Rovers draw a classic
By Gary Brigden
Sutton Common Rovers picked up a point in their top of the table clash with Chertsey Town on Saturday.
Whilst the point is better for Chertsey in terms of title aspirations, it would be churlish to heap anything but praise on the Rovers side for the part they played in what was an outstanding advert for Step 5 football.
The first real chance fell to Rovers on five minutes when a pacey break by Ollie Twum was well dealt with by Michael Peacock, from the throw-in Marlon Pinder hooked the ball into the area and a loopy Daryl Cooper-Smith header was comfortable for Nick Jupp in the Chertsey goal.
The hosts took the lead on ten minutes, and Rovers will be a little disappointed they failed to clear the ball. Keeper Ollie Ellaway made a succession for close range blocks from the prolific Jake Baxter and Lubomir Guentchev, before a dinked ball to the back post allowed Dave Taylor a free header to open the scoring.
Rovers response was instant, almost straight from kick off they forced a corner. Nes Bellikli played the ball in, Asa Rixon flicked the ball on, Matt Farrell flicked on again and as they ball dropped Daryl Cooper-Smith hammered home a left foot volley to level the scores.
Both sides were trying to take control of the game, but neither was able to get on top of their opponents. Twenty minutes into the half, and Chertsey almost fashioned an opening, as Farrell gifted possession to Baxter but his shot deflected off Guy Baskerville and into Ellaway's hand. Back at the other end and a Bellikli cross found Rixon but his header was gathered by Jupp low to his right.
Baxter was causing problems for Baskerville and Craig Hastings with his intelligent running and movement, and on 24 minutes he latched onto an 8 through ball, rounded Ellaway only to his goalbound effort superbly cleared off the line by Baskerville, and from the resulting corner Peacock saw his free header hooked off the line by Malachi Robinson.
Chertsey were starting to gain the upper hand, and another ball in by Lubomir Guentchev deflected into the path of Baxter, but this time he mistimed his volley and Rovers were eventually able to clear.
Just shy of the half hour and it was Rovers who went close to taking the lead when a defence splitting ball by Rixon found Bellikli, he took his shot early, but the effort went narrowly wide of the left hand post. Andy Crossley found his way into the book for a mistimed challenge on Rixon, and it was a card that would haunt the Chertsey man later in the game.
Guentchev cut inside Robinson and curled an effort over the bar on 40 minutes, and the last chance of the half fell to the homesters, when a Baxter lay off found Crossley but his effort flew over the bar.
Rovers replace Bellikli on the stroke of half time, and introduced youngster Joshua Ano for his debut. Ano was involved early in the second half, and his whipped in free kick on 52 minutes was met by Cooper-Smith, bringing a decent save out of Jupp away to his left.
Darren Salmon's men were starting to gain the upper hand, and just shy of the hour thought they had a penalty when Twum, having initially done well to get beyond Mason Welch-Turner, went down in the area, however the referee, correctly, adjudged the Rovers man had gone down to easily and a yellow card was shown to the flying winger.
Just after the hour and Farrell powered a header goalwards bringing a stunning save out Jupp to keep the scores level. Crossley clipped Twum on 63 minutes earning himself a second yellow and reducing the hosts to ten men.
Pinder made way for Aidan Brown on 70 minutes as Rovers looked to freshen things up and make the man advantage count. It was Chertsey though who almost struck when Rovers were caught over-playing and Chertsey quickly set Baxter away, but left one on one with Ellaway the forward was unable to make the most of the chance and Ellaway made an excellent save with his legs.
However, despite being down to ten men, Chertsey retook the lead on 80 minutes. Forcing a corner on the Rovers right, the delivery was flicked on and Michael Peacock thumped home a header to give the hosts the lead.
Again Rovers responded positively, and were level inside two minutes, Robinson did well on the right and floated over an excellent ball, substitute Brown leapt highest and guided his header beyond Jupp for 2-2.
Rovers made their final change with 87 minutes on the clock, replacing Cooper-Smith with the fit again Adam Allen, and it was Allen who went close to winning the points for Rovers when his close range shot on the turn was well saved again by Jupp.
It was the last chance for either side, and a superb game of football rightly ended in a draw.