ROYALS PAY THE PENALTY
Sutton Coldfield needed to win this game and hope other results went their way to stand any chance of reaching the play-offs but Blues denied them with a late equaliser from the spot at Coles Lane on Saturday.
Sutton looked anything but promotion contenders with Leek handing out a footballing lesson on the Royals’ 3-G playing surface in front of an above average crowd of 218 swelled by around 75 Leek fans.
In fact Blues dominated the game throughout, playing arguably some of their best football of the season against a strangely lethargic Sutton side who hadn’t lost at home since last November.
Leek should have had the game sewn up at half time but they had to wait until 9 minutes into the second half to take the lead.
However, against the run of play Sutton hit back to draw level and then take the lead 11 minutes from time until Leek upset their day with Dan Shelley netting from the spot a minute into added time.
Casswell went into the final game of the season making just one change to the starting line-up with Glynn Mellor preferred at the back to Mark Bradbury who had to be content with a seat on the bench alongside Ryan Connor and reserve team player Oliver Hopwood.
Leek were the first to show with Steve Brannan playing the ball wide to Danny Smith whose cross was blocked but Tim Grice challenged Phil Male to win the ball back but it flew wide of the target.
After Ben Chapman held onto a huge throw by Kristian Ramsey-Dickson, Leek won a free kick 22 yards out and Dan Shelley found the head of Andy Kinsey who glanced the ball wide.
Sutton’s Craig Milligan was lucky not to be cautioned for a challenge on Brannan in the 6th minute but Smith’s resulting free kick was cleared whilst at the other end 2 more long throws by Ramsey-Dickson were easily dealt with.
Leek almost took the lead in the 10th minute when Smith pumped a free kick into the box where Kinsey controlled the ball before turning his marker only to skim the outside of the upright with the keeper well beaten.
Four minutes later Shelley’s free kick was deflected to Michael Thomas at the far post where his shot was blocked as Blues continued to call the tune.
Leek then had 2 shots hacked clear in the 23rd minute following a corner before putting a good move together with Kinsey playing the ball wide to Anthony Danylyk whose deep cross to the far post saw Grice steam in only to lift a difficult effort over the crossbar from a tight angle.
In their first real raid of the game Sutton attacked the Leek box in the 25th minute but Chapman went down at Lee Parsons feet to claim the ball.
Leek increased the pressure without finding the net as Grice just failed to connect with another Shelley cross but Sutton responded with Daryl Taylor scooping over from the edge of the box.
Leek came close again in the 39th minute when Grice found Shelley and he set up Kinsey who looked odds-on to score, but his shot was charged down 8 yards out.
Less than a minute later Matt Bell crossed from the left to find Danylyk at the far post but his cross-shot flew wide of the far post.
In the 41st minute Blues came close again but when Kinsey pulled the ball down inside the box and swapped headers with Grice his header was deflected wide.
A minute from the break Sutton won a free kick midway in the Leek half but Scott Leycett’s well-struck effort was brilliantly turned round by Chapman.
Leek exerted some early pressure after the break and in the 53rd minute they took a deserved lead.
Smith drove a free from just inside the Sutton half up to Kinsey who got in a header that deflected off the head of Lycett past the despairing dive of his keeper.
Two minutes later Shelley played the ball wide to Bell who crossed to the far post where Brannan headed narrowly wide of the target.
Leek kept up the pressure and in the 58th minute the ball was played out of the Royals’ box and Brannan hit it on the volley from fully 30 yards out forcing a superb save out of Evans who could only push the ball wide for a corner.
When Shelly lifted the flag-kick into the box it was only half cleared and Danylyk pounced only to lift his shot over the crossbar.
Brannan had been a thorn in the Royals’ side throughout the game and he came close again in the 59th minute racing down the right channel before driving another great shot goalwards that Evans did well to get a glove on.
Leek were still calling the tune when Sutton levelled the scores against the run of play in the 63rd minute.
A Sutton corner was headed well clear by the Leek defence but Lycett latched onto the loose ball to crash in an unstoppable shot from almost 25 yards into the back of the net.
That goal stunned Blues and for a time they looked vulnerable but, just when it seemed they had regained their composure, Sutton hit them hard in the 79th minute when Stuart McNaught headed home following a free kick.
At this stage, due to latest scores elsewhere, the Royals were in a play-off place but the home side were denied a third goal when Chapman pulled off another great save to keep out Luke Chapman’s curling effort.
Sutton were then hanging on as the game drifted into added time but they had only themselves to blame when Blues were awarded a penalty for a push on Grice by Luke Chapman and Shelley drove the spot kick into the bottom corner to condemn the home side to another season in the First Division South.
Sutton Coldfield: Evans, Lycett, Milligan, Parsons, Kettle, Male, Taylor, McNaught, Ramsey-Dickson, Danks (Edwards 80), Chapman. Unused subs: Sheldon, Booth, Keenan, Bedford.
Leek: Chapman, Smith, Bell, Thomas, Mellor, Hall, Brannan (Connor 82), Shelley, Grice, Kinsey, Danylyk, Unused sub: Bradbury, Hopwood.
Yellow Cards: Matt Bell, Michael Thomas, Dan Shelley.
Star man: Steve Brannan
Report: Mike Cope