Article by Mark Bravery
Sutton United host Aldershot Town this Saturday (28 April, kick-off 12.30pm), with both sides knowing that a victory on this, the last day of the regular National League season, would deliver a third-place finish and so home advantage in the promotion play-off semi-final on Sunday 6 May.
A draw would be enough for Paul Doswell's men to finish third (behind champions Macclesfield and runners-up Tranmere), whereas their opponents, one point behind, can only achieve that by winning. That is because Sutton's unexpected 1-0 win at Ebbsfleet last Saturday allowed them to reclaim third position from the Shots, who needed a 90th minute equaliser from Scott Rendell to salvage a 1-1 draw at home to struggling Barrow.
Defeat for Sutton would see them finish either fourth or fifth, depending on whether Ebbsfleet, currently fifth, win their final game at relegation-bound Torquay. The clubs finishing fifth and fourth enter the play-offs at the qualifying round stage, with home matches next Wednesday and Thursday (2 and 3 May) against the sides that have finished sixth and seventh.
Last weekend's success in north Kent ended a dismal run for Sutton of four defeats and one draw since Easter. Strong words in the dressing-room after the 2-1 defeat at Maidenhead on 17 April seem to have reinvigorated the Sutton squad. They now need to carry that spirit into Saturday's big match.
Aldershot haven't won away since February, and have never won at Sutton (although, until last Saturday, Sutton had never won at Ebbsfleet). There have been two particularly memorable Sutton home games against the Shots: the 3-0 FA Cup victory over the original Aldershot FC in November 1987, overseen by Barrie Williams, and the 5-0 thrashing of the reformed club in April 1999 that clinched the Ryman League title for John Rains's team.
When the two sides met at Aldershot last October, an exciting contest finished 2-2. Louis John and Craig Dundas twice put Sutton ahead, with the Shots equalising through Bernard Mensah and a Rendell penalty.
This Saturday's match is all-ticket for home and away supporters.