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Feature

New To League Two: Sutton United

17 June 2021

A photograph of Sutton United lifting the National League trophy Paul Loughlin
Sutton United celebrate winning the National League

Our journey around the new teams joining us in League Two for 2021/22 continue today as we stop off to South London for a Club set to make their EFL debut next term.

How did they get here?
Sutton United won promotion to the Football League for the first time in their 123-year history by winning the National League title in 2020/21.

The U’s had looked the best side in the division for much of the campaign and their home form was particularly impressive as they won 14 of their 21 outings at Gander Green Lane and fired 43 goals in the process.

Matt Gray’s men clinched their historic promotion in style too, thumping rivals Hartlepool United 3-0 at the end of May in a typically robust performance in front of the BT Sport cameras.

With such a relatively small window between last season and next, Sutton are now working hard to prepare for life in the EFL – including with the ripping up of their 3G pitch for the grass version needed at the higher level.

Who’s in charge?
Matt Gray was appointed as Sutton United boss in May 2019 following the departure of the long-serving Paul Doswell.

He has originally joined the club’s coaching staff the previous December, whilst he also gained experience through spells as Assistant Manager at Eastleigh, Aldershot Town and Crawley Town.

As a player, Gray came through the ranks with Spurs before going on to play for Cardiff City, Hayes and Havant & Waterlooville but was forced to retire early through injury.

Where do they play?
Gander Green Lane has been home to The U’s since 1912 and has a current capacity of 7,000 including a seating allocation of just under 800.

United reportedly brought in revenue of up to £200,000 a season from hiring out their 3G pitch facilities but artificial surfaces have been banned in the EFL since 1995 so the club is currently installing a new grass pitch.

When did we last meet?
The Bluebirds had to settle for a point when they last collided with Sutton United during a National League trip to Gander Green Lane in February 2020.

A Scott Quigley double had Barrow 2-0 up, but Harry Beautyman gave the hosts hope with a goal just before the break and then scored again just after the hour to secure them a share of the spoils.

What do the locals think?
Tony Dolbear (Press Secretary at Sutton United):

''Sutton had actually been in good form in the three months leading up to the suspension of the 2019/20 season, only losing three National League games after an unlucky defeat at Barrow in early November, and the ability to keep much of the squad for the 2020/21 season was crucial. When Isaac Olaofe returned in October for a season long loan spell from Millwall every outfield member of Matt Gray's squad for the last game of the curtailed season against Hartlepool was still with the club, and, while goalkeeper Nik Tzanev had returned to Wimbledon, his replacement, Australian Dean Bouzanis, was a commanding presence all season. 

“So, the hopes were high from the start that if that form could be continued then we ought to do well, and could be challenging for a play-off place, but after a couple of months it became clear that we could be challenging higher than that.

“A superbly organised defence, solid midfield and a quick and powerful attack proved a potent combination, allied to a wonderful team spirit and the ability to bounce back from setbacks - we didn't lose consecutive league games all season.

“This was best shown at the end of January in a week that saw a goalless draw at Torquay followed by a narrow defeat at Hartlepool and then a Tuesday night at Stockport which saw arguably our best performance of the season. The 2-0 win confirmed us as genuine challengers, and while it was never straightforward from that point, every time there was a setback, such as the home defeat to Torquay in April, it was followed with a victory, and nothing was more befitting of the season than the way the players stormed over the finishing line against Hartlepool, a fifth successive home win, having been given the chance by Barnet's draw at Torquay. 

“Our first EFL experience in our 123-year history is one to look forward to, and you can be sure that Matt and his management team will have the squad well prepared for the challenge.”


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