Wasteful Snipes let lead slip three times

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Sutton Town AFC took the lead on three occasions against FA Vase semi-finalists St Andrews, but were unable to hold onto any of them as St Andrews fought back each time to end up with a share of the points in a 3-3 East Midlands Counties League draw.

Sutton, who were without suspended duo Varley and Guest, started the game at a high tempo and, on a bobbly pitch, applied pressure to the visitors’ defence, who were looking to play out from the back.

Mitchell robbed Howarth in the first few minutes, but his attempted cross to Owens was well cut out by Johnson.

But Snipes didn’t have to wait long to open the scoring as great play by Grayson in the midfield gave a chance to Fields to play in Grinion.

Fields’ delightful ball round the side put Grinion one-on-one with Hall in the St Andrews net, and the striker kept his calm to steer the ball around the onrushing keeper.

But St Andrews hit back straight away with a fortunate equaliser as Warner’s attempted cross bobbled up just as the winger struck the ball, the ball looping over West and striking the bar, falling kindly to Doughty to stroke home into an empty net after 10 minutes.

However, two minutes later it was 2-1 as Fields again played a lovely ball through the visitors’ defence and this time it was Mitchell who kept his cool to beat the onrushing Hall.

St Andrews came straight back at the Snipes and Linnett got in behind the Sutton defence, but West bravely saved at the striker’s feet, then Holliss was next to have a chance but again West was up to the task.

The game was ebbing and flowing and it really looked like both sides were going to score every time they went forward, chances falling to Grinion and Mitchell for the Snipes while Linnett and Doughty were causing all sorts of problems for the home defence.

The visitors finally got their second equaliser with five minutes remaining of the half.

Sweeney brought down Warner 30 yards out and the little winger picked himself up to take the free kick, swinging in a low shot that somehow went through the wall, wrong-footing West and nestling into the bottom corner.

St Andrews kicked off the second half, immediately on the front foot, Hollis and Warner both putting in good crosses but West commanded his area well.

Then on the hour and slightly against the run of play Grinion wriggled past two defenders and cut a lovely ball back to the incoming Mitchell, who powered his shot home past the hapless Hall to give Sutton back the advantage.

Could Sutton hold on this time? The answer was no.

Charlesworth and Naughton were brought on to try to shore the leaky home defence, but the visitors equalised for a third time on the hour although Sutton were unlucky.

Sweeny brought down Warner on the edge of the box, and again the winger picked himself up to whip in a vicious ball.

West was unsighted due to Charlesworth’s outstretched leg, and could only watch in horror as the ball found the back of the net.

There were still 30 minutes remaining and both teams went for the winner, Sutton bringing on Hewitt for Sweeney and pushing Owens up the pitch, but the Snipes couldn’t manage to create any more clear cut chances.

St Andrews were throwing everything at Sutton but Charlesworth was winning the aerial battles and chances were at a minimum.

Then in the dying seconds substitute Hickey had a chance, but the forward could only steer the ball wide of the post as he just managed to nip in front of the onrushing West, who clattered into the forward, the visitors appealing for a penalty.

The referee waved the appeals away and the forward managed to get up after what at first seemed like a serious injury.

Sutton will be disappointed after taking the lead three times and conceding three unlucky goals, but St. Andrews definitely deserved a point.

Sutton’s next game will be at home to Radford on Saturday, when the Snipes will be looking to return to winning ways to keep their title hopes alive.

SUTTON TOWN AFC: West, Tittley, M. Hewitt, Pickering, Sweeney, Grayson, Rhodes, Mitchell, Owens, Grinion, Fields. Subs: Naughton, D. Short, C. Hewitt, Charlesworth.

SNIPES MAN OF THE MATCH: Neil West.