The opening JPL Group 17 Cup competition welcomed newly formed Sutton Town Academy to the newly named Gornal Athletic FC and their home stadium of Garden Walk on Saturday. Whilst the two clubs may have been new to the JPL their was plenty of familiarity of the JPL and amongst the players. Seven of Sutton's line up had been playing for the home side for the past two seasons under the banner of WMA Barnsley before their Summer departures to the away side. Both sides also had a number of injuries to key players.
The weather was kind and the pitch looking good after the work completed on it over the Summer.
The game kicked off as frantically as one may have expected. Gornal however were into their stride the quickest and opened the scoring after only five minutes. A sweeping move through the thirds saw Gornal build possession down the right channel which concluded with Josh Brooks linking in well with Dan Piper in exchanging passess. The final ball saw Josh cut in and pick up a well weighted through ball which split the flat Sutton back line for Josh to calmly pass the ball into the far side of the Sutton goal. 1-0.
As to be expected Sutton came back into the contest and won a series of free kicks in dangerous areas which were either well held by GK Kai Lloyd or well defended by the Gornal back line. Gornal looked lively on the counter with Harding Richards and Josh causing centre halves and full backs plenty of problems. No further scoring 1-0 P1
Into P2 and it was an even contest. Neither side having a guilt edged opportunity, both sides contesting well. Sutton looking to use their pace in the top third by playing directly, Gornal being compact and organised. No further scoring. 1-0 Gornal at half time.
Into P3 and both sides had chances to score, Sutton's front players interchanged and a combination of good goalkeeping from Toby Davies and poor finishing kept the tie in Gornal's favour. Gornal responded and kept the ball with neat short/short/long passing for a period of time which began to frustrate the away side, both sides picking up bookings for late challenges. Still 1-0 despite Harding still looking a handful.
Into the final quarter and two minutes in Sutton did get their equaliser where a long ranged effort was partially saved only for the ball to fall to advancing Cydon Walker who made no mistake from close range to tap home. Sutton had their tales up but didn't create too much until, on 72 minutes they enjoyed a large portion of good furtune where a Roger Davis cross from wide on the left drifted goalwards and ending up cracking into the top corner for a Sutton goal who, with eight minutes to play led for the first time in the match.
The lead was to last for only three minutes however as Gornal changed formation and responded quickly with spirit and belief. A goal mouth scramble in Sutton's area saw a Harry Farnell shot flick up and strike the arm of Aiden Blackhall who was on the goal line denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. A penalty kick was awarded and Sutton were reduced to 10 men. Jim Westwood calmly stepped up and dispatched the penalty into the corner, 2-2 with five to play and the tie was up for grabs. Gornal felt momentum had swung back into their favour and chased for the winner. With two minutes to play and Sutton dropping deep a diagonal ball once again set Harding away. Harding finally completed what he had threatened to do all match by beating a defender for strength before, from a tight angle, lashing the ball home into the Sutton net, beating the keeper at his near post. It was fitting for the player, who, until six weeks ago had never even played competetive football,to score what turned out to be the winner in a highly charged and quick tempo fixture. Sutton were reduced to 9 players when the referee took exception at the end of the match to words exchanged to him by the Sutton Goalkeeper. The game concluded with handshakes all around
Final score Gornal Athletic 3-2 Sutton Town Academy - Good luck to all at Sutton for the rest of their season.