Harrogate Town 0 Sutton United 1(Ajiboye 8)
David Ajiboye celebrated his return to the starting line up with the only goal of the game as Sutton moved in to the top half of the League Two table and within three points of the playoffs. Dominant in the first half, and worth more than the winger's 8th minute goal on his 150th Sutton appearance, Sutton had to battle more in the second half after Harrogate manager Simon Weaver responded to his side's first half performance with four half time substitutions, but some solid defending, and one superb save from Jack Rose, ensured that the first half effort didn't go to waste.
Ajiboye's inclusion at the expense of Enzio Boldewijn was the only outfield change from the team beaten at Salford a fortnight ago, and his impact was immediate, as inside the first minute he turned past Matty Foulds and darted in to the penalty area before the defender's challenge dragged him down, only for referee Anthony Backhouse to turn down what looked a cast iron penalty appeal.
It set the tone for the first half though, as Donovan Wilson was denied by a good save from Tom Jameson after being set up by Ali Smith following a throw-in, and only five minutes later another throw from the right again fell to Wilson, and his shot was blocked as far as Ajiboye, who made himself some space and fired a low left foot shot past Jameson from just inside the penalty area.
As Sutton continued to dominate Omar Bugiel had a shot blocked and Smith shot just over, and although Harrogate, briefly gained a foothold, Ben Goodliffe, like Ajiboye making his 150th Sutton appearance, blocking a Toby Sims shot that would probably have been saved comfortably by Rose. Sam Folarin, who had been booked for obstructing a free kick and then received a long lecture from the referee after two more indiscretions, shot wide from a good position, but the half ended with Sutton on top as much as at the start, cutting at will through a home defence that contained three debutants. There should have been more goals as Louis John headed wide from Craig Eastmond's cross and Ajiboye clipped the top of the crossbar from an almost identical position to that from which he had scored.
Outplayed to that stage, Harrogate responded decisively at the interval, making four changes, and were immediately on the attack. One of the half time replacements, Danny Grant, sent an early shot wide and Foulds had a free kick deflected for a corner, and with the crowd getting behind the home team Sutton were for the first time under pressure. Rose had an anxious moment when a shot from another substitute, Matty Daly, slithered under his body but wide of the post, but needed no luck soon afterwards when Daly attacked again before setting up Grant, whose shot deflected off Smith and produced a moment of brilliance from the keeper, who stuck a hand up with enough force to turn the ball over the bar. There was another scare for U's following the corner as Grant went over under a challenge from Dennis, but the referee waved away what, as with the Ajiboye incident in the first minute, looked valid penalty claims.
Sutton had moments of threat in the second half and Lee Angol, who like Matt Dennis was brought on for his Sutton debut, curled a free kick just wide of the near post before seeing a deflected shot loop past Jameson and clip the outside of the post. It was the home side pushing for an equaliser in the closing stages, though, with a cross from Jack Muldoon flashing in front of goal with Luke Armstrong not able to get his head to the ball, and Muldoon also dragging a shot wide when he might have done better, but otherwise Sutton were solid when the ball came in to the penalty area and held on for a valuable three points.
Sutton: J Rose, J Kizzi, R Milsom, C Eastmond(sub H Beautyman 85), B Goodliffe, L John, D Ajiboye(sub E Boldewijn 66), A Smith, O Bugiel (sub L Angol 75), D Wilson(sub M Dennis 66), W Randall. Subs n/u S Hart, L Ward, K Kouassi. Booked: Goodliffe
Harrogate: P Jameson, T Sims(sub K Ramsay H-T) J Mattock(sub M Daly H-T) T Eastman, A O'Connor, W Burrell(sub J Muldoon H-T), G Thomson(sub J Falkingham 66), A Pattison, L Armstrong, S Folarin(sub D Grant H-T), M Foulds. Subs n/u M Oxley, R McArdle. Booked: Folarin
Referee: Anthony Backhouse
Attendance: 2,356(141 away)