North Ferriby United 2-1 Sutton United
While Sutton’s home form in the Vanarama National League stands favourable comparison with most clubs in the competition, the same cannot be said for their achievements far from Gander Green Lane, and the euphoria of the August away win at Lincoln seemed a long way away as U’s suffered an eighth consecutive game without success on the road.
The run of defeats had been ended by draws at Southport and York, but even a point proved elusive at bottom of the table North Ferriby as U’s only started playing once the home side had opened up a two goal lead and manager Paul Doswell had made a triple substitution with more than half an hour to go. After that it was a story of almost incessant Sutton pressure, although they remained vulnerable at the back, but when the final whistle went they only had Max Biamou’s excellent goal fifteen minutes from time to show for their efforts.
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Ryan Burge came in to the vacancy created by Ross Stearn’s departure, while there was a debut for Ben Jefford at left back, but after a brief bright start U’s were as poor in the first half as they have been all season and the Humberside team should have had more than a single goal lead at the break. U’s had a warning when a free kick from skipper Steve Brogan, whose dead-ball delivery was outstanding all afternoon, saw Ben Middleton allowed a free run and an unchallenged header which he sent badly wide, but a minute later there was no reprieve after Roarie Deacon was penalised in an incident where U’s felt the free kick should have gone in their favour. Although the free kick was inside the North Ferriby half it was lofted forward by goalkeeper Rory Watson and this time it was defender Sam Topliss who had the unchallenged header which looped over Ross Worner with the keeper some way off his line.
U’s retaliated as Dan Fitchett cut in from the left and blasted a shot across goal, but they should have been further behind as Kyle Wootton was put through the middle but pulled his shot badly wide as Worner came out. The keeper was then required to go down low to save a shot from the lively Reece Thompson as the home side threatened again, and it was only towards the end of the half that Sutton created any real pressure, Dean Beckwith having a goalbound shot diverted for a corner after Fitchett had knocked the ball down in to his path.
That late pressure had given a hint of something better after the break, but instead U’s had the worst possible start to the second half when, just sixteen seconds after the kick off, Collins found himself in trouble as he tried to let the ball run out for a goal kick rather than play it back to Worner, and his attempted clearance was blocked by the challenging Thompson, who turned back inside and fired low under the helpless keeper. U’s might have replied immediately as Jefford, who had a generally encouraging debut, sent in a fine cross that saw Biamou’s flashing header well saved by Watson, but after Collins had almost been embarrassed again by Thompson, who this time lost his footing trying to go round Worner after dispossessing U’s captain, and Worner had made a good save from Wootton’s header, the management decided that enough was enough and brought on Craig Dundas, Craig McAllister and Chris Dickson.
It suggested all out attack, with Collins also moved in to midfield, and that was how it turned out with Dickson having a particularly eye catching half hour. Kevin Amankwaah headed a deep Deacon free kick back across goal with the ball being scrambled away from under the bar, and U’s were then genuinely unlucky when, in a moment with which Whitehawk would sympathise, Deacon was brought down on the edge of the penalty area after a fine run and, as the ball ran loose, referee Andrew Miller blew for a free kick a split second before Craig Eastmond crashed a superb shot in off the post. Deacon’s free-kick looked for a moment as though it would get the official off the hook, but curled agonisingly wide.
U’s didn’t have to wait long for their goal, though, as an incisive run from Dickson ended with a pass through to Biamou, who held off a defender and shot under Watson in to the net. With fifteen minutes to go and mindful of the last minute equaliser they had conceded at Woking seven days earlier, there was the prospect of an anxious finish to the game for the home side, but there was some superb last ditch defending as several shots were blocked before they could threaten the goal. Watson played his part as well with one good save from a low shot by Collins, whose unhappy afternoon was rounded off with a caution that took him to five and rules him out of Tuesday’s game at Boreham Wood. Dickson hit the post with a low shot that Watson appeared to think was going wide, and blasted another shot wide from a good position after a fine run and cross from Deacon, while several scrambles came to nothing as the home side held out for a valuable win and ensured that another long train trip home for U’s would be one of disappointment.