Sutton’s best week of the season so far ended at The Avenue Stadium on Saturday with a third consecutive away win and a second clean sheet in a row as they moved further away from the Blue Square South basement.
A 1-0 victory at Dorchester Town came courtesy of a first half own goal, but the margin did not flatter Sutton, who played some attractive football on an unreliable surface and produced possibly their best defensive performance of the season.
Steven Old returned alongside Simon Downer and Jamie Stuart in a back three that allowed Michael Boateng and Sam Rents to get forward, and the trio defended well enough to leave Kevin Scriven relatively untroubled throughout the afternoon.
On the one occasion of serious threat, deep in to injury time, Old rounded off his own afternoon with a superb block to deny Ben Watson an equaliser.
It should have been irrelevant by then, but while the defensive lapses that characterised earlier games this season, including the home defeat against Dorchester in September, had been eliminated United again failed to turn their dominance in to goals, and as a result the closing stages were more nervous than they should have been.
The tone was set inside the first five minutes, with the busy Harry Beautyman scythed down by Jake Smeeton for the first of the afternoon’s eight yellow cards, two of which would end tall defender Arran Pugh’s afternoon 14 minutes early.
United maintained their early tempo, and were rewarded in the 17th minute when Tom Kavanagh, who had an outstanding game in the centre of midfield, escaped an illegal challenge and rewarded what looked like an ambitious advantage from referee Richard Hulme by playing a superb pass out to Sam Rents on the left.
From there the script was rather similar to Tuesday’s winner at Maidenhead, as Rents crossed low to the near post but this time the decisive touch was applied by centre back Charlie Clough, slicing his attempted clearance in to his own net under pressure from Craig Watkins.
On a pitch that cut up quickly and rendered any attempt at first time passes a risk, Sutton continued to move the ball well while defending solidly, and whenever Dorchester went forward their final pass often went astray.
United had to wait until the first minute of the second half for another clear sight of goal, however, as Harry Ottaway chased a long pass and shook off a challenge before firing in a low shot which was turned aside by goalkeeper Jason Matthews.
Dorchester then enjoyed a spell of pressure and several corners, but all were well dealt with, and when the ball was cleared it invariably fell to a Sutton player who was able to set up a counter attack.
The home side made a triple substitution just after the hour mark and within six minutes of coming on Jon Garcia might have been walking off again after Mr Hulme adjudged that he had handled to prevent a Watkins pass reaching Ottaway, who would have been clear.
Garcia may have been unlucky to have been penalised at all since the ball seemed to hit his chest, but the decision having been made he was equally lucky only to see a yellow card.
Just before that Beautyman had dragged a shot just wide after good work by Boateng, and then been booked for a foul, and he missed another good chance with 10 minutes to go after Ottaway’s superb pass had put him through, but after cutting inside one defender to leave a clear shooting chance, he put his effort wide of the far post.
By then Dorchester were down to 10 men as Pugh, spoken to at length by the referee early in the second half after the second of two challenges for which he could have been booked and then shown a yellow card for another foul minutes later, tripped Craig Dundas on the edge of the penalty area as the powerful midfielder surged through.
Stuart, for a foul, and substitute Stefan Payne, for preventing Matthews taking a free kick after an offside decision, were also booked in the last five minutes as Sutton endured a more nervous finale than they should have done, with Dorchester launching the ball forward, and in the last minute the ball fell to Watson just inside the penalty area but Old threw himself in the way of the shot to ensure that United kept all three points.
Paul Doswell's men now prepare for their FA Trophy second round clash with Oxford City this weekend.