There was a familiar feeling for Sutton fans travelling back from Braintree on Tuesday after a game that followed the pattern of so many of Sutton's away games this season, with a performance that was worthy of some reward but which got none due to U's failure to take their chances, particularly in the second half when they kept the home side on the defensive for much of the 45 minutes. Home goalkeeper Sam Beasant played his part with a string of good saves, but both Dan Fitchett and Craig McAllister will have felt that he shouldn't have been given a chance when they were through in the second half, and when U's did beat Beasant, they were frustrated by the woodwork as Matt Tubbs saw his late shot hit the post. The result was that the decisive goal came from one of the National League's outstanding strikers in the past couple of months, Michael Cheek's excellent finish his 12th goal in 17 league and cup games.
There was little between the sides early on, with the main threat coming from two Braintree free kicks, one of which was allowed to pass in front of goal when it seemed that centre back Manny Parry had a free header, and the second glanced wide by Jack Midson. With U's resting several players for whom a booking would have meant suspension for the Wimbledon replay next week they took a while to gain a foothold in the game, but almost went in front when Jeffrey Monakana, starting for the first time, chipped a cross to the far post where the unmarked Max Biamou headed over when he should have hit the target. Soon afterwards Fitchett burst clear with Deacon in support and the Braintree defence outnumbered, but while Fitchett did well to see Monakana joining the attack on the right, his pass was overhit and Beasant was able to come off his line to clear, and then regain his position to save when Biamou hammered the loose ball back low from twenty yards.
Having enjoyed their best spell of the game, though, U's were behind when Kris Twardek, impressive in his second game on loan from Millwall, and Chez Isaac combined to deliver a cross low in to the Sutton penalty area fom the left, and Cheek did well to get the ball from under his feet before slotting his right foot shot just inside Ross Worner's left hand post giving the keeper no chance.
Sutton came close again just before half time when a Roarie Deacon corner bounced around the six yard box with several shots blocked, and they came out on the front foot after the break. Beasant made a good early save from Deacon's low shot on the turn in a crowded penalty area, and Deacon then released Fitchett on the right with a well timed pass that left the striker with just Beasant to beat, but as Fitchett opted to shoot early rather than go round the keeper Beasant was able to get enough of a hand on the ball to take the power off it and allow a defender to clear. Biamou, an increasing threat until replaced twenty minutes from time, fired one shot low across goal as U's continued to press for the equaliser, but the best chance fell to McAllister as a Braintree clearance was returned in to his path on the left of the penalty area. Again only Beasant stood in the way, and again the keeper came out on top, blocking a disappointing shot with his legs.
Substitute Adam May also drew a save from the keeper with a well struck low shot from outside the penalty area, but after Biamou's departure U's didn't have quite the same menace around the penalty area. Braintree, whose only clear chance of the second half had seen Parry again escape the U's defence but head over from a free kick, looked more of a threat on the break and it took a well judged challenge from Dean Beckwith to deny Cheek the chance of a second, but with Sutton piling forward the late chance of what would have been a deserved point fell to Tubbs, whose shot across Beasant rebounded off the inside of the post and back behind the keeper but in front of the line before being cleared.
Braintree: S Beasant, S Clohessy, J Okimo, S Corne(sub H Lee 74), I Gayle(sub J Goodman 66), M Parry, J Midson, C Isaac, L Barnard(sub K Farrell 90+2), M Cheek, K Twardek. Subs n/u J Maybanks, A Henshall. Booked: Barnard.