Doswell's men put up a show, but it does not deflect defeat
Sutton United’s recent run of six consecutive league and cup victories ended on Saturday at the hands of the Blue Square South leaders in the most frustrating of fashions.
The only goal of a 1-0 scoreline came when Chris McPhee's wayward shot was deflected past Kevin Scriven off the unfortunate Tom Kavanagh.
That said, if either side deserved to break the deadlock it was Salisbury.
They carried more attacking threat throughout and missed two good chances in the first 20 minutes, but for the most part Sutton defended their lines well and it would not have been a travesty had they come back from Wiltshire with a point.
United had to change the side that had won so impressively at Bromley, Jamie Stuart the latest to go down with the flu-like virus that had laid several players low and was responsible for Craig Dundas still not being well enough to start.
The reshuffled pack almost got off to the worst possible start had Jamie White, the division’s joint leading scorer, not missed a clear chance with only 15 seconds on the clock, pulling a shot wide after beating the Sutton defence to a pass through from the right.
It was not White’s most distinguished afternoon in front of goal, as midway through the half he shot high over the bar after a quickly taken free kick from Theo Lewis had set Elliott Frear free on the left.
It took Sutton more than half an hour to create a half-chance of their own as Kavanagh’s cross from the right found Harry Ottaway at the far post, but he headed disappointingly over the bar when a knock back across goal to Marvin Williams looked a better option.
Although McPhee blazed another Salisbury chance over the bar from a half-cleared free kick, Sutton enjoyed more possession as half time approached and came closest to taking the lead when a neat passing build-up between Anthony Riviere and Harry Beautyman, ended with Riviere clipping the outside of the post.
Just before half time, Salisbury's Daniel Fitchett produced another wild finish after a Frears free kick had bounced around the penalty area, but after making a change at the break, Dundas replacing Gareth Gwillim, Sutton started the second half promisingly.
Ottaway pulled a shot in to the side netting, and Beautyman lifted a loose ball just wide as Salisbury keeper Mark Scott dived at his feet, making contact with the Sutton player but not sufficiently for referee Paul Harris to judge it a foul.
Four minutes later, though, Salisbury had the lead as Frear pulled a corner low to the edge of the penalty area where it was met by McPhee with a shot that was cleanly struck but heading wide, until Kavanagh deflected it high in to the net.
United boss Paul Doswell introduced Leroy Griffiths for Ottaway but they struggled to create clear chances, although three times they were awarded free kicks within shooting range - Rents drove each of the first two in to the Salisbury wall, and in the last minute drilled the third high over the bar.
By then White should have put the game beyond Sutton’s reach when he headed Fitchett’s cross wide from close range, but it was not to prove an expensive miss as Salisbury retained their two-point lead at the top of the table.
This weekend, Sutton turn their attention to the FA Trophy with the visit of Wrexham of the Blue Square Premier to Gander Green Lane - more previews to follow.