Sutton 0 Torquay United 1
- Credit: James Fearn/PPAUK
Who’d have believed it! Less than a month after they had seemed to blow their chance completely, Torquay United pulled off a dramatic, deserved and famous victory at Sutton United to put themselves right back in the National League title race at Gander Green Lane.
Captain Asa Hall's diving 81st minute header clinched a sixth win in seven games - and, crucially, a fifth 'clean sheet' in six matches.
Nobody could say that Gary Johnson's Gulls did not merit all three points.
Jake Andrews hit the bar on the stroke of half-time, they created the better chances with their best performance for several weeks and Sutton's Dean Bouzanis was much the busier of the two goalkeepers.
If it wasn't for a miraculous save by Bouzanis from Connor Lemonheigh-Evans on the hour, United would have taken the lead much earlier than they did.
They are still third, but level with Sutton on 63 points and only one behind Hartlepool United with two games still in hand.
Johnson made one change, recalling Dean Moxey for Ryan Law at left-back.
- 1 Norrms McNamara: Ten-second delay...
- 2 Five new business units planned in coach station overhaul
- 3 Paul Jolly: Smart motorway common sense
- 4 Extended semi-detached house offers scope for annexe
- 5 Our nights of darts, pool and the birth of Torbay's 'ghostbusters'
- 6 Gulls start Trophy journey in Tonbridge
- 7 Flower meadows get Bay buzzing
- 8 How studying Neanderthals helps understand the Covid-19 risks
- 9 Rowing: GB rower is guest of honour at presentation night
- 10 Have a fiver off a Christmas tree at Marldon
Law reverted to the bench, where Kyle Cameron returned after an injury sustained against FC Halifax Town on February 20.
Sutton, still without midfielders Kenny Davis and Will Randall, had made a loan signing, left winger Junior Tiensia, from Millwall and he made it onto their bench.
United showed their intent with a slick passing move down the right, involving Little, Lemonheigh-Evans and Adam Randell that nearly forced a breakthrough.
Sutton right-winger David Ajiboye was the obvious danger, but the combination of Moxey and Andrews dealt with him pretty well, and it was a good sign that Ajiboye was forced to do plenty of defending duties himself.
In the 14th minute, Hall set up Lemonheigh-Evans for a left-foot shot which Dean Bouzanis did well to tip round his near post.
Ajiboye put in a trademark run, cutting in past several tackles, but his finishing shot was tame and wide, and Lucas Covolan had little of consequence to do until the 40th minute.
Then, he put himself under pressure on a backpass with a mis-touch with Omar Bugiel and Isaac Oloafe closing him down, and it was a good job that Joe Lewis was back and available to clear the danger.
On the stroke of half-time United could, and should, have taken the lead.
Danny Wright flicked on Moxey's long throw from the left and Andrews was there in the goalmouth with an eight-yard volley which Bouzanis never even sniffed but crashed against the bar and over.
If that was close, United should definitely have taken the lead two minutes after the restart.
Lemonheigh-Evans missed a wonderful chance, unaccountably delaying his shot after Wright had pulled the ball across the face of goal.
Sam Sherring did well to deny Oloafe a clear shooting chance on a Sutton counter-attack in the 55th minute, before Lemonheigh-Evans was denied by an extraordinary save by Bouzanis on the hour.
Wright knocked down another Randell cross, Lemonheigh-Evans was there but Bouzanis somehow kept the ball out at point-blank range.
Sherring and Lewis did a wonderful job at centre-back for United all night, but one rare mistake by Sherring in the 69th minute allowed Oloafe to rob him and set up Beautyman for a clear shot at goal.
But the Ambers' leading scorer got it wrong for once - he pulled his shot wide with Covolan to beat.
Johnson sent Cameron on for Andrews in the 79th minute, some extra insurance at the back, but only two minutes later United grabbed the all-important goal.
Wynter set up Randell for one of many telling crosses that he delivered and Hall timed his run to perfection to send a diving header past Bouzanis from eight yards…1-0.
Both sides made changes in the closing stages, Law on for Moxey and Boden for Wright.
But the biggest scare of the closing stages came in stoppage-time.
Wynter was booked for fouling Oloafe 20 yards out. It looked in Beautyman territory, it was, but in his 250th appearance for Sutton, their leading scorer drove the free-kick over the bar.
Game over, three more points and a victory to savour!
Sutton United (4-4-2): Bouzanis; Barden, John, Goodliffe, Milsom; Ajiboye, Eastmond, Beautyman, Nembhard (Tiensia 46/Simpson 82); Oloafe, Bugiel (Sho-Silva 90+1); subs not used - Wyatt, Rowe.
Booked: Beautyman 85.
Torquay United (4-4-1-1): Covolan; Wynter, Sherring, Lewis, Moxey (Law 88); Randell, Little, Hall, Andrews (Cameron 79); Lemonheigh-Evans; Wright (Boden 90+1); subs not used - MacDonald, Waters.
Booked: Wynter 90+4.
Referee: Jacob Miles (E. Sussex).