Saturday 14th March 2020 | 15:00
Gander Green Lane | Attendance: 2,126
Address: Gander Green Lane, Sutton, SM1 2EY
After completing a second league double of the season against Torquay last Saturday, Sutton go in search of another at Gander Green Lane tomorrow as Hartlepool make the long trip south hoping to maintain their place in the play-off hunt. U’s travelled to the Victoria Ground for the first game under Matt Gray’s management in August and came away with a fine 3-1 win (above, Harry Beautyman scores his, and U’s, second), and while the next two months didn’t quite match that start, Sutton’s form since November has been among the best in the league, and U’s go in to the game five points behind their opponents with a game in hand.
Hartlepool are one point outside the play-off zone, and their own recent form has been good, last week’s surprise home defeat to Ebbsfleet their first in six games. However away from home they have found victories hard to come by, and their win at Solihull ten days ago was their first on the road since a 5-1 win at Chesterfield in November.
Sutton will also be boosted by the head to head record between the sides, with Hartlepool still looking for their first win after five meetings – the two at Sutton have both finished level, with Hartlepool coming from 2-0 down to grab a point a year ago. U’s second goal in that game was Gime Toure’s last in Sutton colours, and having switched clubs in the summer he comes to the game as Hartlepool’s leading scorer this season.
Ben Goodliffe should be fit to return to U’s squad after recovering from a foot injury.
Just to underline that segregation WILL be in force tomorrow – Sutton supporters should enter through the Gander Green Lane turnstiles with the Collingwood end reserved for Hartlepool supporters.
Sutton edged a point closer to manager Matt Gray’s 51-point target, but would have gone past it but for a superb piece of defending from Hartlepool defender Gary Liddle, who denied David Ajiboye what would have been a winner with virtually the last kick of the game as he headed Ajiboye’s goalbound shot over the bar from inside the six-yard box. It would have rewarded a strong finish to the game from U’s, but would also have been harsh on Hartlepool, who played their part in a game that entertained the 2000+ crowd.
Sutton made the perfect start as they looked to back up last week’s win against Torquay, as Isaac Alaofe closed down goalkeeper Ben Killip as he controlled a back pass from Timi Odusina, and his challenge on the keeper saw Killip’s attempted clearance rebound off Olaofe in to the roof of the net and give the on loan striker his first Sutton goal in unusual circumstances.
There was almost a thrilling second soon afterwards as Ajiboye picked up possession deep in his own half after U’s had defended a corner, and set off on a superb run that took him past three defenders only for Killip to make a good save as Ajiboye tried to lift the ball over him. Omar Bugiel’s dipping volley seconds later wasn’t that far over the top, while Olaofe, having been put clear by a well-judged pass from Ajiboye as U’s again countered having defended a set piece, was forced wide by Macaulay Southam-Hales and could only send his shot wide of the near post.
Nik Tzanev had little to do in the first half, well protected by a defence in which the returning Ben Goodliffe twice threw himself in the way of goalbound shots, but he was busier in the second half and for a moment looked in trouble as Southam-Hales overhit a cross from the right, but the ball landed on the roof of the net. The keeper was helpless soon afterwards, though, when it was Hartlepool’s turn to counter as U’s looked for a foul on Goodliffe, and a crossfield pass from Josh Hawkes released Luke Molyneux on the right. He teed up the onrushing Gavin Holohan who from just inside the area clipped a first time shot in to the top corner of the net.
Hartlepool soon introduced former U’s striker Gime Toure , and from then it was a game that could go either way, Tzanev doing well to claim a dangerous low cross at the near post, while Bugiel and Ben Wyatt saw long range shots go wide. Inside the last ten minutes, though, U’s had the chances to take all three points. With his first touch after replacing Olaofe, Craig Eastmond headed Rob Milsom’s corner goalwards but Harry Beautyman was unable to make contact inside the six yard box, and then the increasingly threatening Will Randall (above) chipped a cross to the far post where Beautyman, at full stretch, volleyed back across Killip only for the ball to rebound off the post.
Craig Dundas came on for his 543rd appearance, moving level with Paul McKinnon in sixth place in the all time list, and headed a Milsom corner just over before, deep in stoppage time, Beautyman played in Ajiboye, who found space on the left edge of the penalty area to fire in a shot that was heading for the net until Liddle’s spectacular intervention, the final whistle coming as soon as Hartlepool cleared the corner to signal a third consecutive draw between the sides at Sutton.
Hartlepool: B Killip, M Southam-Hales, M Kitching, G Liddle, T Odusina, G Holohan, R Donaldson(sub G Mafuta 80), N Featherstone, R Harker(sub G Toure 62), L Molyneux (sub A Keena 70), J Hawkes. Subs n/u K Richardson, M Beeney. Booked: Hawkes, Kitching.