Sutton United 2-1 Cheltenham Town
Those who thought that Roarie Deacon’s dramatic last minute winner against Forest Green in the 4th qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup was likely to be the moment of the season at Gander Green Lane this season were forced to reconsider as Deacon struck again five minutes in to stoppage time to earn U’s the coveted place in the 3rd round draw alongside the household names of English football. It rewarded a superb second half performance from a Sutton side whose first half showing had been as deflating as the second half was inspiring, and also rewarded Deacon’s persistence after three earlier chances had gone begging.
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At half time such a tumultuous finale seemed some way away as Cheltenham, only fifteen places above Sutton in the league standings, were able to impose themselves on the game as U’s produced a surprisingly flat 45 minutes. Max Biamou was the one player anywhere close to his nornal standard, giving the Cheltenham defence an uncomfortable time, but with Matt Tubbs feeling his way in to his Sutton career and Deacon unable to get any impetus to run at his opponents U’s were unable to create anything of note. Cheltenham were often first to the ball, and an early scare cae when Ross Worner misjudged a long ball down the left that he thought was coming in to the penalty area, allowing Danny Wright to go round him but fortunately for U’s keeper the striker was not able to take advantage.
The height of Daniel O’Shaughnessy and Rob Dickie proved a threat at set pieces, as did their prodigious long throws, and Dickie thought he had put Cheltenham ahead with a looping header from a corner that was destined for the net until Dan Spence produced a superb goal-line clearance. Worner made a good save to his left from James Dayton’s low shot, but U’s were unable to each the interval intact as a free kick from Dayton on the right, swung in low to the near post, was hooked in by Wright.
The Sutton management team got to work at half time, and the result was instant. Little more than thirty seconds after the restart Bedsente Gomis’s cross was cleared as far as Nicky Bailey, whose chip in to the area was nodded down by Biamou to give Tubbs the sort of chance on which he thrives, and he made no mistake. The goal set Sutton up for a second half in which they were unrecognisable from the timidity of the first half. Deacon started to pose a real threat, curling a shot just wide, but should have scored when a powerful run by Craig Eastmond ended with a pass that put Deacon clear, but he shot against the legs of keeper Russell Griffiths. Moments later he went close again with a snap volley just over after Jamie Collins, along with Kevin Amankwaah making his 100th appearance for U’s, had flicked on a throw-in.
The game then threatened to swing back to its first half pattern as Cheltenham finished stronger. Dickie looped another towering header against the crossbar, and the closing stages saw all the anxiety in the Sutton defence. Bailey was booked for a foul on the edge of the penalty area, Harry Pell’s free kick being blocked, and Spence then happily took a yellow card for hauling back Dayton. By now the game was well in to the six minutes which, to general and audible incredulity, had been signalled as added time, and the replacement of Tubbs with Adam May underlined U’s priorities at this stage, which were to get to Whaddon Road next week. Dayton’s free kick went straight in to Worner’s hands, and moments later Bailey had seized on a loose ball midway inside the Cheltenham half and found Deacon on the right, and he attacked the penalty area before driving a low shot beyond Griffiths in to the far corner. Gleeful pandemonium ensued, and Cheltenham had no time to respond, straying offside on one last, desperate attack.