Sutton United on top in Sussex again to keep marching in the FA Cup
Two weeks ago, Sutton United travelled to Sussex in the FA Cup, scored an early goal and won 1-0, and they repeated the act on Saturday to move in to the fourth qualifying round for the fourth time since Paul Doswell took over as manager in 2008.
As against Whitehawk in the previous round, the scoreline may look narrow but it was a game that United always seemed to control, and an anaemic Lewes side never really suggested that they had the ability to test a Sutton defence that has now gone more than 450 minutes without conceding a goal.
The decisive goal was not as early as Kane Haysman’s strike at Whitehawk, but it was still early enough to subdue the home side.
Lewes' experienced defender Jay Lovett played a pass out of his penalty area that lacked sufficient power to reach left-back Sam Gore, allowing Craig Dundas to nip in and fire in a low shot from the edge of the penalty area, which the keeper Rikki Banks parried into Jamie Slabber's path and the striker made no mistake.
Should have been two: Jamie Taylor missed a great chance to make it 2-0 to Sutton United at Lewes SP78637
United could have had the tie sewn up inside the first 25 minutes - Mitchell Nelson drove a free kick just wide after the outstanding Anthony Riviere had been fouled 20 yards out, but the real chance fell to Jamie Taylor, unexpectedly fit enough to take his place in an unchanged starting line-up.
A long clearance from Tom Lovelock found Dean McDonald shrugging off substitute Sam Crabb and crossing low from the left, but Taylor could only scuff the ball wide of the post with the goal at his mercy.
A second goal would not have flattered Sutton, such was their dominance early on, and it was not until five minutes before half time that Lewes finally managed an on-target effort as Nicky Wheeler cut in from the left and hit a low shot which was well held by Lovelock.
By then the home team’s frustration had produced bookings for Wheeler and Jack Walder for fouls, while Taylor also picked up a yellow card for persistent infringements, and just before half time Ade Olorunda, in his first game back after suspension, might have been fortunate to escape with a booking for a challenge on Dale Binns in which he seemed to lead with an arm.
There was another chance for Sutton to take a firmer grip on the game early in the second half when Taylor swung a fine pass out to the right that was matched by Nelson’s first time cross, and Riviere, back-pedalling slightly, headed narrowly over the bar.
While United only had the one-goal lead there was always the threat of a moment of inspiration bringing Lewes back in to the game, but with Downer and Jamie Stuart in imperious form at the back it was difficult to see where it would come from, and Lovelock had a relatively untroubled half, called in to serious action just once as he came off his line to dive at the feet of Reece Hall.
Hard to beat: Jamie Stuart, leader of a United defence that has gone five games without comnceding a goal Picture: Paul Loughlin
The game became increasingly fractious, referee Carl Fitch ending with eight names in the book and home substitute Dan Smith fortunate that neither the referee or his assistant saw an off-the-ball challenge that left Stuart on the floor with 10 minutes left.
But Sutton continued to look the likelier to change the scoreline, only to spurn the chances that would have taken the tension out of the game.
A deep cross from Kane Haysman found Slabber at the far post, but his decision to control the ball rather than shoot first time allowed Gore to make a good block, and then Nelson shot wide after a fine counter-attack from Riviere and Haysman.
Ultimately they were not costly misses, Lewes lacking the quality going forward to put United under pressure, and Sutton were safely into the hat for today's draw.
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