Sutton United 0 0 Barrow
It may have ended without goals, but there were few people complaining at Gander Green Lane on Saturday after a hard-fought battle between two well-matched sides, and an outcome which reflected great credit on Sutton given Barrow’s unbeaten run stretching back to the middle of August.
Either side might have won, Sutton having the edge in the first half and Barrow in the second, and both came very close to scoring, but with both managers delighted with the clean sheet there was a general acceptance that a draw was a fair result.
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U’s were further handicapped by injuries to Max Biamou, whose power might have been useful against a big and strong defence, and the influential Nicky Bailey, but still gave a fine account of themselves against a powerful side who are widely expected to be challenging for honours at the end of the season, but who might have been behind in the first five minutes had Euan Murray not done well to block a shot from Bedsente Gomis after the midfielder had cut in from the right of the penalty area, and if referee Neil Hair had taken a different view of a challenge on Craig McAllister by Nick Anderton as a cross came in from the left that anywhere else on the pitch would probably have seen a free kick awarded.
After those early moments the game developed in to a tight affair with little to trouble either goalkeeper for the next twenty minutes as both defences established a measure of superiority, but just before the half hour Ross Stearn worked a short corner with Roarie Deacon and cut in before firing a low shot which rebounded back off the post, and as Barrow countered from the rebound Simon Downer was booked for a late challenge on Jordan Williams 25 yards out. Liam Hughes sent the free kick arrowing towards the top corner but Ross Worner was equal to the effort and turned it away for a corner. As the game opened up Stearn, a persistent threat to the visitors’ defence, attacked down the right and cracked a shot just over the bar, and then chipped in a clever cross after another good run that fell eventually to Deacon, who was denied as captain Danny Livesey bravely threw himself in the way of the shot. Soon afterwards Stearn was causing trouble again and was this time brought down by Williams, who had been booked moments earlier and might have received a second yellow card, but escaped with a final warning on which Livesey was included. The free kick fell to Craig Eastmond but his shot through a crowd of players was saved by Joel Dixon.
For all the chances they created in the later stages of the first half U’s still needed two good pieces of defending to avoid going in at the break behind, firstly when Deacon took the ball off the feet of Hughes just as the midfielder was about to shoot from just inside the penalty area with only Worner to beat, and then when Livesey headed Williams’ deep free kick back across goal Ross Hannah seemed certain to score but saw his close range volley blocked on the goal-line by Dean Beckwith.
The second half was equally tight, with Stearn again going close in similar circumstances to the first half as he cut in and hit a low shot that was this time diverted wide at the near post by Dixon, but Hannah then escaping the attentions of Beckwith to burst in to the penalty area from the left but see Worner beating his shot away. With the height available to them Barrow were always a threat from set pieces, and when Sutton struggled to clear both Anderton and substitute Richard Bennett might have been disappointed not to hit the target when the ball landed at their feet.
Anderton hit a much better effort seven minutes from time which required another good save from Worner, but as in the first half it was far from one-way traffic and Deacon shot straight at Dixon after one good run, before in the last five minutes Deacon and substitute Ryan Burge had shots blocked in a crowded goalmouth, and Burge just failed to reach a pass from Craig Dundas, also on a substitute, after a mistake by Murray had allowed Deacon one more run at the defence.
Barrow: J Dixon, E Murray, N Anderton, R Yates, D Livesey, M Diarra, L Hughes, A-R Harvey, B Harrison, R Hannah(sub R Bennett 67), J Williams. Subs n/u A Haworth, L Meikle, A Wright, M Anderson. Booked: Hughes, Williams.