Back from the Red
Sutton Common Rovers ended 2018 with a hard-fought point away at fellow high-fliers Redhill on Saturday.
Rovers suffered a blow before the game when left back Matt Tanton failed a fitness test, meaning Malachi Robinson switched to the left, Aaron Bogle moved into the right back spot, and their was a start for teenage centre back Guy Baskerville.
Rovers started brightly with Nes Bellikli on the left and Marlon Pinder on the right getting some joy out of their respective full backs, but after a good spell, where Bellikli was denied by a superb last ditch tackle by Redhill skipper Jon Trotter, it was the hosts who started to take control.
With the outstanding Darnelle Bailey-King giving Aaron Bogle a torrid time on the flank, and Baskerville and Craig Hastings looking nervy in the middle of the Rovers backline, the hosts were starting to create chances, but a combination of poor final delivery or good last gasp challenges kept them at bay.
They did though strike first on 24 minutes, when a corner played into the near post saw Jon Difford beat keeper Craig Bradshaw to a near post corner, and although Robinson looked to have blocked the initial effort the ball rolled home to make it 1-0.
Phil Page fired an effort well wide of the target before Redhill increased their lead on the half hour, this time it was more great work by Bailey-King who got beyond Bogle and stood a tremendous ball up to the back post, where Ashley Snadden capitalised on hesitation in the Rovers backline to head the hosts 2-0 up and in firm control of the game.
Rovers made a change, removing the off form Baskerville, and introducing wideman Ben Senior, and the move was to have a positive impact for the visitors, as on 38 minutes they were back in the game. Page picked up the ball wide on the right, ignored the appeals for offside, and cut beyond Kwadwo Kyei and fired a rasping drive low to Juan Trivino's left and into the net.
There was still time in the half for both sides to go close again, Rovers saw a near post Bellikli corner hit the side-netting, whilst at the other end the lively Kerry Kedze was just off target with an effort on goal, and the hosts went in 2-1 to the good at the break.
Kedze went close to increasing the Redhill lead early in the second half, before Rovers started to get on top of proceedings. Page crashed a thunderous effort onto the bar with Trivino well beaten and dangerous balls into the Redhill box by Pinder and Bellikli were either just beyond Rovers forwards or well defended by the impressive duo of Difford and Trotter.
Rovers finally levelled things up on 66 minutes, and it was the two widemen in Bellikli and Senior combining. Bellikli toyed with Kyei on the right before whipping over a dangerous cross to the back stick, where Senior's header had just enough to beat Trivino and make it 2-2.
The game opened up with neither side willing to settle for a point. Bradshaw did superbly to prevent a close range Halsey effort, and at the other end Senior was denied by Trivino when his first touch got away from him. Bellikli clipped an effort into the Redhill keepers hands, and back at the other end Kedze fired an effort against the bar.
Both sides continued to press and in stoppage time there were chances at either end. Page won, but fired a free kick well wide, and a sliced clearance by Bogle set Kedze away, a neat pass to Halsey and the Redhill man looked certain to score, but Bogle atoned for the error to make a superb last gasp challenge and the game finished 2-2.
In truth a fair result, on a day when two very good sides went toe to toe, and turned in an excellent match for the watching spectators. With Banstead and Abbey Rangers both losing Rovers strengthened their hold on second spot, but with Chertsey winning the gap to the leaders extended to three points, and with Chertsey having a game in hand.