Payne strike secures Sutton three points in Cornwall
For the second season running the Sutton supporters who made the long trip to Cornwall were rewarded with a victory on Saturday as Sutton recovered from conceding an early goal to grab the points with a fine strike from Stefan Payne five minutes from time.
There was much jubilation among U’s players and supporters as Payne’s low shot from the edge of the penalty area hit the back of the net, and the sense of relief will have extended to referee Richard Kendall, who had deprived Sutton of a second goal earlier by awarding a penalty just as Simon Downer was tapping the ball in to an empty net for what would have been his second goal of the game, and then seeing Gareth Gwillim fail to convert the spot-kick.
United’s winner came after they had been reduced to ten men by the dismissal of skipper Jamie Stuart for hauling down the lively Andy Watkins, a decision with which there could be no argument, but Truro’s numerical advantage was soon wiped out in circumstances that emphasised the problems they have been going through, as Watkins limped off after they had used the only substitute they had been able to name.
A week earlier it seemed as though this game wouldn’t be played as Truro seemed set to be expelled from Blue Square South, but a late intervention from local businessmen earned a reprieve, and while it would be stretching a point to say that the city turned out in force to celebrate their continued existence, the crowd was still well up on the average this season and the local hope will have been for a victory to add momentum.
In those circumstances Sutton’s first aim will have been to repel what was bound to be a lively start from the home team, but inside four minutes a quickly taken free kick by Joe Broad caught U’s defence napping, and Watkins arrowed a superb volley in to the net from the corner of the penalty area to give Truro just the start they needed.
They failed to capitalise, though, as Sutton, missing the injured Steven Old and Harry Beautyman, recovered well from the early setback.
Harry Ottaway might have done better with a volley after a Kyle Vassell corner was knocked down to him, but the equaliser soon came as Ottaway flicked on a throw-in from Sam Rents, and this time it was the Truro defence’s turn to be slow to react as Downer arrived to volley in off the post.
With the advantage of the strong wind on their backs U’s looked to get in behind the home defence whenever possible, and goalkeeper Tim Sandercombe had to be off his line quickly to dive at Payne’s feet after Ottaway and debutant Marvin Williams had helped on a long pass from the back.
At the other end U’s shuffled their defence, Downer moving to centre back with Gwillim reverting to left back and Rents switching to the right, and after that Truro’s main threats came from distance, Bobby Hopkinson hitting the side netting with their best effort.
Four minutes before half time it looked as though U’s had edged in front as Vassell’s cross following a corner was again flicked on and struck a home defender on the arm before bouncing towards goal and rebounding off the post to give Downer a tap-in.
However Mr Kendall had blown his whistle a split-second before the ball hit the post and rather than a goal, U’s only had a penalty.
It was a poor piece of officiating, with the time needed to wait and see what happened small enough to be insignificant, and if he had hoped that Gwillim would ensure justice by converting the penalty he was out of luck as the ball cannoned back off Sandercombe’s left hand post.
Payne’s displeasure at then being penalised for a foul earned him a yellow card, and United's humour was hardly improved when they had what looked valid claims for another penalty as Downer, again making his presence felt in the home penalty area, seemed to be man-handled to the ground as he tried to get his head to a corner.
A scrappy second half saw both sides struggle for fluency, Sutton’s passing movements not close enough to the Truro goal to cause serious threat, and Tom Lovelock relatively untroubled by the home attack.
His most awkward moment was self-inflicted as he almost delayed his clearance from a Stuart pass too long, Watkins blocking the ball which fortunately for Lovelock rebounded harmlessly wide.
Twelve minutes from time, however, Stuart allowed himself to be dispossessed by Watkins midway inside the Sutton half and grabbed hold of the Truro striker as he raced clear.
He had to go, but was followed off by the injured Watkins four minutes later, and Sutton, who had been able to bring Paul Telfer on to fill the gap left by Stuart’s dismissal, saw their chance to launch a strong finish.
They were rewarded when Tom Kavanagh, on as a substitute to make his 100th senior appearance for the club, played a pass down the line to Sam Rents, whose chip found Payne on the far edge of the penalty area.
Payne had tried his luck from a similar position twice in the previous five minutes with unimpressive results, but this time he drifted in past two defenders and planted a low shot past Sandercombe from the edge of the penalty area.