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Ten men hold Spitfires
Sutton United survived three-quarters of a tense game with ten men to hold league leaders Eastleigh to a 1-1 Skrill Conference South draw at Gander Green Lane this afternoon.
Ex-Spitfire Mitchell Nelson was sent off after just 23 minutes and the visitors capitalised with a Craig McAllister goal shortly before half-time. But the Us hit back early in the second half with a Craig Dundas penalty.
The Spitfires had lost Jai Reason to a one-match suspension, while Will Evans was named on the bench, having recovered from knee trouble.
Sutton named five ex-Eastleigh players – Anthony Riviere, Mitchell Nelson, Jamie Slabber, Dale Binns and Ali Fuseini – in their starting line-up while another, Damian Scannell, joined former Saint Paul Telfer on the bench.
The first sight of goal took eight minutes arriving – Nelson sending a free kick well over after Eastleigh midfielder Jamie Collins had fouled Craig Dundas some 20 yards out.
With the visitors well-manned at the back, Sutton did their best to play through them, but when the busy Dean McDonald flighted a cross in the direction of target-man Slabber, the flag had already gone up for offside.
A tight, edgy game had yet to burst to life when Sutton were forced into a 19th minute substitution as Jamie Taylor went off injured to be replaced by ex-Spitfire Scannell.
The boredom was lifted in controversial style on 21 minutes when Eastleigh’s Stuart Fleetwood went down in agony after being caught by Nelson in front of the visitors’ dugout.
The Eastleigh bench went mad and both sets of players squared up to each other as Fleetwood was treated by physio Andy Cook.
After consultation with his linesman, referee Martin Dexter showed Nelson the red card, much to the disgust of the home crowd.
There was more fury from the Gander Green Lane faithful two minutes later when Eastleigh defender Chris Todd went in on Scannell just outside the centre circle. The Us’ fans were baying for blood, willing the referee to even the numbers up, but Todd was shown a yellow.
Despite Eastleigh’s man advantage, Sutton continued to push forward and Scannell had a half-chance when found by McDonald on the left of the area. But the ex-Eastleigh man got the ball caught under his feet and could only scoop a shot well over.
The Spitfires responded with a couple of Yemi Odubade efforts – one wide and one deflecting into the arms of home keeper Tom Lovelock.
On 37 minutes Dundas ran at Eastleigh to the edge of the area before Todd got across to intercept.
The game finally came to life for the right reason on 40 minutes when Eastleigh snatched the lead on the break.
Collins played the ball out to full-back Michael Green charging down the left. Green ventured into the area and unleashed a low, angled shot which squirmed through keeper Lovelock’s legs for CRAIG McALLISTER to chase in behind and stab over the line.
Sutton earned a free kick wide on the left in stoppage time when Odubade fouled Binns but McDonald’s delivery eluded everyone. Half-time: Sutton Utd 0 Eastleigh 1 Eastleigh replaced the injured Fleetwood with Evans for the second half and it was to prove a fateful start for the substitute, who slotted in at right-back. With just two minutes gone, Evans went in with a sliding tackle on Scannell as the Sutton man attempted to burst behind him into the left of the area and, as Scannell went down, the referee pointed to the spot.
DUNDAS stepped up and crashed a venomous penalty high to keeper Ross Flitney’s left to level on 48 minutes.
With Damian Batt pushed further forward on the right, he picked out McAllister who steadied himself to shoot but fired straight at the keeper.
At times it was easy to forget that Sutton were a man down and they continued to run at Eastleigh with the burly Dundas a particular handful.
On 68 minutes Spitfires boss Richard Hill made his second substitution, withdrawing Batt, putting on fit-again Dan Spence into the right-back role and pushing Evans into mid-field.
With Eastleigh tackles coming thick and fast, Collins was booked for his challenge on Scannell to further rile the hostile home crowd.
Eastleigh seemed content to defend against the Sutton ten and wait for chances on the break, but they were few and far between. And it was the visitors’ goal that came under threat on 77 minutes when Dundas hammered a first-time shot wide from the edge of the box.
With tension mounting, Eastleigh were lucky to escape on 79 minutes when, following an awkward bounce, Sutton’s newly introduced sub James Folkes got the better of Dean Beckwith, forcing Flitney to block.
The ball broke to the unmarked Scannell on the left of the area and, with a gaping goal ahead of him, he hit it first time and his shot drifted narrowly past the far post.
Eastleigh responded positively with a tame Evans free kick straight into the defensive wall before Sutton cleared just past their own post with Odubade ready to pounce.
Odubade then burst into space on the right but keeper Lovelock was quickly out to clear.
On 89 minutes Spence’s cross led to blocked shots from Ben Strevens and McAllister – the second provoking cries of handball from the Eastleigh contingent in the 691 crowd.
Sutton immediately broke through Binns, but the hard-working Collins got back to get it out for a corner.
As the game entered three frantic minutes of stoppage time, Dundas again used his strength to threaten on the edge of the area, but the tenacious Spence who snuffed out the danger.
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