Pre-Season (Pld 7, W 3, D 2, L 2, F 13, A 10)
An unconvincing pre-season campaign kicked off the 2004/05 season after a disastrous summer had seen the departure of Nicky Bailey, Jon Nurse, Tony Quinton, Tobi Jinadu, Ryan Palmer and Matt Fowler - half of last season's Ryman Premier runners-up starting 11. Expected wins against Horley and Banstead were countered by a narrow victory against Leatherhead, two draws and a defeat to Horsham. The only proper test, against a Fulham XI, also brought a defeat. With United's side hardling looking settled by the end of the friendlies, optimism for the season ahead was already running low.
August (Pld 6, W 1, D 2, L 3, F 8, A 9)
Experienced ex-pro Peter Fear scored on his competitive debut but it was not enough to stop United from losing 2-1 to St. Albans on the opening day. It then took a further 5 games to record a first league win when the U's travelled to Newport and secured an excellent 4-2 win on foreign soil. The match saw two more summer signings find the back of the net - former Crystal Palace and Wales Under 19 striker Andrew Martin hit his second in two games and youngster Craig Watkins marked his first league start with a second half header. That first league win may have come earlier in the month at Maidenhead had the linesman not given a dubious last minute penalty that allowed the Magpies to level the game.
September (Pld 6, W 1, D 2, L 3, F 8, A 13)
Having failed to fit in at Canvey Island, Tony Quinton returned to the U's at the start of the month, initially on loan. On the pitch, though, the new month didn't bring any new cheer for United fans as Sutton struggled through September, picking up only one more win. But three games in, results had looked to be turning in United's direction as they thought back from two down to earn a 2-2 draw at Dorchester and then picked up a 1-0 win at high-flying Bognor thanks to a strike from Evren 'Dave' Arkali, who became a crowd favourite but left the club shortly afterwards due to limited first team opportunities.
October (Pld 7, W 2, D 3, L 2, F 10, A 9)
United's FA Cup campaign started and ended in October after a win over Eastbourne was followed by a replay defeat against Bromley. Things were looking up in the league as United picked up two draws and a win from four games - The two-nil home victory against Margate was United's first league victory of the season at Gander Green Lane at the 8th attempt.
November (Pld 7, W 4, D 1, L 2, F 18, A 14)
Four wins in November all came in cup competitions as the U's ousted Carshalton and Maidenhead from the League Cup and Hampton & Richmond and Welling from the FA Trophy. But the two league games both ended with disappointing defeats when Sutton lost 3-2 at Welling (where they won two weeks later in the Trophy) and a shambolic defensive performance at home to Lewes bringing a 5-3 reverse.
December (Pld 6, W 4, D 1, L 1, F 11, A 7)
The month of December finally brought a sustained run of good league results with the start of a seven game unbeaten streak that lasted into January. An away win at Thurrock, thanks largely to two goalkeeping gaffs, sparked a run of five straight league victories including a boxing day win at Carshalton. The run also included a win in the Surrey Senior Cup at Farnham.
January (Pld 7, W 3, D 0, L 4, F 12, A 17)
United kicked-off the New Year in emphatic fashion, beating the Robins for the third time this season, this time inflicting a 4-1 defeat on their local rivals. Nigel Brake notched his first Sutton goal - depending on your view point a perfect 45 yard curled lob or a cross-field pass caught in the wind! A 5-0 win against a Redbridge team in turmoil was the end of the seven game run as the U's then lost four of their remaining five games in January conceding sixteen goals in the process. Defeats at home to Grays and Woking brought to an end Sutton's participation in the FA Trophy and League Cup respectively.
February (Pld 3, W 1, D 1, L 1, F 5, A 6)
Postponements in February saw only three games get played. In the league, the U's drew one and lost one to drop dangerously close to the relegation zone. The Surrey Senior Cup found United in better form, though, as they knocked Woking out with a 2-1 win, a week after losing to a weaker Woking side in the League Cup.
March (Pld 6, W 2, D 3, L 1, F 8, A 7)
There may have been only one defeat in March, but the one league win and three draws did little to push the U's away from the drop zone. Sutton's away form continued to look like it may be their salvation - Tony Quinton hit the only goal of the game as United dented Lewes's play-off hopes at the start of the month and they followed that up with a 2-2 draw at Eastbourne, youth team prospect Dom O'Shea equalising in the 90th minute having been on the pitch for four minutes. An unconvincing win at Egham in the Surrey Senior Cup put United into the semi-finals.
April (Pld 8, W 4, D 0, L 4, F 7, A 11)
Two league wins either side of defeat to AFC Wimbledon in the Surrey Senior Cup seemed to have left United virtually safe from relegation but defeats at Hornchurch and Bishop's Stortford allowed the bottom clubs to gain ground. Finally, with three games to go, Joff Vansittart scored a late winner at home to Welling to secure Sutton's Conference South status. A disappointing defeat at home to Weymouth followed before United signed off for the season with an excellent one-nil win at second placed Cambridge.
Without doubt a disappointing season, but, given the mass exodus during the summer, little more could realistically have been expected than the final position of 15th. With a little more luck in places the U's would have been a solid mid-table side - If we can ditch the woeful home form next season and bring in a few extra players (a midfield playmaker, a 20-goal striker and a left winger) we could well be in a position to challenge for the play-offs come next term.
Top Scorer: Craig Watkins, 15 goals.
Biggest Win: 5-0 v Redbridge, 8th January 2005
Biggest Defeat: 0-6 v Grays Athletic, 29th January 2005
Games won in a row: 6, 11th December 2004 - 8th January 2005
Games lost in a row: 2 (five times), 18th - 21st September 2004, 13th - 20th November 2004, 15th - 18th January 2005, 25th - 29th January 2005, 16th - 19th April 2005
Games without losing: 7, 7th December 2004 - 8th January 2005
Games without winning: 5, 14th - 28th August 2004
Games without conceding: 2, 23rd - 26th October 2004
Games without scoring: 2 (three times), 21st - 24th August 2004, 15th - 18th January 2005, 25th - 29th January 2005
'From The Lane' End of Season Awards
From The Lane’s Player of the Year
Matt Gray gets our nod for Player of the Year after a season of consistently high performances. From his right wing back role, Matt was not only our most creative player but managed to bag 13 goals as well. That figure was boosted by his iron-nerve from the penalty spot, converting 9 times out of 9 from twelve yards this season.
From The Lane Readers’ Player of the Year
This award has always been fairly close in the past but this season Matt Gray was the top choice of just over 80% of the voters and won by a mile. Second and third place went to Paul Honey and Phil Wilson respectively.
Best Sutton Performance
United opened 2005 with a 4-1 win over Carshalton, a game the U's dominated for eighty-nine and a half minutes after Kevin Hemsley scored a freak own goal with 28 seconds on the clock. Joff Vansittart knocked in the equaliser after half an hour and, after an onslaught towards the Bobbins goal, they finally capitulated in the final fifteen minutes as John Scarborough, Eddie Akuamoah and Nigel Brake found the back of the net. Okay, so they may not have been the strongest opposition, but there were few games that the U's controlled as comprehensively this season and certainly no other results that would have given the fans as much satisfaction.
Goal of the Season
We almost gave this to Joff for his two yard header against Welling that secured safety but in the end went for an even more controversial option. Opinions are divided on Nigel Brake's intentions in beating Stuart Searle from forty yards in the New Year's Day game but, at the end of the day, it looked fantastic. And it was against Carshalton! Here's what we wrote about his 'audacious forty yard lob' in the match report:
"The icing on the cake for Sutton came with only three minutes left as Brake, in possession on the left touchline and forty-yards out, hit a cross-come-shot that sailed over the despairing reach of Searle and dropped just below the bar."
Celebration of the Year
Scrapping for points towards the end of the season, United visited Eastbourne and were a goal down with four minutes left. On came youth-teamer Dom O'Shea for his U's debut and promptly stuck away a goal in the 90th minute. The United players and fans went mental, culminating in a huge bundle behind the Eastbourne goal (below left). Caught in the midst of the pile, Paul somehow had the presence of mind to hit the 'click' button on his camera:
But with the award practically in the bag, Craig Watkins knicks it from Dom on the final day of the season as he scores the only goal of the game against Cambridge with ten minutes to go before launching into a cartwheel (above right), going straight into a backflip and then striking a victorious pose in front of the Sutton fans.
The ‘Chris Boothe’ Award for Most Audible Player Comment
After a year or two without being awarded, Andrew Martin picks up the 'Chris Boothe' trophy. Having sat on the bench for a million and one consecutive matches, 'Taffy' was on his way to the changing room at the start of the game at Thurrock and, as he passed the U's end, turned to the fans and said, "I better go get my shirt, in case he ever wants to bring me on!" (or something like that) - Classic.
The ‘What the Blazes’ Award for Most Bizarre Moment
Referees are well known for making mistakes. They are, however, not so well known for admitting to a mistake, especially during the middle of a game. During the friendly at Dulwich, the man in black bizarrely gave United a free kick for a rather fair looking challenge. Seconds later, as he ran past his assistant, he practically shouted, "Yeah, I f*cked that up!" - what the blazes?
The ‘S**t Ground, No Fans’ Award for the Worst Ground and Least Fans
They may have changed their name but there's no fooling us as Redbridge retain the SGNF award by maintaining last year's high standard. But with them dropping back to the Ryman League, there's guaranteed to be a new name on this award next year.
The ‘Jar Jar Binks’ Award for Most Annoying Supporters
I'm sure they're all very nice people, and the trip to the coast is always a good day out, but that bloody drum and the same beat for ninety minutes is so annoying. Congratulations, Eastbourne Borough.
The ‘Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Award for Unluckiest Conference South Team
Having finished fourth in the league, Lewes were cruelly denied a spot in the play-offs when their ground was adjudged not to measure up to Conference National standards. Essentially, Lewes have been a victim of their own success as their quick rise through the non-league ranks left their ground requiring improvements season after season.
The 'Egham Tea Bar Disaster' Award for the Worst Tea Bar Service
In this awards inaugural year, Egham Town scoops the dubious honour of having the Worst Tea Bar service of any ground that we visited this season. Read more on our marathon fifteen minute wait for a cheesburger here.