Saturday 25th January 2020 | 15:00
Gander Green Lane | Attendance: 1,618
Address: Gander Green Lane, Sutton, SM1 2EY
Sutton return to action at Gander Green Lane tomorrow for the first time since the New Year’s Day thrashing of Woking, with Solihull Moors providing the opposition and looking to complete a league double after their 2-0 win in the reverse fixture at Damson Park in October.
One of the pre-season favourites for promotion, Solihull have had an inconsistent season, four wins in their first five games followed by a run of six games without a win, before that victory in October heralded another good run that saw them back in the upper reaches of the table. However since going out of the FA Cup against Rotherham, seeing a 3-0 lead turn in to a 4-3 defeat inside the last twenty minutes, they have won just one of their subsequent league games, dropping to 9th in the table although thay have games in hand over all the teams above them except leaders Barrow, with whom they share the division’s best defensive record. On Monday they went out of the Birmingham Senior Cup, conceding six first half goals at Tamworth.
Sutton’s New Year’s Day win against Woking was a fourth consecutive home league win, and U’s go in to the game in 15th place, five points behind the visitors. Craig Eastmond remains suspended tomorrow, and Will Randall is unlikely to have recovered from the ankle injury he susteained on New Year’s Day, but Louis John will line up in the defence after making his move from Cambridge United permanent. Solihull are also without a player through suspension, defender Alex Gudger sent off in last week’s defeat at home to Boreham Wood.
Last season the sides drew 2-2, Wayne Brown (above) and Kenny Davis scoring for U’s, with the previous two meetings at Gander Green Lane producing a win for each side.
Tickets are on sale online until midnight on Friday, with a discount for adult and concession tickets, and the game is not segregated so supporters can enter through any turnstile.
Sutton had to settle for a second successive goalless draw after a hard-fought game in which they found themselves under increasing pressure but stood firm to claim the hardest earned clean sheet of the season so far. A succession of set pieces, predominantly the long throws of George Carline, meant that it was all hands to the pump in the U’s penalty area but more often than not it was a Sutton head that made contact with the ball and when it did fall to a Solihull player the shooting was often wayward, although it took a brilliant save from Nik Tzanev to keep out one effort from centre back Callum Howe.
Although under pressure for most of the second half, U’s had created as much as their opponents in the first half, with the first half hour in particular giving the promise of a really entertaining game which was never matched after the break. David Ajiboye was an early threat for U’s, who came close early on as Omar Bugiel stabbed a shot goalwards following a corner and saw the ball bounce off the top of the bar and over. Tommy Wright headed wide from a Kyel Reid cross, and after more good work by Ajiboye Wright headed the ball back in to the six yard box but Bugiel was unable to get there before the defence.
The problems that U’s would face were soon apparent as Howe’s header from one Carline throw was held by Tzanev under the bar, and the keeper blocked James Ball’s close range effort from another set piece, but U’s were almost the cause of their own downfall when Tzanev failed to get to Ben Goodliffe’s back pass before Jake Beesley, who found the angle too tight for a shot but pulled the ball back across goal, and when it was set up for Kyle Storer on the edge of the penalty area Tzanev had recovered his position and dived to turn the ball away for a corner. Solihull had another good chance moments later, Jason Cowley heading wide at the far post and missing the chance of a debut goal after his loan signing from Stevenage. U’s still had chances, though, with Wright put in by Bugiel to fire in a shot that was straight at Ryan Boot, and Harry Beautyman then running on to Ajiboye’s pass but pulling a shot across goal.
If the first half was entertaining the second was more attritional, with U’s finding themselves increasingly on the defensive and Cowley was unlucky when he cut in from the right and hit a shot from 25 yards that dipped to hit the crossbar. Solihull manager Tim Flowers felt that Tzanev might have got a touch on that effort, but there was no doubt a few minutes later when a long throw fell to Howe, and Tzanev tipped his powerful shot on to the post, earning praise after the game from the former Southampton and England custodian. To be fair to U’s, though, that was the only real moment of danger from Carline’s long throws, with some fine work from the centre backs, helped by Bugiel who was several times responsible for the clearing header, leaving Solihull to rely on long range efforts which often flew high and wide, and the closest they came to a breakthrough was when Beesley just failed to reach a low cross from substitute Mitch Hancox.
It was a problem for U’s to put the visitors’ defence, in which debutant Declan Drysdale excelled alongside Howe, under any sustained pressure but when the ball was on the ground there was always the prospect of success, and after Wright had for once got the better of Howe and played the ball across for Beautyman, only a superb saving tackle from the visitors’ third centre back, Tyrone Williams prevented U’s going ahead (above). Ajiboye became prominent again later on, with both Hancox and Storer booked for unceremoniously stopping incisive runs, joined in the book by Howe and Kenny Davis after a flare-up in front of the technical areas. After Storer’s foul on Ajiboye, Louis John was close to forcing the ball in from the resulting free kick, but with neither manager feeling the need for a change, Hancox having replaced the injured Lee Vaughan in the first half, the stalemate couldn’t be broken.
Solihull: R Boot, L Vaughan(sub M Hancox 25), G Carline, T Williams, C Howe, D Drysdale, K Storer, J Ball, J Beesley, J Cowley, T Hawkridge. Subs n/u D Carter, D Wright, A Wycherley, M Bushaj. Booked: Hancox, Howe, Storer.
Referee: Alan Dale