Slender win keeps second-placed Sutton dreaming of the ultimate elevation in status
Sutton United 1 Halifax 0
The chances of Sutton United becoming the second club with a 3G pitch in successive seasons to gain promotion to the English Football League increased yesterday when they earned a hard-fought win over Halifax Town.
Like Harrogate who went up from the National League via the play-offs, Sutton know they will have to revert to a grass surface should they be elevated. Be that as it may. But for the time-being Sutton will concentrate on consolidating or even improving on second place.
"I'm not interested in league tables at the moment, " said Sutton's manager Matt Gray after his side had survived a spirited second-half performance by the visitors to move to within two points of National League leaders Torquay who were without a game.
Although the south west London side have played a match more, they displayed flair in attack in the first 45 minutes and resilience after the interval when Halifax looked anything but a club lying 20th in the table.
Sutton did, in fact, recover impressively from their 4-0 defeat at Wrexham on Tuesday, their worst defeat for over two years. "Wrexham were flattered by that scoreline," insisted Gray who admitted that his side, playing its fifth game in two weeks, showed "a bit of fatigue" in the second half against the Shaymen. "But I think I'm happy, he added. ''There was character in our response. There was energy and tempo."
The result, the fourth successive single-goal outcome involving the clubs, was decided by Harry Beautyman's ninth-minute penalty, a harsh decision according to the visitors' manager Pete Wild, for handball against Nathan Clarke.
He could hardly avoid the ball after Isaac Olaofe's deflected shot led to the decisive moment. Sam Johnson got a hand to Beautyman's spot kick but could not prevent the midfielder from notching his fourth goal of the season.
David Ajiboe's subsequent piledriver brought a fine save from the Halifax goalkeeper who also went full length to keep out a shot from the restored Will Randall who later gave way to a slight hamstring strain.
The inter-changing of Ajiboye, Olaofe and former Halifax striker Tobi Sho-Silva caused the Yorkshiremen no end of problems but in the second half it was a different story. Halifax, without a league win since the opening day of the season, suddenly discovered a few rays of confidence to concentrate on raids down their right flank. But their first effort on target, a speculative attempt from near the halfway line by the outstanding Luke Summerfield did not arrive until the 61st minute.
By then Halifax had taken off the debut-making 37-year old former Crystal Palace midfielder Neil Danns, replacing him with Nyal Bell, their loanee from Stockport. He proceeded to squander their best chance, hitting the bar from Jamie Allen's low cross. Sutton would have had no right to complain had the shot gone in.
Sutton: Bouzanis, Goodliffe, John, Randall-Hurren (Barden 45), Davis, Ajiboye (Wyatt 85), Beautyman, Eastmond, Milsom, Olaofe, Sho-Silva (Bugiel 80). Subs not used: Dundas, Kealy