Sutton built on their Tuesday night win at Tonbridge with a second win on the road on Saturday as they ended Basingstoke’s 100% record with a battling performance at The Camrose. The home side went in to the game with confidence after wins at Eastleigh and at home to Weston-super-Mare, but they found themselves frustrated by a strong defensive performance and an outstanding display from Kevin Scriven, while U’s always threatened on the counter attack, Leroy Griffiths again working tirelessly in a lone striking role supported well from midfield and the flanks.
It was a fiercely contested game, threatening briefly to boil over after a first half fracas which saw two players from each side booked, and the outcome hinged on a two minute spell just before half time which saw Scriven save a Tim Sills penalty and make a fine close range save from David Pratt, either side of Sam Page giving U’s the lead with a crunching header. Although Basingstoke had a slight territorial advantage early on it was U’s who looked likelier to score, with Ashley Bayes down well to save from Tony Taggart’s low 20-yard shot, with the Sutton back line standing up well to the home side’s efforts.
Just before the half hour mark the game erupted following a clash between Sills and Karl Murray that saw the Sutton midfielder end up on the floor, and when the ensuing fracas had subsided both players were booked, along with Karim El-Salahi and home midfielder Shaun McAuley, and five minutes later referee Ian Cooper was reaching for his cards again, and Delano Sam-Yorke might have been relieved it was only a yellow after he followed through on Scriven with his arm raised after the keeper had come outside his penalty area to clear. U’s created another good opening on the break, Taggart miscuing a volley over the bar from a Griffiths cross, but just before half time it seemed that Basingstoke would strike first when McAuley tried to battle his way through after a scramble on the edge of the penalty area and was brought down by El-Salahi. Sills’ penalty was well placed low to Scriven’s left but lacked power, and the keeper was down to push it away. From the resulting corner Scriven held a header from Ross Adams, and U’s then launched an attack of their own that ended with Fola Orilonishe being obstructed by a combination of Wes Daly and Rob Rice. Taggart swung the free kick in to the far post where Page outjumped Jay Gasson and powered a header between Bayes and the post. Even then Basingstoke might have been level at the break, as a cross from the left fell to Pratt twelve yards out, but Scriven managed to get himself in the way of a powerful volley and hold on.
Scriven made another good save soon after half time, beating a shot away after McAuley, the most eye-catching of the home team attack, had run from deep, but the best chance to change the score came at the other end when Taggart did well on the right before crossing low to Anthony Riviere, who scuffed his shot against the post. As the half wore on Basingstoke saw more of the ball and began to push U’s back, but the arrival of Craig Dundas added a greater physical presence to the Sutton midfield and the defending remained solid, the one scare coming when Sam-Yorke volleyed over after a throw-in.
With just under twenty minutes to go Chris Piper was brought on for his Sutton debut and his first touch showed considerable class, a well disguised pass to Taggart on the right. His second, though, a few minutes later, had real impact as he joined a counter attack to receive a pass in from Griffiths on the right, and having for a moment looked as though he might to re-open the fastest debut goal conversation, he instead rolled the ball square in to the path of Dundas, who guided a shot low in to the corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
It put the game beyond Basingstoke, and there might have been a third had Taggart shot rather than try and turn a Griffiths cross back across goal, but the home side kept going and U’s had the late irritants of a booking for Scriven for what Mr Cooper perceived as time-wasting, and, after Riviere had cleared off the line from Jide Ogunbote in one goalmouth scramble, Sam-Yorke prodding Little’s header over the line after another melee for a last minute consolation goal but it failed to deny U’s a battling win.
Sutton: K Scriven, J Conroy (sub C Piper 71), A Bray, K Murray, K El-Salahi, S Page, A Riviere, F Orilonishe, L Griffiths, H Beautyman (sub C Dundas 58), T Taggart (sub C Watkins 81). Subs n/u R McCrae, W Shaw. Goals: Page (45), Dundas(76). Booked: Murray (28-unsporting behaviour), El-Salahi (28-unsporting behaviour), Bray(70-foul), Scriven(88-time wasting).
Basingstoke: A Bayes, R Rice, T Little, R Adams, J Gasson, S Lake, W Daly(sub J Ogunbote 81), S McAuley(sub M Warner 71), T Sills (sub R Gradwell 63), D Sam-Yorke, D Pratt. Subs n/u R Gradwell, C Morris. Goal: Sam-Yorke 90. Booked: McAuley(28-unsporting behaviour), Sills (28-unsporting behaviour), Sam-Yorke (32-foul), Daly(60-foul).
At 5.00 last Saturday I’d definitely have taken being on six points after three games! It was a different type of performance at Basingstoke but I’m very pleased once again with the lads. We were against a side who’d had a particularly good start to the season. They play at a high tempo and the way they play puts you under pressure, they get the ball forward early to Tim Sills but tactically again I thought we got it right today. We held a deeper line than we usually hold, we thought they’d always be looking for the second ball and the knock downs, and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t allow them to get in behind, so the plan was to sit a bit deeper and catch them on the break which is pretty much what we did.
I haven’t said a great deal about it, but I think we’ve been unlucky injury wise so far. We lost Tommy Kavanagh from today’s team after he got injured at Tonbridge, and to lose him and Simon Downer already, and to have had Craig Dundas ill, is difficult when you’ve only got a small squad, but credit to the players – there were one or two who maybe shouldn’t have played today. Alan Bray has had a chest infection and Kes has had a bad knee, but they’re a credit to the club and showed great character today to defend against what was at times a quite serious aerial assault.
Alan had mentioned to me earlier in the first half that he thought the officials were leaning towards giving them something, and I thought it was a harsh penalty, but Kevin saved it and we went up the other end and it was a good header from Sam that put us in front. We’d worked on that in training, trying to get him away at the far post, so that was pleasing, and then I thought our second goal was a terrific goal. We sucked up their pressure, and then Leroy played it in to Chris Piper, there was a lovely pass from him to Craig, and he put his normal scuffed shot past the keeper. Anthony Riviere should have scored earlier in the second half, and Tony Taggart had a great chance as well in front of the keeper, so we’ve come away from home, created some excellent chances and taken two of them, while our keeper’s had to make two or three saves and we’ve had to deal with a lot of pressure, but I’d suggest that’s a fantastic away performance in what’s going to be a difficult league.
I said last season that Kevin was the best keeper in the Ryman League when we were in it and I think he’ll be one of the best in Conference South. He’s growing with stature every season, and the thing that surprises me is that no-one from a higher level has come in to buy him, because he could definitely play at a higher level. He’s still very young for a goalkeeper, but he’s my travel partner so I’d better not say too much in case his head can’t get through the car door.
Chris Piper has come in for a month initially. We don’t want to hold back Harry Beautyman or Romone McCrae, but we’ve got a large number of games in a small space of time. We didn’t know the Tom Davis situation would be occurring until after last weekend, so we’ve had to move quickly this week. Chris and I have been speaking during the summer but we hadn’t really made a move. He had other issues to deal with as well, but I think it’s dovetailed quite well with the Tom Davis situation. It wasn’t something we were looking to do, and he needs to get match fit and sharper, but he is another body at the moment and we do need bodies.
Harry came in and hasn’t really played a game yet, so he had a brilliant 70 minutes against Tonbridge and another energetic hour today, and we’ve got another game on Tuesday so you’ve got to weigh all these things up, and I also felt we needed a bit more of a physical presence because I thought Basingstoke were starting to get on top of us, so it was good to bring Craig on for half an hour. He gives you everything and it worked out well. Jay Conroy took a knock on his ankle so Karl Murray went to right back and has done a fantastic job.
I think we’ve shown in the last two games that the performance against Woking was hopefully a blip, but every game in this league is going to be a hard game, and unfortunately I think we’re going to have to go in the dressing room now and count how many players we’ve got for the Staines game, because I think we’ve got a few who are struggling, so I think it’s going to take 48 hours to sort out what team we’re going to be able to put out.
I’m desperately sorry for Staines as a club with Alan Boon passing away. He was a lovely man and the driving force behind the club. I’ve got a lot of affinity with Staines because they’re the blueprint we’ve used for us after they beat us in the play-offs a couple of seasons ago, and I’ve got a lot of time for them. They’ve got a good manager in Steve Cordery and a good coach in Craig Maskell, and they’ll come to win the game, so I think Tuesday will be a really good game.''