Sutton United enter the new season looking forward to life in MFL Division One and are coming off back-to-back promotions, competing in Division three as recently as 2021-2022. Richard Heath has done an incredible job as manager with the club on an upward trajectory since resuming from lockdown.
Despite the challenging weather conditions throughout the afternoon, the atmosphere at Coleshill Road was positive with a sense of anticipation for what the new season will bring. The clubhouse is a welcoming environment to get a feel for the club and their history. The programme before kick-off was excellent for people who were new to Sutton United and provided a history of the club. The main stand was mostly full due to the weather conditions which contributed to a good atmosphere before kick-off.
The Sutton goalkeeper Reiss James Wagstaff was the skipper, and the formation was a 4-2-3-1 with Joe Gildea leading the line as the main striker and being supported by attacking midfielder Tom Massey and players like Leyton Hines on the wing. They also had prolific striker Joe Delaney on the subs bench in one of his last games for the club before departing on a scholarship to America and heading to Chicago.
For Smethwick it was a new looking team for their first game of the season with defender Callum Lee being the skipper and Callum Nevey leading the line as their number nine.
The first ten minutes of the match were eventful, and Sutton managed to score two quick goals to ease away any nerves. Joe Gildea’s scored the opening goal with his movement in the box excellent to get in the right position before Leyton Hines scored a brilliant goal with what was probably his first shot of the game.
Despite Sutton easing into the match, Smethwick did have a number of notable chances to get into the match in the first 20 minutes and if they scored one it could have been a different match. Jack Tallack had a good chance but narrowly missed and there were some set pieces that were close to resulting in a goal for the visitors. Callum Nevey also had a shot on target which was well saved by Reiss James Wagstaff at an important moment in the match near the half hour mark.
Just as Smethwick were growing into the match, Sutton managed to score a third and effectively put the game out of reach. Tom Massey controlled the ball brilliantly before finishing well into the bottom left corner to put Sutton three up. Smethwick did have a chance to score before HT with Bassit Mandey taking a swerving free kick that hit the post.
Sutton managed to score a fourth early in the second half. This involved a brilliant passage of play with Jon Grigg cutting in and bending a curling effort into the left corner. Despite the scoreline Smethwick still had chances and continued to work hard for opportunities. Resharn Donegan linked up well with substitute Cory Patterson before the latter narrowly missed.
Throughout the match Sutton were more clinical in the box and converted chances in a composed manner which ultimately made the difference. Leyton Hines scored a fifth for the hosts and was similar to the fourth with a brilliant strike into the left corner from cutting inside. Substitute Joe Delaney scored from a classy finish past the keeper into the bottom right corner to make it six with the finish underlining why he scored so many goals last season. Leyton Hines completed his hat-trick in the last ten minutes which came from a long ball flick on and resulted in a FT score of Sutton United 7-0 Smethwick Rangers.
It was a notably impressive performance by Sutton, and they should be looking forward to the rest of the season. Kaine Donald was brilliant at the back. He read situations well and made key interceptions to preserve the clean sheet. He’s also an underrated passer of the ball and stepped into midfield well in the final 20 minutes following a tactical change. Jake Murrell had a really good game at left back and looked solid defensively. Another player who impressed was Yousef Semlali who was composed on the ball and moved past players with ease.
Sutton should be comfortable competing in division one and have a team that looks organised both on and off the ball. There’s a mixture of talent and industry in the team and the signs are promising for what the season could become.
Despite the defeat there were encouraging signs for Smethwick and supporters of the away team should look at the season overall rather than judge them off one match. It’s a new team and there’s going to be a few challenges along the way with supporters needing to be patient and taking the long view.
The club linking up with Boldmere St Michaels U21s is a positive and there were several players in the team that looked promising and will hopefully get better with more games. Bassit Mandey had a good game and tried to make things happen and Callum Nevey got into the right positions as the number nine before having shots blocked or saved.
Both teams are worth following throughout the season from August to the end of April and should have interesting seasons.
FT score: Sutton United 7-0 Smethwick Rangers
Man of the match: Leyton Hines
The official news channel of the Midland Football League (founded 2014)