Article by Mark Bravery
Having tasted defeat for the first time this season at Aldershot on Monday, Sutton United must pick themselves up for another challenge this Saturday (1 September) as table-topping FC Halifax Town come to Gander Green Lane.
The West Yorkshire club, who turned full-time this summer, regained leadership of the National League on Monday with a 1-0 home win over Gateshead, Jordan Preston's goal against his previous club maintaining Halifax's 100% record at The Shay. Their only away win this season came on the opening day, 2-0 at Braintree, and they have since lost 2-1 at both Salford City and Boreham Wood. Five of their twelve goals have come from corners, an area of the game where Sutton have been a little susceptible lately.
Last season United won a physical home encounter 3-2, Ross Lafayette scoring a brace and Craig Dundas netting Sutton's other, Halifax replying through Tom Denton and Scott Garner with their captain Matty Brown missing a penalty. A mid-season slump led to a parting of the ways with manager Billy Heath, his successor, Scotsman Jamie Fullarton, guiding the Shaymen to a 16th-placed finish. Denton and Garner have both moved on, but Preston and former Wycombe Wanderers striker Dayle Southwell are among their new signings.
Monday's results saw Sutton slip to ninth, but they are only three points behind Saturday's visitors. Manager Paul Doswell will be without his skipper Jamie Collins, assuming there has been no successful appeal against the centre back's red card at Aldershot. Nicky Bailey is likely to remain sidelined by a heel and calf injury, but right back Dale Bennett, who missed the Aldershot game after his wife gave birth, may return to the squad.
Sutton are in action again next Tuesday evening (4 September) when they travel to newly managerless Maidstone United.
Despite struggling for much of last season the Kent club did the double over Sutton, a goal from midfielder Stuart Lewis settling matters at a snowy Gallagher Stadium in March, and the Stones going on to finish 19th. They have since signed forwards Joe Quigley and Shamir Mullings after their respective releases by AFC Bournemouth and Forest Green Rovers.
Maidstone have won twice during this campaign, 2-1 at Dagenham & Redbridge and 1-0 home to Barrow, with ex-Bromley winger Blair Turgott netting five times in their seven games. But on Monday they suffered their fourth defeat, 2-1 at home to Boreham Wood, a result that left them 19th and precipitated the departure of manager Jay Saunders. Assistant manager Steve Watt will be in charge for Saturday's trip to Gateshead and for Sutton's visit.