Torquay United 2
Sutton United 3
A PAINFUL outcome for United on a day when the football Gods appeared to be shining on the Gulls in the early stages.
A goal from Luke Young and the withdrawal of injured goalkeeper Ross Worner left Sutton behind and with an outfield player between the sticks, but there is a resilient reason this side reached the last 16 of the FA Cup.
Sutton drew level through the outstanding Roarie Deacon and even when Brett Williams restored United’s lead immediately after the restart, Maxime Biamou equalised again from the next attack.
A game in the balance turned in Sutton’s favour with a header from Dean Beckwith 11 minutes from time and the Gulls simply must react with a positive result at Solihull Moors on Tuesday night.
United manager Kevin Nicholson was forced into a midfield change, with captain Courtney Richards ruled out for six weeks after sustaining an injury in the 0-0 draw at Barrow last weekend. Young took his place in the engine room and the skipper’s armband rolled up the sleeve of Aman Verma.
Sutton boss Paul Doswell made two changes to the side that bravely bowed out of the FA Cup at home to Arsenal on Monday. New signing from Welling, Adam Coombes, replaced Bedsente Gomis in attack and Daniel Spence came in for Kevin Amankwaah at right-back.
A worrying start for the visitors, as a lofted ball caught the breeze and had goalkeeper Ross Worner backpedalling toward his own goal. The custodian appeared to roll his ankle in collecting the ball and remained a hobbling figure from the resultant corner.
The first shot in anger from either side was a tame effort from Deacon, squirted well wide from distance by the talented winger attracting interest from top Championship clubs after his stellar performance against Arsenal.
Both sides then exchanged a booking before Young took control of the game with a deflected effort that gave the stricken Worner little chance and a bad opening for Sutton got a lot worse before the game had even restarted.
It was clear Worner was unable to continue and, with normal reserve goalkeeper Wayne Shaw no longer at the club for a pasty-related infringement, Simon Downer was handed the gloves. Gomis came on in midfield, as a major Sutton reshuffle ensued.
A goal up and facing an outfield player in goal for over 70 minutes, a glorious chance to secure three valuable points was now in United’s hands but Sutton misfortune was no disguise for a bright, assertive start from the Gulls.
A Dan Sparkes corner had Downer flapping, understandably, and Sutton were rescued by the assistant’s flag but, from nowhere, the visitors were level and it was all down to sleepy defending, allowing a quick short corner to provide room for Deacon to fizz a super low finish across goal and in off the far post, with ‘keeper Brendan Moore somewhat unsighted by the crowd in front of him.
The two goalscorers swapped handbags in a scuffle that stemmed more from United frustration at letting their lead slip and the strategy for Sutton was very simple: keep the ball away from our centre-half in goal.
The mayhem in Sutton’s defence continued with Jamie Reid and Young pressurising a long ball forward. Downer came storming off his line and hacked the ball against an approaching Gull to win a fortunate reprieve in the shape of a goal-kick.
A frantic half ended with Sean McGinty heading wide from a Sparkes corner and a general Yellow feeling that Downer had not been tested enough.
A dream start to the second period as a long ball over the top was glanced on by a Yellow head and Williams composed himself brilliantly before slotting a lovely finish past the advancing Downer.
Celebrations had barely subsided before Gomis cut inside from the right and rifled a low cross that glanced expertly off the head of Biamou, and drifted agonisingly over the stretching Moore for a painful equaliser.
It was cruel on United but no argument with the quality of the header, angled beautifully in off the underside of the bar and Sutton were a side playing with confidence, orchestrated by the impressive Deacon in midfield.
Sutton were looking a real menace and more magical work from Deacon in the left channel caused spinning headaches in the home defence, but the eventual square pass was skewed horribly wide by Adam May.
The next intervention from Deacon was a screamer, ratting the home crossbar and a very good player on show. Playing against the wind, United had to find something different to change the pattern.
Damon Lathrope attempted to be the catalyst, winning the ball in midfield and rifling a shot wide. Nicholson reacted to the need for a goal with the introduction of Sam Chaney and Shaun Harrad for Lathrope and Williams.
United’s best hope of snatching a winner came through piling high balls on the makeshift Downer and a Young corner did prompt a momentary flap, but the Sutton defence was on hand to hack clear the loose ball.
Young’s next corner was a fraction too high for Anderson to make meaningful contact and the following set-piece was a desperate outcome for the Gulls, as a Nick Bailey free-kick pumped into the box found the head of Beckwith for a looping effort beyond the grasping Moore.
Nicholson turned to his bench for the final push, withdrawing Lathaniel Rowe-Turner for striker Ruairi Keating but there was no way past a stoic Sutton defence.
United (4-5-1): 1 Brendan Moore; 20 Jared Hodgkiss, 17 Myles Anderson, 15 Sean McGinty, 3 Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (19 Ruairi Keating 85); 18 Jamie Reid, 12 Aman Verma (capt), 8 Luke Young, 4 Damon Lathrope (7 Sam Chaney 67), 11 Dan Sparkes; 14 Brett Williams (9 Shaun Harrad 67). Substitutes (not used): 5 Giancarlo Gallifuoco, 21 Gianni Crichlow.
Booked: Lathrope 12, Williams 58, Rowe-Turner 71
Sutton (4-5-1): 1 Ross Worner (8 Bedsente Gomis 17); 17 Daniel Spence, 6 Jamie Collins (capt), 4 Dean Beckwith, 27 Simon Downer; 21 Roarie Deacon, 16 Nick Bailey, 15 Craig Eastmond, 12 Adam May (7 Bradley Hudson-Odoi 79); 30 Adam Coombes (18 Jack Jebb 80), 24 Maxime Biamou. Substitutes (not used): 5 Louis John, 11 Papa Gueye.
Booked: May 13, Coombes 45
Referee: Dean Treleaven
Attendance: 1,646 (106 away)