Dover Athletic
Sutton United

Cadogan 26

10 February 2018
Vanarama National League
Thomas Bramall (S Yorkshire)
26 Jamie Butler
16 Nicky Bailey 85 Downer
6 Jamie Collins
22 Simon Walton
5 Louis John
19 Terell Thomas
30 Tom Bolarinwa 77 A Thomas
8 Kenny Davis
20 Tommy Wright
31 Harry Beautyman
11 Kieron Cadogan 69 Dundas
3 Aswad Thomas
7 Bradley Hudson-Odoi
10 Adam Coombes
14 Craig Dundas
27 Simon Downer

Both Dover and Sutton deserve credit for providing an entertaining game on a filthy afternoon in Kent with the pitch becoming more difficult as the game went on in continuous rain, but it was Sutton who claimed the points after a performance which may well go down as one of their best of the season. For the first hour they showed their attacking qualities and but for a fine display from goalkeeper Mitch Walker they may have been home, if not dry, but the dismissal of Harry Beautyman just before the hour mark for a wild challenge on Connor Essam saw the emphasis switch to the defence, who stood up superbly to the challenge while Jamie Butler, playing his first game since New Year’s Day, made two crucial late saves to ensure U’s kept up their challenge at the top of the table.

Chances came at both ends from the start, with Butler in action almost straight from the kick off to save a low shot before Beautyman went clear through the middle but saw his unconvincing shot blocked by Walker’s legs. At the other end Dover’s leading scorer Ryan Bird found himself unable to capitalise on a similar chance as Butler an equally weak shot, and U’s keeper then had to tip over a fierce drive from Femi Ilesanmi before Wright’s shot was held by Walker.

That was all in the first fifteen minutes, and the game continued in the same vein as Simon Walton pounced on a clearance to hit a cleanly struck low shot that was deflected just wide, and Walker did well to change direction and keep out Wright’s deflected shot before making another good stop to turn away Walton’s shot from the edge of the area. The Dover keeper was beaten, though, in the 26th minute when Wright, working tirelessly on his own up front, collected a long pass from Jamie Collins on the left and played in a fine cross to the far post where Kieron Cadogan did well to bring the ball under control before stretching to shoot across Walker and inside the far post.

It was then Butler’s turn to catch the eye as he dived to his right to turn away a header from Giancarlo Gallifuoco, with Dover just failing to force the ball in from the resulting corner, but before the break Walker had made another good save to tip Terell Thomas’s glancing header wide, and Wright had produced a wonderful piece of skill to control a high ball forward and turn inside the covering defender before shooting just wide of the far post.

Early in the second half it was Sutton who continued to create the chances, Louis John heading wide from Tom Bolarinwa’s cross, and then Wright saw a curling shot deflected wide. The striker was giving Manny Parry the afternoon of his nightmares, and having outwitted the centre back again and forced the ball across goal to the far post, Bolarinwa was denied what seemed a certain goal by a superb block from Josh Passley.

It wasn’t long before Dover made a change to try and get back in the game, and substitute Kadell Daniel should have scored with his first touch when a free kick flicked off John and Ilesanmi volleyed the ball back across goal, but Daniel completely missed his kick. The home side were again indebted to Walker, though, when he saved brilliantly to keep out a Terell Thomas header from a corner, but then Beautyman flew in to a tackle which caught Connor Essam late and referee Thomas Bramall produced the red card, a decision with which U’s manager Paul Doswell had few complaints after seeing the incident on video later.

Reduced to ten for the first time this season, leaving their hosts as the only team not to have had a player sent off in the league, although it was the fourth red card in the last five games between the sides at Crabble, Sutton now had to concentrate on preserving their lead rather than adding to it as the home side looked to take advantage of the extra player. Predictably they came under pressure, but most of the time the ball was delivered in to their penalty area it was a Sutton head that made contact to clear the danger. The chances that Dover did create came late on, but made a fine save to keep out Mitch Brundle’s header from a corner before throwing himself in the way of a close range Bird effort which seemed to rebound to safety off the keeper’s face. Daniel provided a momentary scare right at the end when his cross from the left bounced off the back  of the crossbar, but U’s deservedly held on for a win that was rightly celebrated in the rain after the final whistle.

Dover: M Walker, J Passley, F Ilesanmi, G Gallifuoco, M Parry, C Eassam, K Richards (sub K Daniel 55), M Brundle, M Pinnock, R Bird, N Nortey(sub J Alabi 75). Subs n/u L Fazakerley, E Okosieme, L Bellamy. Booked: Bird.