Sutton United 1
(Martin Riley OG)
Gander Green Lane
Another Saturday, another new ground. This week was a slight step up from my trip to Colden Common in the Hampshire Premier last weekend, sticking with Non-League, I headed to South London for the National League game between Sutton United and Wrexham.
Being honest, a trip to Gander Green Lane had never been near the top of my choices and I have to admit it was their opposition, Wrexham that alerted me to the fixture.
Having undertaken a work experience placement with the North Wales side in December 2014 I have kept in touch with the club ever since and try and help out with their match day media whenever I can (usually when they are relatively close to my Hampshire home).
Trips to Wembley, Eastleigh and Dagenham & Redbridge have all been good opportunities for me to help the club out and join their team of amazing volunteers that the club rely on to give great match day coverage.
On this occasion I had the task of live social media updates, it also meant a free programme, team sheet and of course a press pass and free admission, who can complain!
Before the game I was chatting to an old friend of mine from Sutton who told me it was an artificial surface at Gander Green Lane. I didn’t believe him but upon entry into the stadium he was correct and it suddenly occurred to me what an amazing community facility Gander Green Lane was.
United share their home of 104 years with Combined Counties Premier side Sutton Common Rovers and AFC Wimbledon Ladies.
Having three sides playing on grass would cause havoc this time of the year so having a 3G pitch has definitely been an advantageous move for the U’s, as well as games galore if you are a local football fanatic.
Sutton have climbed through the divisions in recent years and were promoted to the National League as National League South champions last season. Their ground doesn’t look like it belongs to a side playing in the Isthmian League less than ten years ago.
Sides such as Wrexham, Macclesfield, Lincoln etc all have Football League pedigree and their grounds match that history but in comparison to Eastleigh’s Silverlake Stadium, Gander Green Lane is on par.
With one seated stand where I was situated in the press box, the rest of the ground is predominantly covered standing terrace with a bit of uncovered if your feeling brave.
Once inside the ground, I had a bit of time to explore and I purchased my pin badge from the quirky small club shop cabin situated in one corner of the ground.
It is a smart ground mixing traditional and modern very well, the 3G pitch gives the experience an extra dimension with old school terracing allowing for a good atmosphere from both sets of fans, it’s a shame the toilets at the back of the main stand were far from inviting.
One thing I do love about non-league football is being able to wander freely around the ground, some places do charge a bit extra to sit down for example but watching fans move at half time to be behind the goal their team are shooting at is amusing and certainly wouldn’t happen if these clubs went into the Football League.
Martin Riley’s early own goal condemned Wrexham to their fourth defeat in a row and gave Sutton United a third win from their last four league games. The North Wales side now sit in 15th, one place and three points behind United.
Sutton were on top in the opening minutes and threatened most on the right flank with the side using Kevin Amankwaah’s long throw to full effect.
Wrexham managed to deal with the first long throw but moments later, the full back launched another one into the box and it hit two visiting players before sneaking over the line off defender Martin Riley.
Paul Doswell’s side were in the ascendency and continued to attack to build on their early advantage, however Roarie Deacon’s effort went just wide with a shot from distance.
Amankwaah then came close after forcing his way in at the back post but the former Football League defender could only direct the ball wide.
With 15 minutes played, Wrexham did eventually force their way into the opposition half and John Rooney had a good shot blocked that looked like it could have tested Ross Worner in the Sutton goal.
Wrexham were making lots of mistakes and Deacon again fired wide after Leo Smith had run into danger for the visitors and lost the ball.
Riley, determined to improve after his own goal, put in a goal saving tackle to deny Maxime Biamou after the forward had mugged Curtis Tilt for the ball on the edge of the box before advancing towards goal.
The few times that Wrexham could get out of their own half, Sutton stayed strong at the back and Rooney’s shot was again blocked after some good interplay between Paul Rutherford and Jordan White.
On 33 minutes, United striker Matt Tubbs tried an audacious effort from the edge of the box with the outside of his boot but it lacked the power to trouble Shwan Jalal.
Jalal was then forced into a diving save on 38 minutes when Deacon fired a low drive at goal from 18 yards.
In first half stoppage time, Wrexham’s best effort fell to tall striker White who couldn’t quite stretch high enough to get a clean contact on his header to put it on target.
It was much of the same in the second half as Sutton continued to threaten and Wrexham continued to be wasteful with the ball as Tilt glanced a header just wide from a set piece.
On 55 minutes Bedsente Gomis got himself into a good shooting opportunity but managed to fire hopelessly wide before being replaced by Craig Dundas.
As the game reached the hour mark, Dean Keates made a double substitution for the Red Dragons introducing Rekeil Pyke and Rob Evans who replaced Smith and Anthony Barry.
Minutes later Keates was forced into making his final change when Mark Carrington went down with an injury and was replaced by Callum Powell.
Sutton continued to press forward and Tubbs’ effort was deflected out for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Jalal had to be on his toes to punch, one handed, away from danger as the ball swung close to his goal.
Wrexham started to commit men forward and as Jordan Evans swung a ball into the box, no teammates could react quick enough when Worner spilled what looked like a routine catch.
Sutton made their second change on 77 minutes when Tubbs made way for Craig McAllister.
White then had Wrexham’s best chance of the game when he got the ball at the back post but after not making a clean connection with the header, Worner was able to smother the ball on the line before White could get his foot to it.
Riley, who, apart from the own goal after four minutes, had had a fairly steady game and he came to the rescue once more when he got his body in between the ball and McAllister to deny a good chance for the home side.
As the game entered stoppage time, Wrexham piled men into the box and Riley went close with a header off target before White sent his header sailing over with seconds left on the clock to give Sutton all three points.
2016/17 Games: 69
2016/17 Grounds: 51
Total Grounds Visited: 143 (37)