Mis-firing Rovers slump to damaging defeat
By Gary Brigden
League leaders Sutton Common Rovers slumped to their first league defeat in 17 games when they were well beaten by Spelthorne Sports on Saturday, and missed the chance to put further pressure on second placed Chertsey.
It was a slow cagey start to the game with neither side able to take the initiative in the opening stages. The visitors were the first to mount a serious attack on goal, and on ten minutes neat work by Joe Dyett found Jack Buckle and he in turn found Jesse Atiase but his shot was dragged wide of the left hand post.
Rovers put Spelthorne under some pressure, with a couple of telling Nes Bellikli crosses causing problems for Henry Poole in Spelthorne's goal, but the visitors survived, but play was mainly confined to the middle of the park.
Spelthorne struck first on 19 minutes, with a screamer of a goal. Picking up the ball wide on the left Lewis Flatman drifted beyond a couple of defenders and his dipping strike went in low to Craig Bradshaw's left, despite the keepers efforts.
Rovers responded positively, and good work by Ollie Twum and Malachi Robinson set up Phil Page but he dragged his strike wide of the left hand post. Three minutes later and the scores were level, a Bellikli free kick was only half cleared by Graeme Edwards, Page fired goalwards, and Tommy Smith reacted quickest to force the ball beyond Poole to level the scores.
A Robinson cross caused problems for Poole, but Rovers were unable to take advantage of the loose ball, and Spelthorne cleared the danger. Rovers were on top at this stage, Bellikli should have pulled the trigger when ghosting passed three players, but hesitated allowing Dyett to make a clearing challenge, and Robinson bought an excellent save out of Poole low to his left. From the corner a timely touch by Edwards cleared the ball from the on-rushing Smith as he looked poised to head home.
Dyett went into the book shortly before the break when bringing down Twum, and from the free kick Poole gathered well under pressure from a couple of Rovers players.
Atiase could consider himself somewhat fortunate not to see red for a poor challenge on Twum, and the visitors started to up the pressure towards the end of the half, Buckle saw a shot blocked, and on the stroke of half time Matt Farrell was pulled up for a foul on the edge of the area, and from the free kick Flatman fired the visitors back in front.
Rovers began the second half positively, Twum got beyond Josh Remedios early on and his squared ball found Bellikli but his shot was superbly blocked by Dyett, something that was to be a all too often repeated comment. Page headed a Robinson cross wide on 50 minutes, but the all important equaliser would not come.
Rovers made their first change on 67 minutes with Tommy Smith making way for another forward in Daryl Cooper-Smith as the home side through caution to the wind. Atiase and Adam Bernard went close to increasing the lead for Spelthorne, but could defending by Matt Tanton somehow prevented them from increasing the lead.
It looked to have been all square on 75 minutes, when a run from Farrell saw him fire home, but the flag was up to deny the goal, and almost immediately Bradshaw fired a clearance against skipper Craig Hastings, and in his effort to retrieve the ball hauled down former Rovers man Tom Neale. From the spot kick Flatman sealed his hat-trick and put Spelthorne 3-1 to the good.
Rovers made their second change with ten minutes to go with Mike Hill replacing the ineffectual Marlon Pinder.
Into stoppage time, and Spelthorne put the well deserved icing on the cake, this time Jake Flatman cut in from the left and drilled a low shot beyond Bradshaw for 4-1.