After the disappointment in the result, if not necessarily a lot of the peformance, at Chester, there was no better way for Sutton to bounce back than with a victory against one of the early pacesettrs in the Vanarama National League, and they achived this on Monday with a performance of fluency in the first half, and battling spirit and character as the game went on and Dagenham & Redbridge pressed for an equaliser. Even after going down to ten men for the last ten minutes when Simon Downer was sent off for a foul on substitute Paul Benson, U’s had enough to protect their lead in a tense finish and end Dagenham’s four match winning run.
Dagenham’s best chance came early in the second half when a corner was cleared as far as Frankie Raymond, who drove the ball back in to the penalty area. It fell for Hawkins twelve yards out, but having scored a hat-trick in Saturday’s defeat of Wrexham his finishing deserted him as he blazed a shot high and wide.
Although the visitors were enjoying more of the game, U’s still had chances to double their lead, with Burge just failing to make decent contact with a header from a Stearn cross, and then shooting tamely at Justham after the ball fell to him inside the penalty area. Craig Eastmond also sent a low shot wide from twenty yards, but as the half went on U’s found themselves more on the defensive. Eleven minutes from time they conceded a free kick just over 25 yards out, and Maguire-Drew’s superb effort looked to be heading for the top corner until Worner flew across to turn the effort over the bar.
There was a heart-stopping moment for Collins, who slipped under pressure from Maguire-Drew but managed to stick out a foot while on the ground to knock the ball away from the Dagenham player, and with five minutes to go Downer’s tired hack at Benson left U’s to play the closing stages, including five minutes of stoppage time, with ten men, but they were determined to hold on and Dagenham were unable to find a way through to rescue the game.
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