Sutton moved back in to an automatic promotion place despite having to settle for a share of the points as both U's and Bristol Rovers maintained their unbeaten league starts to 2022
Neither side has lost in the league since the beginning of December, U's losing at Newport on the same night as Rovers were going down at home to Port Vale, but for a long time it looked as though the visitors would be losing that record after Richie Bennett's 19th minute goal had given Sutton a lead that they preserved until five minutes from time when substitute Harry Anderson, who had been on for little more than a minute, won a penalty which was converted by Antony Evans. Even then U's might have grabbed the points, but Enzio Boldewijn and Omar Bugiel both missed good chances before a double save by Anssi Jaakkola made sure of Rovers' point.
Sutton started well despite playing in to the wind, and some fine centre forward play from Bennett set up a chance for Isaac Olaofe, whose low shot was turned aside by Jaakkola, deputising for the injured James Belshaw. Ben Goodliffe's header from a Boldewijn corner lacked the power to beat Rovers skipper Paul Coutts on the line, and Kenny Davis, in the starting line-up for the injured Ali Smith, shot wildly over from a good position, but the goal U's had threatened came when Bennett was pulled back by James Connolly as he tried to chase a through pass from Craig Eastmond. Connolly was booked, and from Milsom's free kick Louis John headed past Jaakkola, who had come off his line, and Bennett bundled the ball over the line.
Rovers came close to an equaliser when a neat flick by Evans released Josh Grant to play a pass through to Aaron Collins, whose shot took a touch off the challenging Goodliffe and rattled the crossbar, and U's were grateful to the woodwork again on the stroke of half time when Eastmond was penalised for a foul on Evans. Rovers were furious that referee Robert Madley didn't allow an advantage that saw Nick Anderton clear on the left of the penalty area, and Evans' free kick again clattered the bar.
U's had the advantage of the wind in the second half but were unable to create that clear chance that might have seen them double the lead, a good interception preventing Boldewijn's pass from finding the run of Eastmond, and it was the visitors who came closest when Bouzanis made a sharp save at his near post from Collins after good work by Sam Nicholson.
There was a Rovers debut early in the second half for Elliot Anderson, signed on loan from Newcastle on Monday, and he showed his quality when he brought the ball from deep inside his own half, exchanging passes with Grant and Luke Thomas and lifting it past the oncoming Bouzanis, Goodliffe covering to clear at the expense of a corner. Omar Bugiel replaced Bennett midway through the half and almost set up a second Sutton goal when he dispossessed Coutts on the touchline but put his low cross just too far in front of Boldewijn, and it was another substitute, Rovers' Harry Anderson, who made an immediate impact as he chased Nicholson's through pass and, after hesitation between Milsom and Bouzanis, reached the ball just before U's keeper, who brought him down. Having been booked for comments to the referee in the first half, Bouzanis might have been relieved not to see a second yellow card, but he had no chance with the penalty from Evans.
The speed with which Rovers got the ball back to the centre spot suggested they felt they could go on and win the game, but at the end it was U's who would feel the more frustrated. An unmarked Boldewijn headed wide from a superb David Ajiboye cross, then substitute Donovan Wilson got the better of Connolly on the byline and laid the ball back to Bugiel, whose low shot came back off the foot of the post. The replacement strikers then combined again as Bugiel put Wilson through, but Jaakkola made a fine low save and then beat away Boldewijn's shot after Bugiel had rescued the rebound to make sure U's late pressure was unrewarded.
Sutton: D Bouzanis, J Kizzi, R Milsom, C Eastmond, B Goodliffe, L John, D Ajiboye, K Davis, R Bennett(sub O Bugiel 65), I Olaofe(sub D Wilson 83), E Boldewijn. Subs n/u S Nelson, J Barden, B Wyatt, W Randall, R Korboa. Booked: Kizzi, Bouzanis, Davis, Milsom.
Bristol Rovers: A Jaakkola, J Connolly, N Anderton, J Grant(sub H Anderson 82), C Taylor, P Coutts, L Thomas(sub H Saunders 72) G Whelan(sub E Anderson 57), A Evans, A Collins, S Nicholson. Subs n/u P Martinez, S Spence, C Harris, J Ward. Booked: Connolly.
Referee: Robert Madley
Attendance: 3,394(500 away)