Sutton United 0 Stockport County 1 (Stretton 53)
Sutton came out on the wrong end of a tight game as Jack Stretton's goal early in the second half was enough to boost Stockport's hopes of a second consecutive promotion and leave Sutton seven points short of the play-off area with six games to play. It was just about a deserved win for the visitors, who dominated possession in the first half, albeit without creating many clear chances, and then managed the game well in the closing stages as U's looked for an equaliser, but the margins were fine, with the winning goal coming from a free kick Sutton felt shouldn't have been awarded, and Coby Rowe then slipping when he would otherwise probably have cleared the resulting cross.
Rowe's return after concussion was the only change to Sutton's starting line-up, but another change was forced on U's after just six minutes when Craig Eastmond looked to jar his knee in a challenge and, having tried to carry on after treatment, eventually had to limp off to be replaced by Harry Beautyman. It was a tough first half hour for U's with Stockport having the majority of possession, but U's defended well, both Rowe and Ben Goodliffe producing several timely interceptions, and Stockport's only clear chance came when Kyle Wootton put Stretton through, but Jack Rose was out to save well with his legs.
Towards half time Sutton showed more as an attacking force, with David Ajiboye a threat coming in from the right and seeing one promising run ended by an excellent tackle from Fraser Horsfall inside the penalty area. Ajiboye also sent a shot just over from twenty yards as U's finished the half on the front foot, but it was the visitors who started the second half the stronger, Wootton shooting over the top from the edge of the penalty area when he should have done better, and Kyle Knoyle's shot deflected just wide of Rose's left hand post.
The decisive goal came soon afterwards, U's upset that Ajiboye was penalised for what seemed an innocuous challenge on Akil Wright, and Stockport taking the free kick quickly in to the space on the Sutton right. Ryan Rydel made ground on the left before crossing, and Rowe's untimely slip saw the ball run on to the far post where Stretton beat Sam Hart and shot low past the helpless Rose.
Sutton responded well, and Will Randall tested Ben Hinchliffe from twenty yards with a shot that the keeper turned away for a corner. Randall's flag kick was met by Joe Kizzi's head, but Hinchliffe clawed the ball away and Rowe's follow up header was cleared off the line before Stockport cleared the danger. Having almost equalised, U's could then have gone two down as Rydel's free kick was tipped superbly on to the post by Rose but the rebound seemed to be a tap-in for either Stretton or Neill Byrne, only for the two of them to impede each other under pressure from Kizzi and the ball to loop harmlessly over the bar.
Sutton pressed for a leveller that wouldn't have been a complete injustice, Ajiboye's shot on the turn saved by Hinchliffe and the goalkeeper also keeping out a long range snap shot from substitute Enzio Boldewijn, who had replaced the injured Randall, an even better save from Lee Angol's follow up effort rendered irrelevant by an offside flag. Stockport brought on former Sutton favourite Isaac Olaofe with twelve minutes to go, and one run on the right was ended by a foul which earned Sam Hart a booking, and despite U's efforts the visitors held on for their valuable win to move within two points of the automatic promotion places.
Sutton: J Rose, J Kizzi, S Hart, C Rowe, B Goodliffe, C Eastmond(sub H Beautyman 7) , D Ajiboye, A Smith, O Bugiel(sub K Kouassi 70) D Wilson(sub L Angol 70) W Randall (sub E Boldewijn 73). Subs n/u B House, J Neufville, R Milsom. Booked: Smith, Hart
Stockport: B Hinchliffe, J Stretton(sub I Olaofe 78), K Knoyle(sub A Sarcevic 87), A Wright, N Byrne, F Horsfall, W Collar(sub R Johnson 78), R Croasdale, K Wootton, M Hippolyte(sub C Evans 87) R Rydel. Subs n/u P Madden, C Hussey, V Jaros. Booked: Croasdale, Collar, Hippolyte
Referee: Neil Hair
Attendance: 4,253 (702 away)