HORNCHURCH 2 SUTTON UTD 1
Sutton Utd, tipped by many to romp away with the league this season, and led by Steve West, arguably the most popular player ever at Bridge Avenue, brought a handful of supporters to the Bridge, headed by Amber the Aardvark, who paraded around the ground looking for its favourite food of ants and termites. Finding none, it settled for one of the famous Urchin burgers instead. Anyone entering the ground was immediately confronted by Darter, who would not let them enter any further unless they parted with £2 for the Xmas raffle, the prize being a hamper, unless it was won by Amber, in which case there would be a special prize of chocolate termites.
Many of the EastSide hoped that the ever popular Steve West would turn out for the visitors, but they were disappointed, although they still frequently chanted his name. Urchins had a much changed team, in part due to the heavy handed Horsham horror tackling last week, and Mark Janney, Frank Curley and Elliot Styles were all missing.
The temperature was a pleasant four degrees, and rain threatened, as Urchins kicked off towards the windmill end of the ground. Sutton started strongly, and an Ottaway centre reached Chukki Eribenne in the middle, and his header went just wide of the post, to send an early warning to the home side. Sutton, urged on by Amber the Aardvark, kept up a strong pace, and McCallum’s dangerous free kick was punched away by Brightly, with John Purdie completing the clearance. The ball ran to Donny Barnard who played it along to Dean Green, and then on to Kris Lee, inside to Simon Parker, and Ottaway did well to get in a tackle to concede a corner, which was taken by Tomlinson and Palmer headed over his own cross bar, although a goal kick was given.
Paul Shave started a promising move with a good upfield pass to Kris Lee, who turned the ball into the path of Dean Green, but a neat tackle by ex-Urchin Simon Downer prevented a possible goal. Sutton came back strongly, and Jim McFarlane tackled the ever dangerous Eribenne to concede a corner, which McCallum swerved over. Lee Brown headed out and McKimm promptly hammered the ball back again, but wide of the post. Brown then tackled Eribenne to concede another corner, and McCallum again took the kick. Dale Brightly punched the ball out, and it was returned to McCallum, who laid it back to Hughes, whose shot deflected off of Purdie for a corner, again taken by McCallum, and punched away by Brightly.
Urchins at last found some rhythm, and Barnard found Green, who held off challenges from two defenders to send the ball across goal to Andy Tomlinson, whose first time shot was cleared off the line by Downer. Sutton came back and Hughes sent a good pass to McCallum, who ran on and shot, the ball going out for a corner, via Purdie. McCallum took the kick, and Goodfellow headed out for another corner. McCallum again, Purdie this time clearing for a third corner. McCallum again and Purdie cleared to Hughes who fired the ball over the bar, narrowly missing Amber the Aardvark, who was happily hunting for ants on Has been Hill.
The corner count was getting a bit one-sided, but it evened up a bit when Tomlinson’s free kick was headed out for an Urchins corner. Tomlinson sent the ball over, Green fired it back across goal, and Ottaway headed out for another corner, which Tomlinson took and Collins cleared. Sutton could have taken the lead when McKimm slotted an excellent ball through to McCallum, who raced clear with only Dale to beat, but Dale had done just enough to force McCallum into a hurried shot, and the ball went inches wide of the post, to loud approbation from the EastSide. Palmer forced an excellent diving save from Dale Brightly for another corner, which was as per usual taken by McCallum and this time it was Goodfellow who cleared. And then Hughes sent Dundas away but the shot was well wide of the goal.
Kris Lee appeared to have scored when he was put clear and his shot entered the net, just as the whistle went for offside. With Urchins now looking in command, Lee Brown cut in from the left side and his shot forced Nicholls into an excellent diving save, to turn the ball around the post. Tomlinson took the corner, and the ball ran out to Kris Lee, who touched through to Simon Parker and Nicholls did well to save at Simon’s feet. Green tried to weave through on the right, but had to lay the ball back to Goodfellow, whose first time centre found Parker, but Simon hit the ball just a fraction too high. A huge roar close to half time signalled the everyone that the score at Grays had just been made known, as glory hunters from Bridge Road began to trickle in to Bridge Avenue, many complaining bitterly that the local paper had put the wrong kick off time on its back page.
An aardvark is a nocturnal animal that feeds almost exclusively on ants and termites. It emerges from its burrow in the late afternoon or shortly after sunset, to forage for its favourite food, but it did not attempt to come into the club shop to sample the hot food on sale. Which is a great pity and we all wanted to ask it why it was called Amber when Sutton Utd play in all yellow. A search party was sent out for Sir Gary, and it came back with the news that he too was glory hunting, allegedly down in Leicester.
Whilst Amber was sorting out the termites on Has been Hill, Deano was sorting out the pride of south London on the field, for, scarcely had the second half began, when Green gained possession near to the touchline, played the ball low into the goalmouth where KRIS LEE put Urchins ahead. Shortly afterwards Paul Shave chased a long ball and collided with keeper Nicholls, and was unfairly booked for what was a 50-50 ball – is he being booked purely on reputation alone? – Nicholls continued after receiving treatment, but two minutes later had to leave the field, to be replaced in goal by Dean Palmer. Urchins stormed forward, and Goodfellow’s centre found Parker, whose header was well saved by Palmer.
With Urchins concentrating on attack, they conceded a goal when two defenders slipped on the wet surface, and this allowed BILLY DUNN to run on and score, sending the away directors into a frenzy of uncontrolled jubilation, whilst Amber looked up and casually swallowed a few more ants. And Sutton, inspired by their shock breakaway goal, tried their luck again with a long free kick by McKimm which sailed way past the post and out of play. And then it was back to the other end. Goodfellow crossed to Lee whose header was saved by Palmer, but with pressure mounting to tsunami proportions, Urchins took the lead. Lee Brown won the ball just inside his own half, played it long down the left, and Kris Lee carried on, and turned the ball back across goal to SIMON PARKER, who casually kneed it into the net.
Urchins were rampant. Lee Brown again played the ball down the left to Simon Parker, who ran on, but back inside and picked out Kris Lee, whose shot brought an excellent save from Palmer, who turned the ball out for a corner. Tomlinson took the kick and the ball was half cleared, for Purdie put it back to Barnard, and on to Green who was fouled. Tomlinson took the free kick and Paul Shave’s header was saved by the inspired Palmer.
Urchins continued to press forward, but looked nervous to any counter attack, although McFarlane was in supreme command at the back and the visitors did not look like getting through. Billy Coyne and Ross Wall came on, and it was Coyne who sent a good cross over to Lee, who turned and fired his shot wide of the post. A hard earned three points, against the pre-season favourites, although at the same time there were enough opportunities to have won far more comfortably.