Lowestoft Town 0, Sutton United 0
Lowestoft Town confirmed themselves as genuine promotion contenders against the highly-rated Sutton United after a battling draw at Crown Meadow on Saturday.
In fact had it not been for an inspired display from visiting goalkeeper Kevin Scriven, Lowestoft would have been celebrating three valuable points as they were the only side looking for victory after the visitors were reduced to 10 men for the last half-hour following Craig Dundas' horror tackle on Adam Smith.
Lee McGlone and Adrian Forbes had efforts brilliantly repelled by Scriven to preserve a point for the visitors but perhaps the biggest plus point to come out of the match was the sight of Matt Nolan returning to action after a long term elbow injury.
With a fit and firing Nolan on board, Lowestoft will certainly be looking to confirm their status as genuine promotion candidates, if anyone around the club had any doubts already.
It is easy to forget given the Blues' start to the season that they are newcomers to the division and they looked nervous in the opening stages.
Sutton were the quicker to settle and had Elvis Hammond shown a better first touch in the seventh minute they would have gone in front.
However, when the former Norwich City loanee used a burst of pace to latch on to Karl Murray's through ball he showed a lack of composure and in doing so explained exactly why he never made it at the highest level despite his obvious speed.
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Bradley Woods-Garness was the next to get in behind the Lowestoft back four but from a tight angle his left-footed effort was beaten away well by Andy Reynolds.
Reynolds' save appeared to galvanise the Blues and they were unfortunate not to get their noses in front after McGlone's clever flick on sent strike partner Jamie Forshaw through on goal.
The lively striker was in a straight race with United's Darren Ebsworth and the defender did just enough to prevent Forshsaw from getting a clean effort in on goal and his toe-poked effort was well saved by Scriven.
Suddenly, Lowestoft were in the game and they were getting some joy through McGlone's aerial prowess. The summer signing from Leiston was within a whisker of opening the scoring in the 17th minute when he met Joe Francis' corner from eight yards out but Scriven produced a wonderful flying save.
Lowestoft were starting to turn the screw and Sam Gaughran was the next to go close with a looping effort that glanced off the post before being cleared but Sutton had an even bigger let-off in the 33rd minute when 'keeper Scriven was adjudged to have handled a backpass outside the penalty area.
By the letter of the law, Scriven should have been given his marching orders but referee Neil West decided a yellow was censure enough.
Smith's resulting free-kick had Sutton worried before Ebsworth's brilliant defensive header cleared their lines. Lowestoft weren't done however and Forbes made a run down the left flank before producing a cross to the back post where McGlone had found some space.
The striker looked all set to head his side in front before inexplicably going with his foot instead and his effort slammed into the side-netting.
The Blues were given a reminder just before the break of the threat Sutton posed going forward through Hammond when the former Leicester man got the wrong side of Haynes-Brown five minutes before the break.
Hammond looked to be in on goal but hadn't accounted for Haynes-Brown's powers of recovery with the former Sudbury man producing an excellent last-ditch tackle that robbed Hammond of both the ball and his balance.
Lowestoft looked like they had left their concentration in the dressing room less than a minute into the second period when United winger Fola Orilonishe got free down the left before crossing for their top goalscorer Richard Jolly who, from six yards out, could only hit his effort straight at Reynolds.
Town were desperately unlucky not to break the deadlock just before the hour mark however when some excellent interplay between Forbes and Andrew Cave-Brown down the right resulted in the right back getting to the by-line and pulling the ball back for the waiting Forshaw, whose effort arced just the wrong side of the upright, skimming the post.
Unfortunately, this marked the end of the game as a genuine contest with two teams looking for the win as Sutton were reduced to 10 men.
While Dundas' tackle was perhaps not in the Nigel de Jong league of challenges, it was certainly enough to warrant the referee giving the burly midfielder his marching orders after he went over the top of the ball and firmly into Smith's shin after a 50/50 tackle.
The Sutton bench were infuriated by the decision with United manager Paul Doswell was ordered to leave his technical area.
Both teams reshuffled with Smith being forced off as a result of the injury while Sutton withdrew Hammond and Jolly shortly after, as they looked to play for a draw.
Lowestoft found it difficult to break down the well organised visitors although the introduction of Nolan certainly got the crowd going and he almost made it a fairytale comeback in the 90th minute when Francis pulled the ball back for the striker on the edge of the area but his right-footed effort was easily saved.
There was time for one last gilt-edged chance for Lowestoft when Haynes-Brown's fearsome long throw caused chaos in injury time before the ball fell nicely for Forbes eight yards out.
The former Norwich City winger could not have caught his shot any sweeter but Scriven, who might not have even been on the pitch, was in fine form and made an excellent reflex stop, tipping the ball over.
• Lowestoft Town (4-4-2): Reynolds, Cave-Brown, Gaughran, Haynes-Brown, Smith (Crane 67), Forbes, Fisk (Ainsley 75), Cockrill, Francis, McGlone, Forshaw (Nolan 78). Subs not used: Godbold, Halliday.
• Sutton United (4-4-2): Scriven, El-Salahi, Downer, Page, Ebsworth, Woods-Garness, Dundas, Murray, Orilonishe, Hammond (Kavanagh 63), Jolly (Goodliffe 77). Subs not used: Costa, McKimm, Shaw.
• Referee: Nick Pavitt
• Attendance: 1,265