Thursday, 9 June 2011

Sutton United - Borough Sports Ground

Sutton United FC
Borough Sports Ground
Gander Green Lane

020 8644 4440

Ground Number: 9
Sutton United 0-4 Wycombe Wanderers
Saturday 10th April 1993
FA Trophy Semi-Final, 2nd Leg


Sutton United were formed in 1898. They started out in local leagues, joining the Athenian League in 1921, then the Isthmian League in 1964. Undoubtably their heyday was in the 1980's when they were in the Conference for several seasons. A best ever finish of 7th came in their first season of 1986/87 and they had another 2 well placed finishes of 8th before eventually being relegated in 1991 when only Fisher Athletic kept them off the bottom of the league. One more season was spent in the Conference at the turn of the century, but they finished rock bottom.  Since then they have been mainly in the Isthmian Premier, though they have also spent several seasons in the Conference South since that became step 2 of the non league Pyramid, finishing in 2nd place in 2014.

However they are more famous for several astonishing cup runs, the most famous of which came in 1989. They'd already beaten Aldershot & Peterborough the previous season, as well as taking Middlesbrough to a replay. As a result, they received a bye to the 4th Round. They beat fellow non-league sides Walton & Hersham, Dagenham and Aylesbury to set up a 3rd Round tie against Coventry City. The top-flight side had won the cup less than 2 years previously and came into the game on the back of a 5-0 victory against Sheffield Wednesday. That counted for nothing though as Tony Rains & Matt Hanlon put Sutton through 2-1, much to the delight of their pipe smoking manager Barrie Williams. The match was the main feature on Match Of The Day, and although they'd go on to lose 8-0 to Norwich in the next round, no one could take away those memorable moments.

Though the club reached the FA Trophy Semi-Final in 1993, going out at the expense of my team Wycombe, they had previously reached the final in 1981, only to lose to Bishop's Stortford. They were also twice defeated finalists in it's predecessor, the FA Amateur Cup, losing to Wimbledon in 1963 and North Shields 6 years later. Several local cups have been won, and they can count comedian Tim Vine as their most well-known fan.


Having all but sewn up the GM Vauxhall Conference title, and therefore promotion to the League, Wycombe were looking to compete on other fronts too. One of those was the FA Trophy. The Chairboys had won it 2 years previously, having beaten Kidderminster Harriers 2-1 at Wembley Stadium.

It would take some doing though. Isthmian Premier side Sutton United had a 3-2 lead going into the 2nd leg, as well as home advantage. Managed by former Wycombe manager Alan Gane, this was their best chance ever of making a Wembley appearance and lifting the trophy. Wycombe needn't have worried though. Defender Matt Crossley popped up with 2 goals to send the Chairboys through convincingly 4-0 on the day and 6-3 on aggregate. We went on to claim the title and win the FA Trophy at Wembley with a 4-1 win over Runcorn - and the rest, as they say, is history.

VISIT 2: CONEY HALL 0-5 AFC WIMBLEDON (CCL Challenge Cup 08/04/04)

Minnows Coney Hall were in Division 1 of the Combined Counties League at the time and had done very well to reach the CCL Challenge Cup Semi Final. With their own ground being without lights, and little more than a pitch with a fence around it, they had to play the game somewhere else. The game was originally played at Bromley on the 16th March and Coney Hall were doing great, taking the game into extra time and managing to hold their illustrious hosts at 2-2. However, crowd trouble ensued, blamed on bad stewarding and lack of police, but really you should be able to trust people not to act like scum. Anyway, the result of this was that the match was abandoned

I was watching Wycombe draw 1-1 at bitter rivals Colchester on the date of the original game, but was available for the replay. I went with my mate Paul, who was a keen AFC Wimbledon fan at the time, and his wife Sue. Pre match I remember having a great meal at a 'Sizzling' pub, which according to my research is no longer there.

In the end this match had much more of a police and steward presence and passed off without incident. On the pitch AFC Wimbledon easily won 5-0 and it could have been more. Kevin Cooper got a hat trick for the Dons and the 'home' side's frustrations led to both the manager and assistant manager being sent to the stands for bad language.


This was back in the days when I used to go for games for the game, rather than the ground. Wycombe were away at AFC Wimbledon on the Monday and so I had a free Saturday to watch a game. I chose Sutton United v Notts County, hoping for a giantkilling. As it was Sutton ran their league opponents pretty close, but in the end the visitors slipped through. I remember the game for sitting in the stand next to Tom Watt, who was commentating for BBC Radio London at the time, but had formerly played 'Lofty' in BBC soap 'Eastenders' back in the days when it was worth watching.


Originally on this day I was planning on going to Croydon v Tunbridge Wells in the South East Counties League. I had good firm plans in place - park up at the ground, walk or get the tram into Croydon, of which the main attraction was a retro computer games shop I wanted to go to. There were also several other cheap shops and I'd be treating myself to a 'Mexican Monday' meal at Wetherspoons. But on the Sunday I got a tweet from Croydon which told me the game was off. Luckily my plans were not completely destroyed, instead I'd pop across to Sutton for their FA Cup replay against Hemel. This would please my Sutton supporting mate Ryan who was forever trying to get me to meet him at games, but I always had other plans. I'd also get to see Johnnie again, who does the highlights for Youtube and was the person I met Ryan through.

Thanks to the good value travel on the London Underground, it was touch and go whether I'd drive or take the train, with the costs being roughly the same whatever mode of transport I took. In the end I made the decision to drive for the convenience factor, plus I wasn't planning on drinking much. On the day of the game it was the start of my week off work but even so I had plenty to do with various errands and also researching stuff for the week ahead. I listened to the FA Cup draw on TalkSPORT where I learned that the winner of this game would have an away tie at Aldershot. After having lunch I chilled at home before leaving home around 2.30.

As I was driving around a mile from home, a warning came on my dashboard that the oil level was low. I was a bit concerned that it was something serious, especially with me going away the following day. Luckily though I had some oil left over from my previous car and it was exactly the spec needed for my new one. After I'd topped it up at home, I was on my way again, half an hour later than intended, but mind at rest after no more warning lights came on. For once the M25 was behaving itself, and I arrived 90 minutes later in Croydon, parking up and paying by phone as I didn't have any change on me.

First stop was Playnation Games - the retro games shop I wanted to go to. Though I didn't buy anything it was nice looking at some of the old games from down the years. I had a look round a few other shops, but the only shop I spent anything is was 99p stores, which turned out to be great. I got myself a nice hat and gloves for the winter, some aftershave, plus some drinks and snacks for the games I'd be going to this week. It was around 5.30 when I left and only about 5 miles to ASDA in Sutton, where I'd hoped to restock on oil for my car. It took 35 minutes because of the rush hour though so I nipped in there quickly and got my stuff before going onto the ground and getting there at 6.25.

There was plenty of free street parking, despite it being right next to West Sutton train station. With an hour and twenty minutes till kick-off, I put my plan to go to the local Wetherspoons in action, which was a 10 minute walk away. My original plan was to partake in 'Mexican Monday' which had been great the previous time I'd tried it in Brighouse. 'The Grapes' was a very good example of a Wetherspoons outlet though and they had 2 real ciders on, including a Hecks one that I'd not tried before. They also had a deal on a roast beef baguette with chips for £2.99. Both were excellent and great value too. Suitably refreshed I made my way back to the ground, getting there with around 25 minutes to kick-off.

After paying my entry, the first port of call was the excellent club shop. I bought myself a retro Oxford United pennant and picked up a free 2015 diary, both for the princely sum of £3.50. I then met up with Ryan & Johnnie, my Sutton supporting pals. I joined them behind the goal, lending my support to their team for the night, and borrowing a scarf for the game. It was a good laugh, with some funny chants taking the mick out of the shorter than average Hemel keeper. They also played some decent tunes on the tannoy, including Sugar Minnott's 'Good Thing Going' which I'd not heard for ages.

There was ex Wycombe representation on both sides. Craig Eastmond who did really well on loan for Wycombe a few years back was playing in midfield for the hosts and really should be at a higher level than this. Also former youth team striker Dan Fitchett who never quite made the grade, but was excellent for me on Football Manager was on their bench. On the flip side of the coin, Matt Spring who lined up for Hemel was a massive disappointment. I remembered him for Luton where he was a great player, and he got rave reviews from his former club Leyton Orient. However his time at Wycombe was a right ket down, with him taking home a tidy sum, whilst hardly ever kicking a ball. He was the epitome of everything that was wrong with the team at the time - too many journeymen on good money which nearly cost us our Football League status.

The game was not the greatest, but it was far from dull and probably better viewing than the game I saw at Hastings on Saturday. At first Sutton struggled to get a grip on the game, mainly due to their failure to hold the ball up front. But gradually they started to have some chances, opening the scoring just before half time when Ross Stearn's tidy finish gave them the lead. The second half they were a bit more progressive and it looked to be game over when Dan Wishart doubled their advantage. However Hemel got a late goal and had a flourish late on, but Sutton held firm to book a trip to Aldershot in the final qualifying round.

I said goodbye to the lads and made my way back home. It was a good journey home but I did have the misfortune to have to listen to TalkSPORT on the way home. They way they were talking, you'd have thought that England had failed to qualify, rather than boasted a 100% record. The tiresome Andy Goldstein is always painful to listen to, and normally I'd have sought an alternative, but Radio 5 were banging on about rugby, so I had to make do. I got home just in time to watch the England highlights, before typing up this blog and going to sleep around 1am.


GANDER GREEN LANE is one of my favourite Non League grounds, having plenty of character and being a great day out. The overall ground capacity is 5000, with pride of place going to a large seated stand that holds around 800. There are 3 further covered terraces meaning that around another 2000 can be kept dry during inclement weather, while the rest is open terracing. There are some great fans there too, plenty of colour as demonstrated on the excellent 'Gandermonium' blog. 

The club shop is one of the best in football, with plenty of old programmes, books and magazines. There is also a nice range of souvenirs, all at wallet friendly prices. I've not sampled the bar or tea hut but there are plenty of places within easy walking distance, plus Sutton town centre is just over 10 minutes brisk walk away, with an excellent Wetherspoons and plenty of other choices too

MAIN STAND - 2008 & 2015





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