Lowestoft Town lose out to leaders Sutton United
Lowestoft Town could not make their pressure tell as 10-man Ryman Premier leaders Sutton United held out for 2-1 victory in a pulsating contest on Saturday.
Up to 150 travelling Lowestoft fans made for a cracking atmosphere at Gander Green Lane, and they were treated to an enthralling game, if a frustrating outcome – including six bookings and United striker Andy Forbes' dismissal for celebrating with the home fans as he put the hosts 2-0 up on 54 minutes.
From then on the Trawlerboys dominated, but despite Scott Mitchell's deflected drive halving the deficit with 25 minutes left, the visitors could not find the finishing touch – or luck – to leave south London with a point.
That included a controversially-disallowed goal from Michael Frew for offside with six minutes remaining, despite the fact Mitchell's cross was seemingly squared to the striker from near the byline.
Craig Fleming, part of the Town management team, said: 'I spoke to the lads that were up there and they just said Scott was half-a-yard from the dead ball line, so he's got to go at least sideways – it can't go forwards because if it did, it would hit the side netting or go behind the goal.
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'But that's the way it's going. We're just having one of those little spells where things are happening against us that we have no control over. It happened on Tuesday night (in a 2-1 defeat at Tooting and Mitcham) when again we had what looked like a perfectly good goal disallowed.
'But we can't affect that. The linesman has given it and that's his decision. We've got to keep on trying to perform and show the passion we showed in the last half of the game.'
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The win ensured Sutton's position at the summit looks increasingly healthy and although Lowestoft will still harbour hopes of putting pressure on the leaders with their four games in hand, the task has been made tougher by back-to-back defeats – all coming off the back on an unbeaten run that had stretched to early September.
Sutton had much the better of the game before they took the lead on 26 minutes – thanks largely to a mix-up in the Lowestoft defence. United striker Craig Dundas broke through and although it seemed a simple toss-up to clear the ball between Town defenders Sam Gaughran and Andrew Cave-Brown, neither made contact leaving goalkeeper Andy Reynolds to bring down the Sutton number nine.
Referee Steve Rubery pointed to the spot and Forbes confidently put away the penalty, sending the yellow-carded Reynolds the wrong way.
Reynolds produced two excellent saves from the impressive Dundas, while Adrian Forbes and Matt Nolan brought decent stops from United keeper Kevin Scriven at the other end.
Having done well to go in at the break only one down, Lowestoft looked much brighter in the second half and Nolan was unlucky to see his shot, after a flowing move, snuffed out by the United back line.
But the visitors' newly-found spark was extinguished seconds later, as Dundas' power and pace saw him square for Forbes to bag his second.
Rubery's decision to send Forbes off for his celebrations left the home fans furious and their side on the back foot for the rest of the contest.
Mitchell's deserved strike ensured things would go to the wire, although Lowestoft could not help but feel robbed by the assistant referee's late intervention.
'We started very poorly indeed to be honest with you; we just didn't start well, it wasn't us and to be fair to them they started and got us on the back foot,' added Fleming, with midweek speculation linking him with the managerial vacancy at Cambridge United off the post-match menu.
'The back four has been magnificent all season and we've defended well as a team all season, but the two goals weren't great. And again we've gone from nearly scoring ourselves to conceding at the other end, which happened on Tuesday.
'The lads are a really honest bunch, they're hard working…it's just sometimes it doesn't happen.'
Saturday's game was played with a red ball for the first 15 minutes to mark next month's Red Nose Day, with footage set to feature as part of the BBC's coverage.
Town will have two chances at Crown Meadow this week to get back to winning ways, with the visits of promotion rivals Kingstonian tomorrow and struggling Hendon at the weekend.
• Sutton United (4-3-3): Scriven 7; Downer 6, El-Salahi 6, Page 6, Ebsworth 8; Kavanagh 7, (Woods-Garness 78 7) Murray 6, Davis 8 (Adjei 81 6); Dundas 9, Andy Forbes 7, Griffiths 8. Subs (not used): Orilonishe, McKimm, Shaw. Booked: Downer. Sent off: Andy Forbes 54. Goal: Andy Forbes (27, 54).
• Lowestoft Town (4-4-2): Reynolds 8; Cave-Brown 7, Crane 6, Gaughran 6, Smith 6; Frew 7, Fisk 6, Cockrill 6 (Francis 59 7), Mitchell 8; Adrian Forbes 6 (Forshaw, 70 6), Nolan 7. Subs (not used): Godbold, Ainsley, Halliday. Booked: Reynolds, Frew, Adrian Forbes, Godbold, Fisk. Goal: Mitchell (65).
• Referee: Steve Rubery
• Attendance: 803