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Kingstonian 1-2 Sutton United

Just over three months had passed since Sutton's Surrey Senior Cup final victory when the teams met for the first time this season on August Bank Holiday Monday. The U's had brought with them a surprising number of supporters, with the attendance higher than all but the home match with Aldershot last season.

K's were unchanged from the eleven which had despatched Maidenhead, and more recently Braintree, while Sutton were looking to continue their equally impressive start to the season.

The opening exchanges though were scrappy, with neither side able to get a grip on the battle for possession early on. Grant Payne did find himself in a deal of space within the first thirty seconds, but hesitation never did prove the best way to beat a goalkeeper, and so it proved.

The first real sight of goal for either side took some twenty-five minutes to appear. Mark Beard swung in a corner from the left, which Sutton's goalkeeper Andy Iga could only palm to the edge of the area. Liam Collins collected it but couldn't keep his shot down.

This seemed to spur the visitors on, as two ex-K's combined to furrow Lance Key's brow. A fine run from right to left by (big, bad and Sutton) Scott Corbett saw him play in Eddie Akuamoah behind Stephen Broad. He took a touch to move the ball to the goal-line, before firing in a shot from a tight angle which produced the first save of the afternoon from Key.

K's have proved in recent days how efficient they are on the counter-attack, and they proved it once more when a Sutton corner produced a fine opening for the hooped ones. Bashiru Alimi headed out to Stafford Browne, and passes were swiftly exchanged between him, Payne and Beard. Collins was finally set free on the right, and after avoiding the attentions of Danny Bolt sent over a cross which was a whisker too high for the onrushing Browne.

The pressure was starting to build at the other end though. A good run from Matt Gray past Billy Mead saw Key save well low to his left, Max Hustwick was called upon to make a last ditch tackle as Bolt twinkle-toed his way through the K's rearguard, and Key again saved from Gray when a corner was played to him on the edge of the area.

With minutes to go to the break, K's crafted a chance for Payne as Alimi again showed his prowess on the left. He skipped past Gray but the resultant header was wide of Iga's goal - a blank scoreline at the break correctly showing the lack of clear cut chances for either side.

The early introduction of Scott Edgar in place of Payne surprised many of those watching, but on a day when a large proportion of the balls to the strikers were aerial perhaps not the worst decision. Yet the change didn't upset Sutton too much - they scored within five minutes.

Corbett picked the ball up just inside the Kingstonian half and set off down the left, pursued by Hustwick. The U's skipper cut the ball back to Nick Bailey who swept the ball goalwards from just outside the box. Lance Key did manage to get his hand to the ball as he dived to his left, but the shot still managed to beat him and somehow trickled in just inside the post.

Yet before most K's supporters had even had a chance to read their text alert the scores were level. A long ball to the edge of the area was held up well by Edgar, who played the ball back to Beard. His right-footed shot took a wicked deflection off of Ryan Palmer and looped up and over Iga to tie the match at one-one with just over half an hour remaining.

Not five minutes later and Beard almost repeated his trick. Another fine run from Alimi down the left saw him cut the ball back to the edge of the area for the skipper. His shot deflected off of two Sutton defenders, finally bouncing just past the post with Iga completely flummoxed.

Eddie Akuamoah almost endeared himself to the K's contingent when he inadvertently set up Stafford Browne. A terrible backpass was intercepted by the striker but his shot from just inside the area was wide.

K's were certainly on top at this stage, with all of the chances falling to those in red and white. A good combination between Scott Smith and Alimi on the left saw a chance for substitute Craig Lewington, but his shot was deflected just wide. Yet for all the chances at the Kingston Road End, it was Sutton who regained the lead.

A foul by Smith was punished by a free-kick on the Sutton right. Mark Watson took the kick - some way in from where the offence took place - and crossed to the far post. There rose substitute Matt Hanlan totally unchallenged, and a firm header from him left Key with no chance, and Sutton with all three points.

The late introduction of Greg Ball, for his first outing since September last year, didn't quite have the impact required, but it was certainly good to see him back in action after a terrible year. In the few minutes he was on the field he showed that he has lost none of his quick-thinking, and once back to match fitness he will again be a thorn in the side of Ryman defences.

And so the two-one defeat in the Surrey Cup wasn't avenged, but repeated. From a neutral's point of view it was a fantastic game to watch. Both teams showed honest endeavour and not a little skill. On other days all three goals would have been prevented, but overall a two-one win for either side would have been the best that they could hope for. Can't wait for Easter Saturday...

Mon 25th Aug 2003
Kingsmeadow Stadium
Isthmian League Premier
Sutton United2
1Lance Key
2Stephen Broad
3Scott Smith
4Matt Elverson
5Max Hustwick
6Liam Collins16
7Mark Beard
8Billy Mead15
9Grant Payne12
10Stafford Browne
11Bashiru Alimi
12Scott Edgar9
13Trevor Jones
14Mark Jones
15Craig LewingtonCautioned8
16Greg Ball6
Match Report By
Gary Ekins