Collins pen 90
THERE was no argument with the defeat to Dagenham on the weekend but this latest setback was very hard to take.
A breathless game began with Byron Harrison opening the scoring on six minutes. Sean McGinty soon struck back from United and the Gulls were in front on the stroke of half-time thanks to a terrific strike from Brett Williams.
Unbelievably, the visitors levelled a minute later through Simon Walton and then pinched a dramatic winner from a Jamie Collins penalty in the final act of a heartbreaking night.
United made just one change from the side beaten 3-0 by Dagenham on the weekend, with the ineligible Elliott Romain back in a forward partnership with Brett Williams. Jamie Reid dropped down to the bench, bumping Tommy O’Sullivan out of the squad.
Sutton arrived at Plainmoor with their play-off ambitions fully intact the 1-1 draw with Wrexham on the weekend. New loan signing from Barrow, Harrison, started in attack for the U’s, just a couple of weeks after scoring a consolation for his parent-club in their 3-1 loss in the Riviera.
A fabulous first touch from Tom Bolarinwa in the opening minute deceived Michee Efete, who hauled his man down in a dangerous condition. The inswinging free-kick from Kieran Cadogan was half-cleared by Jakub Sokolik and when goalkeeper Vincent Dorel was unable to snaffle the ball, United were grateful Bolarinwa’s shot on the swivel flying over.
It was an early warning for United but they came back with a Luke Young corner, and the loose ball lashed over by Conrad Balatoni. Moments later, Harrison was on target with a calamitous opening goal from a home perspective.
The chance was gifted to Harrison, as a clearance from Sean McGinty appeared to strike Balatoni, leaving the visiting striker with room to stroll through the United defence and slot an easy finish into the bottom corner.
Confidence was understandably oozing through the Sutton team and a deep cross picked out Bolarinwa for a looping header back across goal, which Dorel did well to palm over the bar.
The Gulls pulled themselves out of the fire with a proper industrial equaliser as a half-cleared corner was lumped back in the box for McGinty to creep behind a static Sutton defence and glance beyond ‘keeper Jamie Butler.
The visitors took some vociferous objections to referee Samuel Allison but, after consulting his assistant, the goal was given, despite the angry claims for an infringement before the ball crossed the line.
United had been given a route back into the game but no question Sutton remained the side on top, as they threw a number of dangerous crosses into the penalty area. McGinty and his defence stood tall in clearing the mild siege.
The Sutton bench, however, had not recovered their composure, lambasting the fourth official at every opportunity and the feisty atmosphere spilled on to the pitch and terraces. Allison had seen enough, calling over Sutton skipper Jamie Collins to calm his troops.
Walton rifled over for the visitors on 33 minutes and then an instinctive shot from the left side of Romain proved uncomfortable for Butler, who scrambled the bouncing shot around his post.
Action returned to the other end and a long throw from Aswad Thomas was laid off by Harrison, but McGinty read the pass and threw his body at the ball with a tremendous goal-saving block.
The half ended with United winning a corner and Sutton again aghast at the decision. Their mood got even worse when Young whipped in a superb cross and the ball fell perfectly for Williams to lash home an unerring finish with his left-foot.
It was perhaps a little fortunate for United on the balance of play but reward for their spirit in defence, and general composure in the face of some serious frustration from the U’s.
Just as the Yellow Army dared to dream of a happy half-time enjoying their unexpected lead, Sutton hit back with another strange goal that seemed to bounce off a couple of heads before the final nod from Walton sent the ball looping into the far corner.
The second period started with a similar tempo, as the impressive George Dowling worked the ball to Aaron Barnes and his cross-field pass allowed Liam Davis to cut inside for a low drive well held by Butler.
Chances were flowing at both ends, as Craig Eastmond lashed wide for Sutton. The powerful running of Dowling was a constant threat for United and Young also getting into some dangerous, just the final ball lacking.
It was genuine end-to-end stuff and a great game to watch. Romain and Williams were linking well in the vanguard, with Young displaying his customary vitality in midfield.
United boss Gary Owers made his first change on 66 minutes, introducing Connor Lemonheigh-Evans to the engine room for the weary legs of Efete and Barnes moving to right-back. Sutton then switched Bolarinwa and Eastmond for Tommy Wright and Ross Stearn.
Energy levels began to drop in the closing 15 minutes but still enough for Stearn to curl one wide from distance. Adam Coombes replaced Cadogan in the final change for the visitors, while turned to Ruairi Keating in place of Williams.
United were giving everything in their pursuit of a vital winner and a sumptuous pass from Lemonheigh-Evans picked out the back-post dart from Barnes, but he clipped the ball agonisingly over the bar.
The Yellow Army were magnificent to the very end but their hearts were broken in the final seconds when a push from Davis resulted in the cruellest of penalty decisions.
Last kick of the game and a sickener for United.
United (3-5-2): 30 Vincent Dorel; 26 Conrad Balatoni, 14 Jakub Sokolik, 5 Sean McGinty (capt); 2 Michee Efete (29 Connor Lemonheigh-Evans 66), 8 Luke Young, 24 George Dowling, 21 Aaron Barnes, 3 Liam Davis; 22 Elliott Romain, 39 Brett Williams (10 Ruairi Keating 80). Substitutes (not used): 1 Ryan Clarke (GK), 11 Jake Gosling, 19 Jamie Reid.
Booked: Young 17, Romain 42’, McGinty 85
Sutton (4-5-1): 26 Jamie Butler; 3 Aswad Thomas, 5 Louis John, 19 Terrell Thomas, 6 Jamie Collins (capt); 30 Tom Bolarinwa (32 Ross Stearn 70), 8 Kenny Davis, 22 Simon Walton, 15 Craig Eastmond (20 Tommy Wright 70), 11 Kieran Cadogan (10 Adam Coombes 77); 34 Byron Harrison. Substitutes (not used): 7 Bradley Hudson-Odoi, 27 Simon Downer.
Booked: Collins 11’, Terrell Thomas 44
Referee: Samuel Allison
Attendance: 1,302 (71 away)