Tranmere Rovers
Sutton United

Dundas 32

12 August 2017
Vanarama National League
Daniel Middleton
26 Jamie Butler
2 Kevin Amankwaah
3 Aswad Thomas
4 Dean Beckwith
15 Craig Eastmond
6 Jamie Collins
20 Tommy Wright
8 Kenny Davis
9 Ross Lafayette 90+3 Spence
14 Craig Dundas 84 Cadogan
16 Nicky Bailey
5 Louis John
11 Kieron Cadogan
17 Dan Spence
19 Jeffrey Monakana
21 Moses Emmanuel

A year to the weekend after announcing themselves in the Vanarama National League with a win against eventual champions Lincoln City, Sutton recorded another famous victory when a goal by Craig Dundas, his first competitive strike since his hat-trick against Lowestoft in the FA Trophy in January 2016, but his 99th in Sutton colours overall, earned victory at this season’s pre-season title favourites. As at Sincil Bank last year, the result was no more than Sutton deserved, and although after going ahead thirteen minutes before half time they could have been expected to come under strong pressure in the second half they looked every bit as likely to score as their hosts after Andy Cook had thumped one header against the bar soon after half time.

U’s opted to go with an attacking line-up that saw Tommy Wright, who had troubled Tranmere as a substitute last season, start behind a front two of Ross Lafayette and Craig Dundas, and Wright almost had an immediate impact, hitting a shot in just the second minute from outside the penalty area that goalkeeper Scott Davies had to backpedal to tip over the bar. In a frantic start to the game Tranmere should then have gone ahead when a slip by Dean Beckwith allowed Cook to pull the ball back past Jamie Butler for Jay Harris, but Beckwith atoned for his error by managing to partially block Harris’s effort and Jamie Collins completed the clearance on the goalline. Immediately U’s went to the other end and Lafayette shot over from Wright’s cross when he might have hoped to do better, but as play continued to flow from end to end Cook headed across goal but just wide from a cross by Liam Ridehalgh, who was getting forward on the left a bit more easily than U’s would have liked.

Tranmere threatened again when Jack Dunn drew a foul from Aswad Thomas which earned the first of five Sutton bookings, and from Dunn’s free kick Ritchie Sutton headed over before Cook drilled a shot across goal with no-one at the far post to take advantage, while at the other end Jay McEveley was lucky to escape similar punishment to Thomas when he appeared to impede Dundas as he tried to intercept a poor back pass.

With Nicky Bailey outstanding just in front of the U’s back line, though, these were the only moments in which Tranmere, playing towards their noisy supporters, looked as though they might score and it was the 100-plus equally vociferous Sutton supporters at the other end who had the best view of the afternoon’s decisive moment as Craig Eastmond pounced on a loose ball in midfield and played a pass through the middle that split the home defence and allowed Dundas to go through and drive his shot past the advancing Davies.

Eastmond hit a well struck volley wide just before half time as U’s saw the first half out with relative comfort, any Tranmere crosses repelled by a dominant Sutton defence, and Tranmere made a half time change that added strength to their attack, James Alabi replacing Dunn in the hope that he might repeat his two goal performance for Chester at Sutton in April. It had little effect, though, and apart from Cook’s header from a Ridehalgh free kick that crashed back off the bar and was cleared by Beckwith before any Tranmere player could reach the rebound, Sutton found themselves able to protect their lead with ease. Lafayette and Dundas worked tirelessly up front when the ball came forward, and Dundas and Wright could both have added to the lead, Dundas’s shot diverted wide by Davies and Wright flashing an angled shot just over.

The home side became increasingly frustrated and their attempts to get back in to the game were easily defended, and their afternoon might have been summed up in stoppage time when McEverley’s attempt to clear Butler’s long clearance saw him head the ball past his own keeper and watch it trickle goalwards, only for it to bounce back off the foot of the post where Sutton completed the clearance before referee Daniel Middleton’s final whistle signalled great jubilation among the Sutton contingent on and off the pitch.

Tranmere: S Davies, A Buxton, L Ridehalgh, R Sutton, J McEveley, O Norburn, J Harris(sub A Mangan 73), C Jennings, J Hughes, J Dunn (sub J Alabi H-T), A Cook. Subs n/u L Pilling, S McNulty, G Waring. Booked: Cook.