Walsall 1 (Hutchinson 90+5) Sutton United 1 (Smith 31)
Sutton were within seconds of a deserved first win against Walsall to keep the pressure on the sides in the play-off positions when Walsall, second best for much of the game, scrambled a stoppage time equaliser through Isaac Hutchinson. U's seemed to be on course for maximum points, and had a throw in inside the Walsall half, but possessiion was surrendered and Hutchinson's counter attacking run was halted by Joe Kizzi thirty yards out. Kizzi was booked, but the greater punishment came as Tom Knowles' free kick bounced back off Jack Rose and Hutchinson reacted quickest to force home the rebound.
It was a bitter blow for U's who until that stage had produced an impressive away performance lacking only a second goal to add to Ali Smith's effort on the half hour, and who had been under little threat from a Walsall side with only one win in their previous fifteen league games, and Matt Gray admitted afterwards that it felt like a defeat.
With Coby Rowe still suffering the effects of his clash of heads at Mansfield a week ago, Joe Kizzi moved in to central defence with Enzio Boldewijn brought in at right back, where he gave another accomplished performance. Craig Eastmond returned in midfield while Lee Angol was named on the bench after recovering from illness. Sutton had the initiative from the start and one typical run from David Ajiboye took him past three defenders before his shot was well saved by Owen Evans.
In an entertaining first half Rose had to keep out a Conor Wilkinson effort at his near post, and home skipper Donervon Daniels saw a shot diverted wide by Kizzi, but the greater fluency came from U's and Evans denied them again with a fine save from Eastmond after the captain had surged past three players before hitting a well struck shot from twenty yards.
While his shot stopping was impressive, Evans looked less happy when the ball came in to his six yard box from set pieces, and escaped with two uncertain punches under pressure. When U's forced another corner, though, as Smith exchanged passes with Omar Bugiel and was denied by a last ditch challenge from Joe Riley, Will Randall sent in another testing delivery from the left and Smith volleyed the ball in at the far post (above).
Daniels then lost possession to Donovan Wilson before recovering to block Wilson's shot, and it was a reflection of the way the first half had dveloped that Walsall made two changes at half time, bringing on Jamille Matt and Liam Gordon, Matt replacing Matt Stevens with whom he had such a prolific partnership at Forest Green last season. Both were immediately involved in a move that saw Gordon's dangerous cross cleared, but Walsall were unable to maintain the momentum and Sutton seemed to have the game under control, with Smith and Sam Hart both trying their luck from distance but sending their shots off target. Rose made a routine save from Hutchinson, and Walsall's one big chance fell to Joss Labadie, whose return to home action after a long injury lay off had seen him booked within two minutes of replacing Daniels, but he shot wide after Matt had headed a cross in to his path.
The fifth minute of stoppage time saw Hutchinson pounce on Rose's error to equalise, but U's even then could have claimed maximum points when an unmarked Angol headed over from Boldewijn's cross seconds before referee Thomas Parsons blew the final whistle.
Sutton: J Rose, J Kizzi, S Hart, C Eastmond, B Goodliffe, D Ajiboye(sub H Beautyman 84), E Boldewijn, A Smith, O Bugiel(sub K Kouassi 70), D Wilson (sub L Angol 70), W Randall. Booked: Bugiel, Kizzi. Subs n/u B House, C Dundas, L Gambin, R Milsom.
Walsall: O Evans, O McEntee(sub L Gordon H-T), J Low, I Hutchinson, D Daniels (sub J Labadie 76), M Monthe, J Riley(sub A Williams 60), L Kinsella, C Wilkinson(sub J Maddox 60), T Knowles, M Stevens(sub J Matt H-T). Subs n/u J Smith, Y Songo'o. Booked: Labadie, Matt
Referee: Thomas Parsons
Attendance: 4,809 (201 away)