Salford City 2(McAleny 9, 45+1) Sutton United 0
Sutton fell to a first defeat in five league games at a blustery Peninsula Stadium, unable to repair the damage of conceding two goals when playing in to the elements despite dominating the second half, and wasting the best chance of setting up a grandstand finish when Rob Milsom's penalty was saved twenty minutes from time.
On a pitch that only just passed referee Lee Swabey's inspections, a patch near the centre circle causing particular concern, U's would have been pleased with a first half that saw them concede early to Conor McAleny, and seemed set to reach the interval only one down and with the benefit of the elements to come when McAleny's second in first half stoppage time, the softest of goals, dealt a major blow to U's hopes.
With Jack Rose injured, Lewis Ward took over in goal with the recalled Brad House on the bench, and Ward was in early action, beating away Ethan Galbraith's shot at the near post. However he was helpless moments later as McAleny showed good skill to turn past Louis John and angled a fierce low shot in to the far corner of the net. John was in the thick of it again after twenty minutes, superbly turning Galbraith's cross away from Matt Smith and then throwing himself in the way of Ryan Watson's shot as the ball ran loose.
Playing in to a strong wind, U's occasionally threatened in the first half, Ali Smith and Donovan Wilson both firing in crosses that were cleared with difficulty, but with the half time whistle imminent Luke Bolton beat two defernders on the right and sent over a high cross from the by-line that came out from a combination of Ward and the crossbar, with McAleny hammering the loose ball in to the net.
As well as the wind, Sutton had torrential rain behind them after the break, and Enzio Boldewijn saw one low cross scrambled away at the near post.U's had enough of the ball to make Ward little more than a spectator for much of the half, but the final pass in to the penalty area was often disappointing and with a quarter of the game to go there was a double change as David Ajiboye and Tope Fadahunsi replaced Boldewijn and Wilson. The impact was almost immediate as Fadahunsi was wrestled to the ground by Theo Vassell as the ball was lofted in to the home penalty area, and the referee pointed to the spot. Milsom's penalty was hit low, but once Ashley Cairns had guessed correctly he made a comfortable save.
Soon afterwards Ajiboye darted between two defenders and was fouled by Callum Morton on the right edge of the penalty area, and Milsom almost atoned for his penalty failure with a free kick that Cairns had to turn away at his near post. Ben Goodliffe also had a chance, failing to make sufficient contact when a corner fell to him in the penalty area, and Cairns completed a hat trick of saves from Milsom, again from a free kick when Smith had been fouled, to ensure that U's record of never having scored at Salford would continue and that the home side would complete a league double.
Sutton: L Ward, J Kizzi (sub K Kouassi 90+3), R Milsom, C Eastmond, B Goodliffe, L John, E Boldewijn(sub D Ajiboye 66), A Smith(sub H Beautyman 85), O Bugiel, D Wilson(sub T Fadahunsi 66), W Randall(sub J Neufville 85) Subs n/u B House, S Hart. Booked: Eastmond, Bugiel
Salford: A Cairns, L Bolton, I Touray, J Lowe(sub C Morton 71), T Vassell, E Watt, R Watson, E Galbraith, M Smith, C McAleny(sub C Hendry 80), R Leak. Subs n/u J Torrance, A Eastham, O Bailey, L Tolaj, K Berkoe Booked: Smith, Leak, Touray
Referee: Lee Swabey
Attendance: 2,228(120 away)