Sutton United 2 (Beautyman 44,53) Barrow 2 (Whitfield 36, Canavan 74)
Steve Morison's first game in charge of Sutton ended in a hard-fought 2-2 draw with in-form promotion pushing Barrow. A brace from Harry Beautyman ensured the points were shared at the VBS as, despite Barrow dominating much of the first half, Sutton responded with an emphatic display that, at one point, looked as though it would be enough to secure the victory.
There were four changes from last week’s third round FA Cup loss to Plymouth. Craig Eastmond returned to first-team action, following three months out with injury, while Christian N’Guessan joined him in the midfield. The pair replaced Craig Clay and Dominic Gape, the latter having departed the club. in the week. Omari Patrick came in for Josh Coley on the flank, while Aiden O'Brien joined Patrick and Beautyman behind Lee Angol in a 4-2-3-1 set up.
A fairly quiet opening 40 minutes for the U’s saw the majority of chances fall to Pete Wild’s Barrow side. The first real opportunity for the visitors fell to Rory Feeley after a Jamie Proctor ball out wide found the Irishmen before he volleyed it towards goal, but it was well caught by a diving Bouzanis. A few minutes later, Barrow broke at pace on the counter catching Sutton off guard. Sam Foley played the ball through to Newby, arriving on the left, who drove into the box but shot wide of the near post.
Another chance went begging for Barrow, with Dean Campbell’s free kick being met by the head of Feeley at the far post but directed straight into the hands of Bouzanis. Sutton remained resilient and were winning the ball high up the pitch; however, they were yet to make things click in the forward areas. Ben Whitfield had the ball in the net for the visitors although the offside flag had gone up.
As the half progressed, U's were gradually getting settled into the game, with Patrick delivering a dangerous cross looking for Angol, who had made a late run, yet it was safely gathered by Barrow goalkeeper Paul Farman. Moments later, on the half hour, Patrick used his quick feet to break away from the Barrow defenders and square the ball to Beautyman, who found N’Guessan on the edge of the box, but his shot was blocked for a corner. From the resulting corner, Beautyman’s inswinger was met by Omar Sowunmi at the far post but the ball went wide of the post.
Despite Sutton’s best efforts, Barrow broke the deadlock nine minutes before half time. Jamie Proctor kneed the ball back to the dangerous Newby from a throw-in, and the winger drove into the box before cutting back a cross that was turned in by Whitfield.
However, it didn’t take Sutton long to respond, and just before half time, Beautyman levelled the game. Dean Bouzanis’ free kick was headed on by Joe Kizzi to the feet of O’Brien, who helped it on to Beautyman, and he fashioned the ball onto his left foot to finish superbly, driving the ball low into the bottom corner and ensuring Steve Morison’s men could finish the half in good heart.
There was one change for the U’s going into the second half: Craig Eastmond gave way for Charlie Lakin, signed on loan from Burton earlier in the week, to make his debut at the VBS. It was a brilliant start to the half by Sutton, with Beautyman coming close early on after a Lakin cross was controlled wonderfully by Angol, and following a bit of pinball in the penalty area, the ball bounced out to Beautyman, whose first-time effort sailed over the bar.
Sutton continued to pile the pressure on Barrow, forcing the Bluebirds deeper into their own half. Very much on the front foot, and with the crowd behind them, Sutton were pushing to take the lead. Charlie Lakin had his effort blocked after a searching cross by Patrick was cleared by the Barrow backline. Jackson looked lively on the left-hand side and had the visitors scrambling to prevent his deliveries from reaching the box.
Eventually, Sutton’s emphatic start to the second half was rewarded when Harry Beautyman headed in a Joe Kizzi cross from close range after Kizzi's throw-in had been returned to him, Farman unable to prevent Beautyman's header crossing the line before Angol dived in to make sure. Sutton nearly had a third when Omari Patrick produced a perfect cross that went straight across goal, with O’Brien scrambling but failing to get on the end of it, and Lakin, impressing on his debut, cut a pass back for Beautyman, who had his shot blocked.
Substitute Emile Acquah rattling the bar with a ferocious volley from Whitfield's long pass was a warning call for Sutton that Barrow were not out of this just yet, and seventeen minutes from time, with U's appealing for a foul on Angol in the build-up Barrow won a corner and a frantic scramble in the six yard box ended with Niall Canavan forcing the ball over the line.
The closing stages saw both sides searching for the winner. A lofted ball in behind found substitute Tope Fadahunsi, who attempted to find Beautyman, but Farman cut out the low cross. At the other end, Telford laid the ball off to Newby on the left, who had his cross headed away. Moments later, Telford continued to be a threat, striking from range, but it was blocked, and Bouzanis gathered.
With five minutes of additional time, Sutton pressed forward and looked the more likely of the two sides to get a late goal and claim all three points. Ryan Jackson's long throws caused Barrow a few problems in added time. Charlie Lakin had another attempt at goal from a similar position to his first, on the edge of the box, but sent it straight at the keeper. The momentum was with Sutton, Lee Angol cutting inside and seeing his low-driven attempt at goal pushed away by Farman just out of the reach of Beautyman, but when the resulting corner was cleared referee Paul Howard blew the final whistle and the points were shared between the teams, with U's moving off the bottom of the table, overtaking Forest Green, who lost 2-0 to Harrogate, and Barrow remaining fourth.
Sutton: D Bouzanis, J Kizzi, R Jackson, O Sowunmi, B Goodliffe, C Eastmond (sub C Lakin H-T) A O'Brien (sub T Fadahunsi 80), C N'Guessan, L Angol, H Beautyman, O Patrick(sub R Milsom 80). Subs n/u S Arnold, L John, J Coley, C Clay Booked: Beautyman
Barrow: P Farman, J Chester (sub D Telford 70), S Foley (sub R Gotts 59), D Campbell(sub T White 82), G Ray, N Canavan, R Feeley, K Spence, J Proctor(sub E Acquah 58), B Whitfield, E Newby. Subs n/u J Lillis, M Ogungbo, G Garner. Booked: Whitfield
Referee: Paul Howard
Attendance: 2,940(220 away)