SUTTON UNITED (Gander Green Lane)

Once again, it was back on the road to Wembley and a visit to the scene of one of the greatest FA Cup upsets of all time.  The date was January 1989 and the venue was Sutton United's Borough Sports ground, on Gander Green Lane. Sutton were in the Conference at the time and they were hosting First Division (now the Premier League) Coventry City, who had lifted the cup less than 2 years previously.

They secured a famous 2-1 victory with goals from Tony Rains and Matt Hanlon, which was the last time a non-league side beat a team from the top division of English football.  Maybe after watching that game on Match of the Day it had seeped into my subconscious that I must visit that ground one day and watch a game. It has taken me 22 years, but I eventually made it today!

As there were no GBG listed pubs in Sutton itself, the pre-match pleasantries had to be undertaken in nearby Carshalton, where The Hope offered 6 real ales, the pick of the bunch being (North London based) Redemption Brewery's Hopspur.

Gander Green Lane has not altered much since that day in 1989 (and having had a look at the footage on You Tube, as far as I can see) the only difference is a there is now a new covered terrace behind the goal. The main stand, built in 1951, looks the same as it did in '89. The ground was originally used as a race track, and that is why it has a bowl shape to it. A ground of real character.  The clubhouse under the stand was also worth the visit and there was a bonus of St Austell Tribute on draft.

Sutton now find themselves in the second tier of non-league football, the Conference South, having won the Isthmian Premier League last season. Their opponents today were Bognor Regis Town, who are, somehow, in the Isthmian League Division One South. I say somehow as last season they finished level on points with the Metropolitan Police, at the top of the table, but they missed out on the title on a goal difference of 1. That meant they went into the lottery of the play offs and promptly lost to Dulwich Hamlet, a team that finished 31 points behind them in the final table!

Today though there was no chance of an upset as  the U's completely outclassed Bognor and were three goals up by the interval. This though was after a fairly even opening 20 minutes in which neither side did anything of note but, once Craig Dundas had given the homesters the lead after 22 minutes, United never really looked back. Ironically Bognor's best chance of the half led to Sutton's second goal. After 30 minutes, a rasping Terry Dodd drive was tipped over by Sutton goalkeeper Kevin Scriven, who caught the resulting corner, released the ball quickly and Sutton broke on the counter and, after an exchange of passes, Tony Taggart had the ball in the Bognor net for 2-0.

After this, it was virtually one-way traffic as Sutton carved open Bognor at will, creating numerous chances. The third goal arrived just before the break when ex-Premier League player Paul Telfer crossed for Taggart to head home his second goal of the game.

The second period was pretty much a like a training session for Sutton as, having obviously won the game, they had all the possession and Bognor never looked like getting a foothold back into the match. The U's did have plenty more chances, but the only goal scored in the half came through man-of-the-last-round (after bagging four goals v Dulwich Hamlet) Leroy Griffiths, when he shot home after 74 minutes.

A very good game in the glorious sunshine and, yes, the trip was well worth that 22 year wait!


The customary pre-match handshakes

Sam Page crosses into the Bognor box, but this time there was
nobody attacking the ball.

Ex Luton, Coventry, Southampton & Celtic player Paul Telfer

The excellent club shop, where I was offered a 1989 Coventry FA Cup
programme for a mere £15...I had to politely decline!

Bognor's Stuart Axten attempts to close down Sutton's Fola Orilonishe

Goalscorer Craig Dundas on the attack

Saturday 15th October 2011
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round
Sutton United 4-0 Bognor Regis Town
Attendance: 622

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