Saturday 13th January 2018, 1500 KO
Sutton United FC vs Hendon FC
The Build Up
This weekend finds me once again making the short journey to Gander Green Lane to watch Sutton United. As my closest team above Step Four, it is often tempting to wrap on travelling and go local, particularly on days like today when the other half has the car. Adding weight to the internal “go local” argument is the opportunity to watch my first ever FA Trophy game, as the U’s take on Hendon in the Second Round Proper. Originally the FA Challenge Trophy, this competition began in 1969 and was first won by Macclesfield Town. As coincidence would have it, the Silkmen were involved in the most recent final, too, losing 3-2 to York City last May.
Sutton United are flying high in the league this season, sitting 3rd in the Vanarama National League. Therefore, as the 3rd highest ranked side to enter the FA Trophy, Paul Doswell’s charges will surely fancy their chances of beating the club’s previous best effort in the competition – a 1—0 final loss to Bishop’s Stortford 37 years ago. As a National League side, Sutton got involved at the last stage, beating Truro City 1-0 courtesy of an 89th minute Craig Dundas goal.
Hendon, on the other hand, have had to get here the hard way. The visitors have dispatched King’s Langley, Burgess Hill Town, Slough Town (after penalties) and Vanarama National South side Bath City on their way here, earning a tidy £18,250 in prize money so far. Make it to the final, and there’s £60,000 at stake – a real incentive for clubs at this level. Currently 5th in the Bostik Isthmian Premier, the boys from Brent are coming off the back of a 3-1 loss to Corinthian Casuals in the Velocity League Cup, and will hope that top scorer Niko Muir can fire them to victory today. With 23 goals in 25 games, the summer arrival from Leiston has smashed his way through Isthmian Premier defences this season – I was keen to see how he would fare against experienced Step One defenders such as Simon Downer and Aswad Thomas.
As Mrs Grass Roots Tourist had the motor today, it meant I was once again relying on London’s first rate transport network. It’s always something of a ballache getting the bus or tube with a camera, camping stool, and other assorted kit, so my almost hour long three and a half mile bus journey was particularly enjoyable.
When I got to Gander Green Lane, I noticed that the admission was lower than on my previous trip to watch Sutton United (a home draw against Gateshead). Upon asking, I was told that tickets are always reduced for FA Trophy games, so today’s match would only cost an adult £12. I picked up my £2.50 programme, and headed to Rose’s. As I’m now deep into my post-Christmas diet, I have agreed (with myself) that football days will be my days off. With that in mind, you can fully expect to see me attending many more midweek games over the coming months. I forked over £7.50 for a cheeseburger, chips and diet coke and, whilst looking at the mural dedicated to Craig Dundas, relished the calorific goodness after a week of rabbit food.
Upon completion of my pre-match meal I took a wander to the club shop, and was greeted by a display of nonleague pin badges for sale. Speaking to the chap behind the collection, he was proud to announce that he had almost the full set of South Western Peninsula League badges (minus Torridge). I was particularly surprised to see this badge – my old side, Polperro, of the Duchy League.
When the referee blew the whistle to start the match, Hendon were one of only eight teams from below the National League left in the FA Trophy, and they started with the intensity of a side desperate to go further. After ten minutes they created the first real chance, with Ashley Nathaniel-George showing promise down the left. The 22 year old scored 17 for Potters Bar last season, and was an early livewire here. His run and centre found Muir in the six yard box, but surprisingly the in-form striker couldn’t control and his first touch bounced straight to Owen Evans between the Sutton posts.
Two minutes later the Us registered their first shot, when new joiner Tom Bolarinwa drove through the middle. He laid the ball off to fellow new boy Harry Beautyman, and he flashed a shot wide of Corey Addai’s goal.
On 17 minutes, Craig Eastmond brought Nathaniel-George down as he ran across him, resulting in a well placed free kick for Hendon. The cross was lofted in, and big Dave Diedhiou leapt at the back post. Despite a good connection on the header, he had to watch as the cross bounced wide. The first twenty minutes were being dominated by Hendon, and Nathaniel-George was causing Sutton United problems with his running.
However, on 23 minutes there was a flash of danger from the National League side when Kieron Cadogan whipped a right wing cross in. It was met by Tommy Wright, fresh from a midweek hat trick against Molesey, with a glancing front post header which zipped wide. This was one of the few threatening moments Sutton had in the first half hour, and it felt that if Hendon could just get some decent service to Niko Muir they may be able to cause an upset.
That was, of course, until Dave Diedhiou had a rather substantial brain fart in the 35th minute. Under minimal pressure on his own goal line, he played an inch perfect pass straight to the feet of Kieron Cadogan. The man from Tooting took a few paces into the area, and curled a tidy finish into the far corner past Coventry loanee Addai to put the home side ahead.
This seemed to be the spark that they needed. Shortly before half time, Harry Beautyman turned smartly in the box and fizzed a shot towards the bottom right corner, which Addai got down well to save. The last action of the half was saved for Hendon’s winger Joseph White. When Zak Joseph was clumsily brought down on the edge of the area, White stepped up to shoot, but his free kick was deflected wide, and the referee blew for the break.
Gary McCann’s Greens had certainly started the better, and really set the tempo for the first third of the match. However, as the half had worn on, Sutton had realised that by cutting out the supply line to Nathaniel-George, they could starve danger man Muir of service. This high pressing forced Hendon to look long, and with centre backs of the quality of Simon Downer and Terrell Thomas, Sutton started to look comfortable. At the other end, Bolarinwa, Cadogan and Wright were all busy, linking up nicely, and I had a feeling they’d come to the fore in the second half.
The first notable moment of the first half was a genuinely atrocious shot by Hendon’s Harly Wise. With the ball dropping to him on the edge of the area, the former Hartlepool man put the ball into a holding pattern around London Gatwick.
From here on in, Sutton really started to dominate proceedings. Although Hendon posed a threat on the counter attack at times, for the last thirty five minutes, it never really looked likely that they would get a result here. On 57 minutes, Cadogan again played provider, and whipped in a cross from the corner of the area. Flicked on by Adam Coombes, the ball reached Aswad Thomas at the back stick. The summer arrival from Dover is a solid defender, and an absolute beast up and down the left flank, but on this occasion, an acrobatic save from Addai kept him out.
Two minutes later, with Cadogan involved again, Sutton threated. Cadogan teed up Tommy Wright on the edge of the area, he delayed, and slipped in Beautyman. Clearly keen to score following his move from Stevenage for an undisclosed fee (a fee!), he shot, but again, could not get the better of Addai.
The chances kept coming for Sutton. In front of their vocal fans, first Craig Eastmond (who must be one of the most technically accomplished players outside the Football League) had a free kick deflected wide, then Beautyman missed the target with a curling effort. On 71 minutes, Tommy Wright turned brilliantly on the half way line, drove past three players, but couldn’t keep his shot on target. Following his 51 goals for Salisbury last season, Wright is really starting to find his feet in the National League, sitting top of the scoring charts for Sutton.
Despite heroics by Addai, and Arthur Lee’s best organisational efforts, there was simply no way Hendon would keep Sutton’s lead down to one. Keen to score more, Doswell threw on Ross Lafayette, meaning he now had five wingers/strikers on the pitch. With quarter of an hour to play, one of those strikers doubled the lead. A punted ball up field by Simon Downer was half cleared, but when it dropped to Adam Coombes on the edge of the area, his first time volley was stunning and unstoppable. Apparently unphotographable as well, some terrible focus work by me.
Hendon tried gamely to find a way back in, and kept attempting to press down the wings, but by now both Muir and Joseph were looking well out of sorts. A few hopeful crosses were slid, whipped and lofted in, but they couldn’t create anything above half chances. Sutton, on the other hand, were taking quarter chances, if that, and turning them into goals. This time, it was Tommy Wright. From a short corner, Wright collected the ball on the side of the box. With seemingly no danger, he turned his man whipped an absolute pearler into the far top corner, in off the post, and I literally squealed. I may not be a Sutton fan, but that goal made me feel all funny downstairs.
Three nil, 85 minutes played, and surely game over. In fact, actual game over –that’s how it finished.
The Wash Up
So Hendon’s journey in the FA Trophy is over, and they will go back to focusing on a promotion push. After 55 years in the Bostik Isthmian League, they are currently in fifth place. Like everyone, they watch Billericay continue to spend their way to success, but with Muir firing will fancy their chances of securing a play off spot. Young Corey Addai was the star of the show for Hendon today, and is an exceptional talent to be playing at Step Three.
Paul Doswell started all four of his new signings today, and whilst Terell Thomas and Owen Evans looked safe at the back, it was Simon Downer who orchestrated things in defence. The official man of the match, he was dominant in the air, and unruffled at any point. His return to fitness will be a real bonus as the season reaches the business end.
However, today was all about the front men for Sutton. All of them had good moments today, and I love how Tommy Wright takes the ball on the half turn and drives at defenders. However, my man of the match today is Kieron Cadogan. He was at the heart of everything good Sutton did in the final third today, and is always so positive on the ball. Beautyman, Bolarinwa, Wright, Coombes and Cadogan had some lovely interplay at times, and with Lafayette and Dundas afforded a rest on the bench, this is an exceptional array of attacking talent. If Sutton United are to find themselves lining up at Wembley on 20th May, a lot of that will be down to these men.
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