Sutton United 0 Grimsby Town 1 (Efete 34)
Sutton suffered a first defeat in ten games against a Grimsby side who showed no signs of having one eye on this week's FA Cup quarter final against Brighton, starting the game brightly and comfortably defending Michee Efete's 34th minute goal against a U's side that endured a rare collective off night, but who remain within a point of the play-offs, although having played more games than all the sides above them.
It was U's 37th league game of the season, the point after which the two game ban for accumulating ten cautions stops being applied, and as a result Craig Eastmond, one short of that number, was on the substitutes' bench while Omar Bugiel failed a late fitness test, so Harry Beautyman returned in midfield as captain and Matt Dennis partnered Lee Angol up front. Rob Milsom was preferred to Sam Hart and found the lively Efete a tough opponent, picking up an early booking when Efete's pace lured him in to a mistimed tackle.
By then Grimsby might have already been ahead, Kieran Green sending a shot curling just away from the far post inside the first five minutes, and then Ryan Taylor turning to create space for a shot but sending his effort high and wide. The visitors had started much the brighter, but as the half wore on it was looking as though Sutton might have survived the early pressure as U's created some openings, but Ali Smith was off target from twenty yards and Beautyman failed to keep a volley down after David Ajiboye's cross had evaded Angol, whose presence might have unsighted Beautyman. However from the resulting goal kick Grimsby scored the goal they had threatened as Taylor outjumped Coby Rowe to flick the ball on and George Lloyd sent Efete clear to slot the ball past the advancing Jack Rose.
Although Milsom was just too high with an inswinging free kick it was tough going for U's against a solid Grimsby defence that lost little in the air, and Sutton's best moment of the game came ten minutes after half time when Dennis collected a Milsom throw and cut in past two defenders before sending in a shot that Max Crocombe diverted away with his foot at the near post.
That was the goalkeeper's only serious action other than to collect harmless crosses, as U's attempts floundered on Grimsby's central defensive trio, and when several set pieces offered a way back in to the game they were squandered with either fouls or by players running offside. On the one occasion Ajiboye looked as though he might be able to launch a swift counter attack a cynical trip from Harry Clifton, for which a booking was happily accepted, ended the danger before he had even reached the halfway line.
Grimsby came close to a second when Green met a Danny Amos corner with a header which was only just wide, but apart from one moment when substitute Donovan Wilson found a bit of space but could only head weakly in to Crocombe's arms they rarely looked likely to need more than the one goal to claim the victory.
Sutton: J Rose, J Kizzi, R Milsom, C Rowe, B Goodliffe, D Ajiboye, M Dennis(sub E Boldewijn 75), A Smith, L Angol(sub K Kouassi 67), H Beautyman, W Randall(sub D Wilson 74) Subs n/u B House, C Dundas, S Hart, C Eastmond. Booked: Milsom, Beautyman, Rowe, Kizzi
Grimsby: M Crocombe, M Efete, D Amos, (sub J Emmanuel 90+1), K Green,(sub G Holohan 74) Smith, L Waterfall, B Morris, R Taylor, G Lloyd, H Clifton, N Maher. Subs n/u J McAtee, O Khan, M O'Neill, D Orsi, E Khouri. Booked: Amos, Clifton
Referee: Andy Davies
Attendance: 2,751(273 away)
Sutton's players wore T-shirts in their pre-match warm up supporting the Unite for Access campaign being run by Level Playing Field, which has seen EFL clubs nominate a game over the past two weeks to highlight and celebrate accessibility and inclusion for disabled sports fans, and which we were proud to support on Tuesday night.
Level Playing Field is the leading charity advocating for disabled sports fans in England and Wales, and if you want to know more about their work please visit www.levelplayingfield.org.uk.
You can also find them on social media by searching Level Playing Field.