Sutton United 2 Chelmsford City 0
Sutton duly picked up the points needed to clinch the Vanarama National League South championship in a straightforward manner, extending the unbeaten league run to 25 games and recording a third consecutive home 2-0 win.
For twenty minutes Chelmsford, in reasonable form of their own going in to the game but with little to play for having secured their status for next season, threatened to make life difficult, and Ross Worner was required to show the quality that had seen him presented with the Supporters’ Club Player of the Year award before the game, but even at that stage U’s were playing with confidence and once Dan Fitchett had put the finish to one of several good moves there was only going to be one outcome, and little over an hour later, after a second half which at times had the intensity of a pre-season friendly, Paul Doswell and his players were taking the well-deserved acclaim of their supporters and receiving the championship trophy.
From the start there was the flow to U’s game that has made so many of this season’s games a pleasure to watch, but they were unable to turn that in to clear chances in the first twenty minutes, Dan Wishart coming closest with a run and shot in to the side netting, and it was at the other end that the closest moments came, notably when Reece Prestedge met a half-cleared throw-in on the edge of the penalty area with a crisp half-volley which was well saved by Worner.
U’s keeper also had to deal with a long range effort from Billy Bricknell, but midway through the half a good move from right to left saw Ross Stearn cut in and send in a cross which was nodded comfortably in by Fitchett.
The goal removed most of the lingering doubts over whether U’s would get across the line in front of their own fans, and seven minutes before half time it was just about beyond question as Tom Bolarinwa’s low cross evaded Craig Eastmond but ran through to Stearn, who had one shot blocked but volleyed the rebound powerfully past Christian Dibble.
The celebrations after the goal were those of a team who knew the job was done, but within a minute they might have had a third when Dibble fumbled a low Bolarinwa shot but Stearn found the angle too tight to turn in the rebound.
The early stages of the second half suggested that U’s wanted to turn on the style. Eastmond surged through before finding Stearn, whose curling effort was pushed away by Dibble, and then after a good advantage from referee Colin Lymer, Fitchett set Eastmond up for a shot which arrowed in to the top corner of the net only for an offside flag to cut short the celebrations.
The intensity wasn’t maintained, though, and much of the second half drifted to its inevitabe conclusion. Simon Downer’s appearance at centre forward for the last eight minutes rather summed up the mood, whereas the challenge on Dean Beckwith which earned Jason Williams a booking and in other circumstances might have brought heavier punishment was completely out of keeping with the rest of the action.
It was largely a question of playing out time and waiting for the referee’s whistle, but it was the quality of the football played in the previous four months which was really significant, and having outplayed each of their two nearest rivals in the last three weeks there could be little doubt that U’s deserved all the acclaim they received as the celebrations lasted long in to the evening.
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