No Goals, But A U’s-ful Point!
The Hatters’ inaugural meeting with Sutton United brought to an end their five-match losing run, whilst also producing, at Gander Green Lane, their first clean sheet since August Bank Holiday Monday and first no-score draw in a league match for more than 25 months.
They took to the field against the ‘U’s’ on a dull, autumnal afternoon in South London for their second adventure of the season on a 3G surface, and showing two changes from the starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Torquay a week earlier. Ash Palmer returned to the defence after missing three games with a hip injury, while Sam Walker was recalled into central midfield following his one-match suspension – replacing Festus Arthur and Joe Leesley, who were both named among the substitutes.
With two minutes played, County launched the first attack of note on the slick surface – as Sam Minihan and Adam Thomas engaged in some neat interplay on the right, before the former delivered a low cross that Frank Mulhern hit straight at home goalkeeper Jamie Butler. Shortly afterwards, a more looping delivery from the corresponding flank at the other end from David Ajiboye was volleyed shy of the near upright by Rob Milsom.
Tommy Wright went closer with a curling shot from outside the box that fizzed narrowly beyond the left post. And the early end-to-end fare continued with an Adam Hammill effort – unleashed at a similar distance, before deflecting off defender Jon Barden and into the arms of Butler.
Hammill also glanced a header wide, following Elliot Osborne’s cross from the right, and Mulhern chipped to the right of goal, as the Hatters continued to enjoy a spell of dominance around the half’s mid-point – although they then owed a debt of gratitude to Palmer, who threw himself in the way of a squared pass from Ajiboye to deny Aaron Jarvis a clear scoring opportunity.
Six minutes before half-time, the hosts’ leading scorer Harry Beautyman skied over from 10 yards out. And three minutes later, Mulhern’s through-ball set up Thomas who was denied by Butler’s legs to leave the contest, for all its liveliness, scoreless at the interval.
HALF-TIME: Sutton 0, County 0.
Sutton substitute Kenny Davis, who had been introduced for the yellow-carded Barden during the first half, let rip with the first attempt of the second, as his attempt from distance flew narrowly over. And Hammill stung the hands of Butler with a free-kick from 20 yards out – before another of his set-piece deliveries eventually fell to Walker, whose shot from the edge of the box was gathered by Butler on the first bounce.
The Hatters introduced Leesley and Nyal Bell, with a view refreshing their attack, although it was a defender – namely, Minihan – who created the best chance shortly after that, by way of a hooked volley from just outside the area that just cleared the crossbar.
With the final 10 minutes remaining, and immediately following an apparent Sutton handball, a left-footed Thomas toe-poke trickled beyond the right post, and, at the other end, Wright spurned the U’s’ best chance since the break – firing over from 12 yards out, following a headed knock-down from Jarvis – before an Ajiboye effort cleared the bar by an even greater distance.
Four minutes of added time saw the hosts finish strongly, albeit without breaking the deadlock – as the Hatters recorded their first league stalemate since finishing goalless at EP against Bradford Park Avenue in early September 2017.
FULL-TIME: Sutton 0, County 0.
Team (4-2-3-1): Hinchliffe; Minihan, Palmer, Keane, Cowan; Turnbull (Capt.), Walker; Thomas, Osborne, Hammill (Leesley, 68); Mulhern (Bell, 65).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Dimaio, Arthur.
Booked: Palmer, Keane.
Attendance: 1,808 (387 representing The Twelfth Man).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.