Payne strikes but Sutton cannot wipe out Staines
Sutton United's recent good run of form in the Blue Square South came to an end on Saturday at the hands of Staines Town.
A first-half penalty and a defensive blunder five minutes before the end meant that Stefan Payne's first goal of the season in the dying moments would get United nothing from a 2-1 defeat.
Sutton might have been ahead inside the first 20 seconds, when Craig Watkins found himself in behind the visiting defence but he lifted his shot over the bar as the keeper came out.
Jack Turnerin the Stains goal was to prove a major stumbling block, though, and gave a hint of what was to come with a fine full-length save when Jamie Stuart met Gareth Gwillim’s inswinging free kick with a firm glancing header.
Soon afterwards, Watkins was tripped on the edge of the penalty area, Patrick Kanyuga booked for the foul, and although the free-kick did not work as intended the ball ran to Harry Ottaway whose low shot was saved.
Staines had shown little going forward to this point, although Louie Theophanous, fresh from his hat-trick against Hornchurch last week, worked hard and showed his confidence with one shot from 25 yards which curled over the angle of post and bar.
However, 10 minutes before half time Staines were awarded a penalty when David Wheeler was tripped by Simon Downer in the area.
Tom Lovelock was unable to repeat his saves at Tonbridge and Eastbourne as, despite diving in the right direction, he could not reach Louie Theophanous’s well-placed spot kick.
Before the break, Theophanous might have added a second, chipping in to the side netting after Lovelock had punched away a cross from the right, and Will Bor chipped just over the bar.
The early stages of the second half saw Sutton continue to do most of the attacking and within five minutes Ottaway and Harry Beautyman combined superbly on the left before Ottaway crossed low and a stretching Watkins was just unable to reach the ball to force it over the line.
United came close again when, with his first touch after replacing Ottaway, Sam Rents chipped a cross to the far post where Craig Dundas climbed and smacked a header against the outside of the post.
As the half went on, though, United struggled to match the fluency of their earlier efforts and with Staines happy to get players behind the ball, Sutton found it difficult to find a way through.
Seven minutes from time Payne should have done better when Beautyman created space on the right and chipped the ball in to the area, but his downward header lacked power and was too close to Turner.
A minute later, however, Beautyman received a throw-out from Lovelock but his attempt to lay the ball inside to Downer lacked power, and with Downer compounding the error by being slow to react he was beaten by Jordaan Brown, who powered forward and slotted a shot past Lovelock.
With just over a minute to go Payne outpaced the defence to reach Downer’s long pass and lift the ball over Turner to reduce the arrears.
However, it was not enough to deny Staines their first away league win of the season.
Sutton travel to crisis club Truro City this weekend.