Rovers back on top
By Gary Brigden
Sutton Common Rovers moved back to the top of the Combined Counties Premier Division, albeit just two points clear of Chertsey Town, from three more games when securing a 3-1 win over a youthful CB Hounslow Utd side on Saturday.
It was CB who started slightly the better and on three minutes neat work by Harvey Lal found Tommy O'Neill, but his sliced effort went wide of Craig Bradshaw's right hand post. That aside the only real incident of note inside the opening ten minutes was Phil Page, on his 100th Rovers appearance, pulling up injured and needing to be replaced by Marlon Pinder.
Lewis Wood fired an effort from distance high over the Rovers crossbar, and it continued to be a largely dull first half, with both sides content to keep possession without really going anywhere.
Rovers opened the scoring on 28 minutes in somewhat bizarre circumstances. A back pass to Kavanagh Keadell saw him play the ball to James Greenwood, unfortunately for Greenwood as Pinder closed him down he slipped gifting the Rovers man possession. Pinder squared to Daryl Cooper-Smith who rounded the advancing keeper and calmly fired home from a tight angle.
Kevant Serbony then almost doubled the lead but his strike from distance went just wide of the right hand post. Just after the half hour a foul by O'Neill on Nes Bellikli ended with the Rovers man bringing a top class save out of Keadell, and almost immediately CB should have levelled, a quick break set Wayne Ridgley free, but Malachi Robinson appeared from nowhere to make a superb recovery tackle and temporarily clear the danger.
More CB pressure followed and a foul led to a free kick just outside the Rovers area, but Harrison Livingstone saw his effort drift over the bar.
Rovers continued to hold the upper hold, Bellikli and Cooper-Smith combined to set up Ollie Twum, but despite finishing well, he was pulled up for offside. Livingstone curled another free kick over the crossbar, and as the half ended Serbony dragged an effort wide of the left hand post.
Pinder almost extended the lead in the opening minute of the second half, when his driving run and one-two with Cooper-Smith ended with him dragging an effort wide of the left hand post. Bellikli had a shot cleared for a corner on 48 minutes as Rovers started the second half brightly.
Cooper-Smith found his way into the book on 47 minutes for a slightly mistimed challenge on Denis Gorman. CB had their first opportunity of the half on 55 minutes when a free kick was only half cleared to 10 but his effort went high over the crossbar.
On 63 minutes Keadell pulled off an excellent double save, firstly superbly blocking a close range Guy Baskerville shot, and recovering quickly to save the follow up from Matt Farrell.
It was 2-0 on 65 minutes, when Serbony caught Gorman in possession, shrugged off two challenges, before firing beyond Keadell to give Rovers some breathing space. Bellikli struck a shot on straight at the keeper on 74 minutes, and then made way for Tommy Smith, with Mike Hill replacing Cooper-Smith at the same time.
Rovers were almost caught out just after the change, when Bradshaw sliced a clearance as he swept up behind the backline, but fortunately defenders were on hand to clear the danger. Hill fired an effort from the edge of the area just wide of the left hand post.
Triantafilos Skapetis saw red for CB in stoppage time picking up a second yellow card, but the visitors reduced the arrears almost immediately. A hopeful ball over the top tempted Bradshaw from his line, Trisden Andrews nipped in front of him and rolled the ball into an empty net for 2-1.
Any nerves Rovers may have had for the final few minutes were ended immediately, when Twum was scythed down in the area by Gorman, and Pinder crashed home the penalty to give Rovers all three points, and put them back on top of the table.
CB were a decent young side, and if they stick together over the next couple of seasons they will undoubtedly be a force in the division.