- (unused: Sambu, Andrews, Mercer)
26 January: Manager Tony Joyce had the luxury of naming an unchanged side from last weekend’s win against Barton, the first time Rovers have named the same starting eleven all season.
There was a welcome return to the bench for Izale ‘Goals’ McLeod.
The game was seconds old when the visitors should have opened the scoring, Ryan Nesbitt snuck in behind the offside trap to find himself one on one with James Martin.
Fortunately for the Rovers keeper, there was a terrific recovering challenge that helped the forward’s effort to lob lazily wide.
Nesbitt proved to be thorn in the backline for Rovers for much of the first half, continually playing on the shoulder of the last man and trying to utilise his obvious pace, although he seemed to have left his shooting boots on the team bus.
James Beresford saw a header go over the top after Sutton worked a clever corner in to the middle.
Rover’s Captain Marvel, Shane Bush, found himself in the referee’s notebook after twenty minutes for a fifty-fifty challenge in the opposition area, he certainly appeared to have won the ball, Sutton’s Alexander Curtis making the most of the contact.
Bush had a glorious chance less than five minutes later, a Nathan Tshikuna cross from the left was mis-kicked by Josh Crawley on the penalty spot before a weak attempt at a clearance fell to Bush’s feet, but the Sutton defence manfully blocked the fierce drive.
The deadlock was broken on the half hour, a soft free kick wide on the left was awarded for contact on Curtis.
The dead ball was played into the middle where Nesbitt was on hand to head home unmarked with one of only two efforts on target for Sutton all afternoon.
Three minutes later, Rovers were left apoplectic at the match officials. A surge forward into the box was curtailed by an obvious handball.
The guilty party, captain James Mutton, was clearly standing inside his own box when the ball struck his arm, but to the disbelief of everyone inside the ground the referee gave a free kick two yards outside the box.
The assistant, who was level with the play, didn’t indicate the referee’s error. The resultant free kick flew just wide of the post from Ben Shepherd.
Shepherd was again involved three minutes later, as a Josh Crawley corner wasn’t dealt with properly by the visitors allowing the midfield general to steal in and volley home of the far post.
It was Shepherd’s sixth goal of the season. In first half stoppage time, Scott Joseph turned smartly on the edge of the box and his snap shot drew a save from Gwilliams in the Sutton goal, but the sides left the field level at the break.
Seven minutes into the second period, Sutton were convinced that they had re-taken the lead, but a point blank save from James Martin after some penalty box pinball preserved parity.
Rovers began to find some joy down the right hand side of the pitch, first Dan Akubuine crossed in for Shane Bush, who’s powerful header was saved by Gwilliams.
Moments later another cross from the same source was flicked by Josh Crawley but he couldn’t get enough direction to trouble the keeper.
Another Akubuine cross was met by the flying figure of Shane Bush, reminiscent of Robin van Persie in the 2014 World Cup, but unlike the Dutchman, Bush’s header flew wide of the mark.
With ten minutes left in a largely uneventful second half, Josh Crawley seized on a mistake by a defender and bore down on goal, his effort was comfortably dealt with at the near post by Gwilliams.
Nathan Tshikuna then tried his luck from outside the box with a curling effort, but he couldn’t find the target. Terrific interplay between Alfie Powell, Shane Bush and Josh Crawley saw the latter’s volley saved on the stretch at the near post by Gwilliams.
In stoppage time, a move involving Cameron Hyde and Nathan Tshikuna ended with sub Izale McLeod shooting on the turn, only for Gwilliams to deny Rovers the win.
Despite the point, Rovers drop to fifteenth on goal difference.
The next outing for the Tony Joyce Revolution is at Creasy Park, Dunstable, where Rovers will be taking on Dunstable Town next weekend.
Words: Matthew Wilmot on Behalf of Kempston Rovers FC