the ball and, although the goalie was first to it, he could only palm it to the edge of the area where Jon Nurse struck the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal, 2-1.
A flowing move almost gave Sutton a bit of breathing space with twenty minutes left. Chris Nurse won the ball in midfield and touched it to Honey. He held off a Ford midfielder before playing it wide to Gray who brought the ball inside and hit a left-footed drive that first missed the head of Jon Nurse and then scraped the left angle of the goal.
Honey was involved again as the U’s finally got the third goal their play deserved 77 minutes into the match. As Ford attempted to break, Honey took the ball and ran past one man to the edge of the area and, following a scramble for the ball it fell to Bailey and he kept his head to flick it over the ‘keeper as he went to ground, 3-1.
Ford thought they were back in the game with five minutes to go when ex-United player Jade Murray hammered the ball past Iga from just inside the area but the linesman had spotted Murray’s handball to bring the ball under control and it was rightly disallowed.
Two minutes later Sutton wrapped up the points when Fowler won the ball and laid it down the line to Jon Nurse and when his cross was not dealt with by the defence it fell to Gray and he placed it into the left corner, 4-1.
The home side still had time for a final consolation goal, though, when the referee produced another of those amazing decisions when he decided Honey had handled the ball in the box and awarded a penalty that was hit to the left side of the goal as Iga dived to the right. Final score: U’s 4, Ford 2.
Goals: Bailey (15, 77), J Nurse (56), Gray (87).
Right, Paul Honey crosses into the box.
U’s v Kingstonian (10/04/04)
United broke a post-war record at the Lane on Saturday with a 4-1 demolition of the K’s. When Glenn Boosey scored the goal of the season in the 72nd minute he extended Sutton’s run of games in which they’ve scored at least three goals to seven games. The record breaking game began with only one change to the U’s line-up – Jesper Nielsen starting in place of Chris Nurse, who began a four game suspension.
Sutton dominated the early proceedings, and went close to scoring twice as Kingstonian struggled to deal with United’s corners. Matt Gray should have done better with ten minutes gone but miss-hit a low pass from Ryan Palmer after the central defender had collected a corner that had sailed over the box. Two minutes later the Sutton forwards almost bundled the ball across the line following a corner from the left.
The Ryman officials kept up their recent standard of refereeing by denying United a blatant penalty with 16 minutes on the clock. A long ball over the top of the defence was chested down by Nicky Bailey and when he tried to cut the ball back to Jon Nurse the ball clearly struck the hand of a sliding defender and deflected away.
The U’s didn’t break stride after missing out on the penalty and took the lead in the 20th minute. Tobi Jinadu curled a pass down the left wing and Nurse outran the first defender before cutting into the area. He passed the ball past the final defender and into space to Matt Fowler, who met it with a first time left-footed shot that found the back of the net via the bottom of the right post, 1-0.
Nurse should have doubled the lead shortly after when Bailey beat two men and rounded K’s ‘keeper, Lance Key, and then knocked the ball back from the touchline into the six yard box but although Nurse was first to it, a Kingstonian defender somehow managed to get between him and the goal and deflected the ball across the line and behind for a corner.
Kingstonian could have pulled level eight minutes before the break when one of their forwards capitalised on a defensive error to be left one on one with Andy Iga but Sutton’s shot-stopper managed to force him wide and the eventual shot was hit into the side netting.
Sutton made the visitors pay for their missed chance by scoring a second goal two minutes later. Nurse was first to a ball over the top of the K’s defence and, after bringing the ball under control, slammed a left-footed drive from the edge of the area into the bottom left corner of the goal. Half-time: U’s 2, Kingstonian 0.
United’s lead was reduced in fortuitous circumstances straight after the break when Mark Beard’s weak shot from the edge of the area deflected off of a United player into the left side of the goal after Iga had already dived in the opposite direction, 2-1.
Tony Quinton almost made an immediate reply for Sutton but his first time effort from Bailey’s corner was tipped around the post by Key.
After a lull in the game for ten minutes, it exploded back into life with the introduction of Boosey for Nielsen in the 69th minute. Having been on the pitch for a mere 3 minutes, Boosey began U’s record-breaking goal by collecting the ball ten yards inside the K’s half and running towards the area. He beat one man before he reached the edge of the box and then twisted past two more as he broke into the area. As two defenders and the ‘keeper closed in, Boosey turned and switched the ball to his right foot and left all three of them lying on the grass. With the goal at his mercy he then kept his head to pass it into the right side of the goal, past the hand of Key who had tried desperately, but in vain, to reach the ball, 3-1.
The goal deflated any spirit Kingstonian might have had and Gray sealed the victory with 78 minutes gone with another brilliant goal. Jinadu took a freekick from United’s half and played it short to Palmer, who hit a long ball up towards the K’s area. Gray sprang through the offside trap and as the ball dropped just inside the penalty area he looped a header over a stranded Key, who could do nothing but watch the ball sail over him and fall into the goal, 4-1.
With a minute remaining Sutton almost added further to the scoring but Gray could only place Bailey’s blasted free-kick wide of the left post. Full-time: U’s 4, Kingstonian 1.
Goals: Fowler (20), J Nurse (39), Boosey (72), Gray (78).
Right, United players mob Glenn Boosey after his wonder-goal.
U’s v Carshalton Athletic (12/04/04)
Sutton’s winning run came to an end at Colston Avenue but the U’s did at least manage to come back from two early goals to earn a draw. Glenn Boosey’s substitute performance against Kingstonian earned him a start in place of Jesper Nielsen but elsewhere the team was unchanged.
Nicky Bailey went close to opening the scoring after only three minutes when Matt Gray played his short corner back to him and Bailey hit a hard shot from the corner of the area but the ball was palmed away from the top right corner by the diving ‘keeper.
Despite playing the best football Sutton were two goals down before the game was ten minutes old. First, with seven minutes on the clock, a corner from the left to the near post was flicked on and drifted in at the back post, 0-1.
Two minutes later the hosts doubled their lead when Andy Iga claimed a cross under the bar and was bundled into the back of the net when off balance. The linesman flagged to say the ball had crossed the line but the goal should arguably been disallowed for the shove on Iga that forced him to carry the ball into the net, 0-2.
The two goals, both against the run of play, marked the end of any attacking chances that the Robins had, as United began to lay siege to their opponents’ goal. Within minutes of the second goal, Boosey almost halved the advantage but his strike from the edge of the area was deflected only a yard wide of the right post.
In the next attack Boosey was involved again as his run to the edge of the area set up a chance for Gray but his curved effort from twenty yards was dealt with by Stuart Searle, who dived to push the ball away.
Sutton kept their foot on the gas and with still only twenty minutes gone went close again. After Jon Nurse won the ball on the right wing, he played the ball down the line to Paul Honey, who held off the challenge of one man before whipping a cross over to the back post where Bailey headed into the side netting.
Carshalton’s desperate resistance was finally broken four minutes later when Matt Fowler switched the play from the left wing over to the right. Tony Quinton controlled the ball and laid an angled cross into the box which was met by a powerful header from Bailey that crashed past Searle into the right side of the goal, 1-2.
Buoyed on by reducing the deficit, the U’s came at Carshalton again and Bailey’s perfectly weighted pass carved open the Robins’ defence and fell right into the path of Gray’s run but, as the ‘keeper came out, Gray knocked the ball both over him and the bar.
Just after the half hour, Bailey nearly scored a brilliant solo effort. Collecting the ball inside his own half, Bailey sped past one man on the half way line and ran full-pace from the right wing to the edge of the area where he cut inside from the right towards the centre of the box before unleashing a left-footed drive that screamed past a crowd of Carshalton defenders but cannoned back off the top of the left post.
Bailey was controlling the game from the United midfield, and was involved in virtually every Sutton attack. His ball up to Fowler in the 38th minute was brought down by the U’s striker and played to Gray but his shot from ten yards was first blocked by Searle and then just eluded Fowler as he stretched to prod the rebound home.
Sutton’s attacking play was continually too quick for the Robins, who resorted to trying to kick United’s players off of the pitch. After a cynical foul on Gray as he broke down the right wing, Bailey’s free kick was headed goalwards by Nurse but pushed away by the goalie and cleared behind for a corner.
Five minutes before the end of the half, Quinton, presumably injured, left the pitch to be replaced by Martin Dunne – a like for like swap in terms of position.
With only a minute remaining, Carshalton’s dirty play was finally punished when their number five was sent from the pitch – his late, knee-high challenge on Bailey rightly earning him a second yellow card and an early bath. A deluge of corners as the half came to a close brought a number of chances for the U’s, the best falling to Ryan Palmer but his effort was blocked by a wall of defenders. Half-time: U’s 1, Carshalton 2.
Dean Hamlin replaced Fowler as the second half began, with Gray moving up front so that Hamlin could slot in at right wing back. The second period began as the first had ended, with the Yellows controlling the game and producing wave after wave of attack on the Carshalton goal.
Six minutes in, Nurse collected a long ball from Bailey and struck a right footed shot from twenty yards only for it to be deflected behind. The resulting corner found Boosey in space on the edge of the penalty area but his sweetly struck drive was palmed away.
In the next attack Nurse looked to be taking a free kick on the left corner of the area but Gray rolled the ball into the centre to Bailey and his effort, heading wide of the right post, was met 12 yards out by the foot of Palmer but he could only guide the ball past the left upright.
A high foot ended the game for Honey after 66 minutes when an attempted bicycle kick caught him above the eye and he was replaced by Lewis Gonsalves. Eddie Akuamoah took Honey’s position in midfield and Gonsalves came on at left wing back.
As the match entered the final twenty minutes, United continued their unrelenting search for an equaliser. Dunne’s cross-field ball was touched on by Akuamoah to Bailey on the left wing and he drilled a ball across the area that reached Nurse on the far side but he put his first time shot over the bar as he leant backwards.
Hamlin’s cross from the right after Boosey had won the ball in the corner was almost converted at the back post by Gonsalves and Nurse but when the ball was half-cleared it fell to Akuamoah on the edge of the area and he forced a diving save from Searle.
As it began to look like United may not find a way past Searle for a second goal, Boosey ran onto a through ball that bisected the Robins’ back line with eleven minutes to go and slotted it low past the ‘keeper into the bottom left corner, 2-2.
Sutton went close again with five minutes remaining but Boosey’s low shot following good work from Bailey was straight at Searle and there was to be no late winner. Final score: U’s 2, Carshalton 2.
Goals: Bailey (24), Boosey (79).
Top Right, Matt Fowler keeps the ball in play on the right wing.
Bottom Left, Tobi Jinadu heads the ball on towards Matt Gray.
Bottom Right, Jon Nurse flicks the ball away from Stuart Searle.
U’s v Hendon (17/04/04)
Sutton maintained their recent run of good form and the push for the runners-up spot in the league by beating second placed Hendon two-nil at the Lane this Saturday. Matt Fowler’s injury sustained on Easter Monday kept him out of the squad so he was replaced upfront by captain Eddie Akuamoah with Lewis Gonsalves starting at left wing back.
A positive start from the Yellows saw Akuamoah go close in the opening ten minutes, hitting a bobbling shot just wide of the left post from the edge of the area. Tony Quinton also went close, heading over a Nicky Bailey corner from ten yards.
Hendon had two shouts for a penalty turned down by the referee and his assistants. The second, in the 24th minute, saw their forward collide with Andy Iga as he chased a ball through the U’s defence. Iga’s slight touch on the ball may have convinced the referee that a penalty would have been the wrong decision but not so the Hendon manager, who got himself sent from the dugout by remonstrating with the referee in the following minutes.
Still frustrated from the referee’s decision, United gave Hendon more to worry about after 27 minutes by opening the scoring. Matt Gray rolled the ball down the right wing to Bailey, who cut back up the wing before swinging in a left footed cross. The Hendon ‘keeper and defence failed to deal with the cross and could only knock it down to Akuamoah inside the area and he brought it from the right of the area to a central position before striking it left footed from ten yards into the bottom left corner, 1-0.
Two minutes later, Glenn Boosey broke with the ball for the U’s and slid the ball to Jon Nurse on the left of the box but his low left footed drive was deflected up and over the bar by the foot of the ‘keeper.
Bailey and Nurse both had chances for Sutton but it was Akuamoah who went closest to doubling the lead as the half drew to a close. Ryan Palmer started the move in defence by hooking the ball down the right wing where Paul Honey leapt to head it down to Akuamoah on the edge of the area. He held off the challenge of a Hendon defender but his shot from 18 yards struck the bottom of the left post.
Hendon tested Iga in injury time with a bouncing twenty yard effort but he judged the bobble well to hold on to the shot. Half-time: U’s 1, Hendon 0.
Sutton had their own penalty appeal turned down three minutes into the second period when Bailey raced onto Akuamoah’s flick and was tackled from behind just as he entered the area. Once again the referee sided with the defence but closer inspection (see photo below) confirms United players and supporters were justified in their appeal for a spot kick.
The U’s kept the pressure on for the opening ten minutes and Nurse struck narrowly wide after Tobi Jinadu and Akuamoah had been involved in the build up but Hendon gained some dominance for the next ten minutes and hit the right post after 62 minutes following a run and shot from the left of the area. From the cross that followed Iga dived full length to his left to hold onto a downward header.
A minute later Hendon again forced Iga into action after switching play from the left to the right left them with a man over on the right of the area but he drove the ball straight at the U’s ‘keeper who blocked the ball well.
Sutton ended Hendon’s resurgence by hitting a second goal with 66 minutes on the clock. The attack started a minute earlier when Nurse crossed from the right into the path of Boosey, and although he jinked around the ‘keeper, a covering defender forced him into hitting his shot across the goal and onto the left post. After the play went out onto the right wing, Nurse collected the ball and crossed to the near post where Boosey ran in to knock the ball into the goal, 2-0.
Aaron Cole-Bolt, back at United after a spell with Charlton and on as a substitute for Akuamoah, hit a first time shot over the bar from the edge of the area with fifteen minutes remaining before Iga denied a Hendon forward with an outstretched leg.
Bailey should have sealed the victory for United with 83 minutes on the clock but after bringing a long ball under control with one touch from his left foot, he prodded the ball past the goalie and the right post with a right-footed effort.
Boosey and Matt Gray both had very similar shots saved as the game reached the final minutes and Nurse also stretched the visitor’s defence but saw his effort deflected into the side-netting. Final score: U’s 2, Hendon 0.
Goals: Akuamoah (27), Boosey (66).
Right, Jon Nurse strikes a shot late in the game but it's deflected into the side netting.
U’s v Heybridge Swifts (24/04/04)
United rounded off their home league games for 2003/04 with a dominant 5-1 victory against Heybridge, who were forced to play much of the game with ten men. Matt Fowler returned to the starting line-up and, with Eddie Akuamoah nursing a couple of slight knocks, Lewis Gonsalves started as left wing back.
Sutton were much the better side in the opening exchanges, Jon Nurse seeing a shot deflected narrowly wide of the right post and Nicky Bailey and Matt Fowler both striking shots at the ‘keeper before the match had reached the ten minute mark.
The game was dramatically altered with only sixteen minutes gone when Neil Cousins ended a tussle for the ball with Matt Gray by petulantly kicking out at United’s Supporters’ Player of the Year. The referee had no option but to send Cousins from the pitch, and leave Heybridge facing 74 minutes with only ten men.
Bailey went close to giving United the lead just after the half hour following an excellent move. Ryan Palmer played the ball up field to Fowler, who knocked it out to the right wing to Glenn Boosey. He held the ball briefly before hitting a cross field pass to Bailey, who brought it down, cut inside and struck the ball across goal with the outside of his right foot but it curled wide of the right post.
The man advantage began to show as United stepped up a gear as the game approached half time. Firstly, Tobi Jinadu slid in at the back post but couldn’t divert Bailey’s free kick goalwards. Then, with five minutes of the half left, Nurse capitalised on a goalkeeping error to head the ball to Fowler, and although he could only stab the ball into the ‘keeper’s chest near the edge of the area, it rebounded kindly to Nurse who expertly lofted it over the goalie and the defenders and into the goal, 1-0.
Nurse almost bagged a second on the stroke of half time but could not put enough on a header after Gray’s cross evaded all of the players in the box to reach Nurse at the back post. At the break: U’s 1, Heybridge 0.
The U’s exploded out of the blocks in the second half and made the most of their chances to open a commanding lead. With three minutes gone, Nurse chased onto a Fowler header and managed to hold off a defender to reach the ball before the ‘keeper, touch it around him and then tap it home into an empty net, 2-0.
Four minutes later Nurse was celebrating his first senior hat-trick for United after another excellent finish. Paul Honey won the ball in the Heybridge half, before chipping it a short distance to Nurse. He brought the ball down, dribbled infield along the edge of the area until he was level with the right post and then struck a left-footed drive low inside the right upright past a despairing dive, 3-0.
Nurse left the field to rapturous applause to be replaced by Matt Hanlan and, following a missed opportunity for the visitors, Hanlan made an immediate impact on the game by netting Sutton’s fourth with 56 minutes gone. Bailey’s ball into the area was controlled and sweetly struck at goal by Fowler and, despite the ‘keeper’s save, Hanlan was in position to cut the ball in from a tight angle, 4-0.
Heybridge collected a consolation goal after 66 minutes when United’s defence left Carl Griffiths free in the box to crash a volley past Andy Iga from ten yards out, 4-1.
Boosey tested the goalkeeper from a deflected free kick after Bailey had been brought down but he was not to be denied his fourth goal in four games for long. With just over 15 minutes remaining, Honey battled for and won the ball on the right touchline and played it into the middle of the Heybridge half to Boosey. He darted forward with the ball, tricked his way past three defenders on the edge of the box and struck the ball left-footed past the ‘keeper and into the bottom right corner, 5-1.
Within minutes Hanlan should have further increased Sutton’s lead when he skied a ball over an open goal from only a couple of yards out. JR certainly wouldn’t have found Hanlan’s miss so funny had the U’s not been so far in front.
Before the game finished Fowler almost added his name to the scoresheet but could not convert a chance at the back post and was then unlucky not to win a penalty when he appeared to be blatantly tripped in the area as he ran in to convert a low cross. Final score: U’s 5, Heybridge 1.
Goals: J Nurse (40, 48, 52), Hanlan (56), Boosey (74).
Right, Heybridge's 'keeper watches Jon Nurse's opener sail over him before dropping into the net.