manchesterfootball.info pays a visit to Gander Green Lane to take a look at EFL new boys Sutton United in their Sky Bet League Two fixture against Barrow.
SUTTON UNITED 1, BARROW 0
Sutton United’s remarkable debut season in the EFL continued with a hard-earned win against Barrow at windswept and icy cold Gander Green Lane.
The victory lifted Sutton, who spent the previous 123 years of their existence in non-league, back into the play-off spot. They are sixth and only two points behind second-placed Northampton Town.
A terrific solo goal early in the game from David Ajiboye, 23, the former Brighton trainee, sealed the success which lifted the team to 32 points.
Manager Matt Gray, however, is looking no further than reaching the 50-point safety benchmark, pointing out they are six wins from that target.
It was a frustrating afternoon for Barrow who only returned to the EFL last season following an absence of 50 years.
They had chances but manager Mark Cooper bemoaned his side’s lack of firepower as they are in a worrying 20th place.
“We need to be busy in January to find someone to put the ball in the net,” he lamented.
Sutton’s side included former Oldham Athletic goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis, Springhead’s Richie Bennett was on the bench while former Altrincham midfielder Alistair Smith was ruled out through injury.
Will Randall, a former Swindon Town and Wolves winger, wasted two early chances for Sutton, both times failing to hit the target.
They made the breakthrough in the 15th minute through right winger Ajiboye with a piece of solo magic as he weaved his way in from out wide before bending a shot into the far corner, a sumptuous finish.
Either side of the goal, however, Barrow ought to have found the net as Ozzy Zanzala squandered two gilt-edged chances.
The Congo striker, who played for Carlisle last season, was completely free in front of goal as he met Josh Kay’s cross only for Bouzanis to make an excellent block.
That was followed by Zanzala, who began his playing days at Derby County, being put clean through only to shoot wide, a glaring miss.
The other main incident of the opening half saw assistant referee Daniel Bonneywell appear to strain a hamstring as he was replaced on the line by fourth official Michael Begley.
Both sides created chances early the second half without serious troubling either goalkeeper.
Barrow, whose football box-to-box was described by Cooper as “terrific”, became more of a threat in the latter stages.
Josh Kay had an effort deflected into the side netting before Sutton were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men.
Omar Bugiel, already booked, was lucky not to see red after pulling back an opponent.
Referee Brett Huxtable surprisingly took no action and Sutton immediately substituted the striker.
Bouzanis was at his best to acrobatically turn over a drive from Robbie Gotts with three minutes left.
Sutton were hanging on as underlined by Bouzanis being booked for time wasting when he went to the bench to replace the match ball as he indicated the pressure was not correct.
Barrow had one last chance in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time from a corner as Sutton managed to clear the danger after a frantic goalline scramble.
“We need to show as much desire to put the ball in as much as their desire to keep it out,” declared Cooper.