Article by Johnnie Lowery
Just when it looked as though Sutton would be starting the new National League season at Harrogate with a defeat, an inexplicable handball in the box gave Jamie Collins the chance to level and the captain made no mistake in slotting home to ensure United took a share of the points back to South London.
As expected the National League North playoff winners started brightly and hit the post inside the first ten minutes, Aaron Williams meeting a cross though the final touch came off a Sutton defender. The right flank was a source of much joy for the home side and they got in down that side again soon after, though Jack Muldoon blazed his effort wildly over the bar. Just before the half hour mark Harrogate struck the woodwork again, Dominic Knowles’ header from a set piece only inches away from giving them the lead. It only took Sutton one chance to get their noses in front however, Tom Bolarinwa stepping up to take a freekick from a wide position after he himself had been fouled. The delivery found debutant Charlie Clough whose header was too powerful for the keeper to save. For the remainder of the half it was U’s on top, and Lafayette had a couple of chances – one header straight at the keeper and an effort from the edge of the box just wide after the striker was too strong for the Harrogate centre back.
Paul Doswell’s men came out the stronger side in the second half too, Craig Eastmond putting an effort only very narrowly over the bar with Jamie Collins also coming close from a header from a set piece. Just as U’s looked to get on top Harrogate hit back with an equalizer however. A corner was only half cleared and the ball was whipped back in at pace by the taker. The pace on the ball was too much for Jamie Butler who spilt it, leaving Muldoon with a tap in for 1-1. This was the cue for the hosts to push for the winner, Collins coolly reacting to head back to Butler to prevent one opportunity with Knowles also missing a good chance. With five minutes to go Harrogate did get the goal that looked like coming though, a corner bouncing around the penalty box before Kelvin Langmead hammered it home. Sutton never gave up and should really have had a penalty when Bolarinwa was brought down, but just as it looked to be beyond reach a penalty was given deep into stoppage time. A seemingly not particularly threatening ball into the box was punched away by defender Joe Leesley – a stonewall penalty that was actually missed by the referee but eventually given after the linesman flagged. Collins stepped up and although the keeper got a hand to his effort couldn’t keep it out. There was little time for further action, the game finishing 2-2.