It took another two hours of tension and excitement on Tuesday, but Sutton finally prevailed over the challenge of a Leatherhead side that would not accept defeat to claim a place in the first round of the FA Cup for the third time in four years under Paul Doswellís management. Having obeyed one of the classic rules of such a game by scoring early, Uís found themselves pegged back near half time just at a moment when they appeared to be gaining the upper hand, and then having gone ahead again with twelve minutes left they were forced in to extra time by a Tommy Hutchings goal in the second of four minutes added on at the end of normal time by referee David Rock. Uís then played a trump card, bringing on Fola Orilonishe before the start of the extra half hour, and he struck within seven minutes to give them an advantage that this time they held, although predictably Leatherhead, who again left their Ryman League form in the changing room to contribute to a thrilling evening, wouldnít go without a fight and Kevin Scriven made one outstanding save deep in to the second period of extra time to deny Greg Andrews a second goal against his former club.
Uís could not have asked for a better start to dampen the enthusiasm of the home team and supporters, as they scored with just 97 seconds on the clock. Harry Beautyman and Leroy Griffiths combined to find Paul Telfer, reverting to left back to accommodate the return of Chris Piper, and Telferís cross was met by a fine downward header from Craig Watkins in to the corner of the net. The goal failed to have the desired effect, though, and if anything it was Leatherhead who had the better of the first twenty minutes, Tommy Hutchings testing Scriven with one low free kick. They couldnít force an equaliser, though, and Uís began to gain a measure of control and should have doubled the lead on the half hour when Tony Taggart, allowed to go on to his right foot by his marker, sent in a superb cross which Griffiths met at the far post with a volley that hit the outside of the post. Under little pressure, Griffiths should really have scored, and a second goal might have dealt a blow to Leatherheadís spirit, but as it was, seven minutes later, and against the run of play, Kev Terry got the benefit of a marginal offside call to go clear on the right. As he tried to go round Scriven he went over under the keeperís challenge and Mr Rock pointed to the spot. The home supporters howled for a red card, but Scriven was probably saved by the narrow angle that Terry would have had to negotiate had he stayed on his feet, even if he had no chance with Andrewsí confidently converted penalty, hit high to Scrivenís left as he went to his right.
Until half time the home team had the taste for more, and Scriven had to go full stretch to turn away a shot from Hutchings, but Uís reached the interval level and went on to have the better of a second half in which the excitement and entertainment levels dropped as the tension grew and players of both teams had problems with a surface made increasingly slippery by the autumnal dew. Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested, but Uís had more of the ball and the feeling was that it needed one moment of inspiration to be decisive. Beautyman almost provided it with fifteen minutes left, a slaloming run ended right on the edge of the area by a foul that brought Dan Dean a booking, but it was too close for Tommy Kavanagh, who couldnít get his free kick up and down in time. Three minutes later, though, Griffiths pulled a low cross in from the left that should have been cut out but skidded through as far as Watkins, whose low shot on the turn was only half stopped by Chico Ramos, and crossed the line before the keeper could claw it back.
If Uís thought that would be the decisive blow they soon knew better as Terry blasted a 25-yard shot in to the side netting, but Craig Dundas also hit the side netting at the other end from an angle and Uís were within minutes of victory when they self-destructed. Piper was booked for time-wasting at a free kick, substitute goalkeeper Wayne Shaw was sent from the bench for a comment made to the officials, and Simon Downer then sent the free kick harmlessly in to the arms of Ramos. One huge clearance downfield later Uís were in trouble as Telferís attempted headed clearance fell only to Jack McLeod. He turned the ball inside to Hutchings, and the striker who would have competed with Dundas for any Ďplayer of the whole tieí award shot low past Scriven to spark delirium.
Leatherhead sensed that they could even win it in the two minutes remaining, but Uís survived to regroup for the extra half hour. Orilonishe replaced Watkins, and within seven minutes had made the desired impact. Liam Pestle miscued an attempt to cut out a Griffiths pass, Beautyman headed it on to Orilonishe on the left of the penalty area, and he created himself some space before flashing a shot across Ramos and inside the far post. Moments later Uís could have sewn the tie up as Griffiths went clear through the middle but Ramos managed to push the ball away from his feet as he tried to go round the keeper, and when Leatherheadís failure to clear allowed Griffiths a second chance, Ramos made a good low save to push his shot away. He made an even better one in the second period when a foul on Dundas gave Kavanagh a free kick opportunity from a little further out than his earlier chance, and Ramos flew to his left to tip the resulting effort over the bar. This came during a spell when the tension briefly threatened to get out of hand and Mr Rockís yellow card made frequent appearances, although he avoided the pitfall of over-reacting, and while eleven players ended the evening in the book in addition to Shawís dismissal, in general the whole tie was played and refereed in a fine spirit. Ramosís saves meant that Leatherheadís spirit might still be rewarded, and when Andrews let fly from all of thirty yards it took a wonderful effort from Scriven to push the ball away. Right at the end it looked as though Uís might again contrive to give Leatherhead a way back as a needless foul by the corner flag conceded a free kick, but although Ramos added his considerable presence to the attack Uís managed to clear, and were soon looking forward to facing Kettering on Saturday week.
Leatherhead: C Ramos, L Pestle (sub D Cascoe 114), R Hill, C Boulter (sub J Gallagher 80) , D Dean, V Francis, E Thompson (sub J MacLeod 59), M Simmons, K Terry, T Hutchings , G Andrews. Sub n/u A Matheson-Light. Goals: Andrews (37 pen), Hutchings (90). Booked: Thompson (27-foul), Hutchings (33-foul), Dean (75-foul), McLeod (107-unsporting behaviour), Gallagher (108-foul), Andrews(110 Ė dissent), Hill (112-foul).
I was delighted that we got through the FA Cup tie at Leatherhead on Tuesday, not just for the players but for the supporters and the club in general. The financial implications of the game canít be underestimated, and thatís why we put ourselves under pressure to reach the first round. We know weíre not going to win the cup, but itís a huge thing for the club to have got through this far, thatís what we set as our target, and now weíve achieved it.
I think we deserved the victory on the balance of play. We had most of the pressure in normal time, hit the post and their keeper had to make three or four good saves whereas although Leatherhead took their chances I canít remember Kevin Scriven having to do a great deal else. It was a tough, tough game, though, and Leatherhead deserve a lot of credit for giving everything they had. In a way it was a shame someone had to lose, but thatís the beauty of the cup, someoneís got to go through and someoneís got to go out, and quite often weíve seen that it can be the lower ranked side that goes through, so weíre very grateful to have come through, Iíve also got to mention the fans, who were terrific, as were the Leatherhead fans and it all created the atmosphere for a classic cup tie.
We made a brilliant start, with some good work on the left and Craig Watkins again showing what a good header of the ball is he and how well he gets up. Credit to Leatherhead again for refusing to lie down, and I said to Steve McKimm that I thought it was going to be a long night, although had Leroy scored when he hit the post that might have dampened their enthusiasm. I was fuming about their equaliser because I thought their player was two or three yards offside. I wasnít really worried that Kevin would be sent off because I thought the player was going away from goal and we had cover. Kevin said he didnít touch him, although from my viewpoint when it happened I immediately thought it looked like a penalty, and credit Greg Andrews for a great penalty under pressure.
I was also fuming about their second goal, because we had control of the ball and I wanted Simon Downer to hit the free kick in to the channels, instead of which it ended up going straight through to the goalkeeper who launched it downfield. That was the one time we didnít defend well, but Tommy Hutchings, who caused us problems throughout the tie, made the most of it with a great finish.
We knew there was only about a minute to go so it was a major blow, but we had to get through to the players before extra time that they were fitter and that it would become a mental battle, and that we would get more chances. Iíd been trying to get Fola on for about ten minutes before the end of normal time, and he obviously made a big difference. Infact I thought all three substitutes had an impact Ė both Karl Murray and Tommy Kavanagh did well when they came on and once Tommy was on we started passing the ball better, but Folaís impact was the winning goal. I asked the players if there was anyone feeling as though they were running on empty and Craig Watkinsí hand went up just before Simonís, so he made way. Anthony Riviere had come off with a sore groin, having done well to last as long as he did, while Tony Taggart was beginning to fade in the second half in his first game back after injury. After Folaís goal we were never able to get that two goal lead which would have finished Leatherhead off, their keeper made a great save from Tommyís free kick, and of course we needed Kevinís save late in extra time to keep us ahead.
I hadnít given Kettering much thought before the replay, because I knew we were in for a tough game, but itís great that weíre at home. Micky and Alan will go and watch them against Southport this weekend, but I fancy us against anyone at home. Weíve really done our bit in reaching the first round, and I think the players and management are going to go out and enjoy the game with the pressure off, and infact the directors, supporters and everyone at the club should enjoy the game whatever the result.
Saturdayís game at Staines will be an interesting one because there were some tired bodies at the end of the Leatherhead game, and a few niggles and knocks, and we could see some fresh legs. Weíve given the players Thursday off, and Iíll probably speak to a few people on the phone on Friday before deciding on the line-up