Suburban League Challenge Shield Final
Gay Dawn Farm, Fawkham
Attendance: 150 (estimate)
Match Rating: 3
There is much to like about Gay Dawn Farm, situated in the tiny village of Fawkham, a mile and a half south of Longfield train station. Situated within a sporting complex which includes a golf course and indoor and outdoor football pitches, one of which is 3G, the football ground is a wonderfully quirky countryside venue that oozes individuality with beautiful countryside surroundings. One enters behind one of the goals, and to the immediate right is a basic wooden stand covering a couple of rows of wooden benches. To the left, after a short, narrow walkway, there is a cottage type house building behind the corner flag, with the changing rooms inside and covered seating outside, whilst surrounding this cottage are various farm buildings. The length beyond this, a grass area with multi-coloured trees on top of a bank, is inaccessible to spectators, although two moveable dugouts are located there and the area is used for players warming up. Permanent dugouts are located on the opposite length, not in use this evening, whilst either side are two bus shelter type structures. Along the remainder of the length is hard standing, and behind this length are hillside trees, making a very attractive green backdrop. Behind the remaining goal is just hard standing, closely lined by trees. An eight page programme was produced for this game, giving good detail on how both clubs got to the final and their seasons to date.
The Suburban League Challenge Shield is a competition which clubs in the league for reserve teams apply to enter. Sutton United and Tonbridge Angels were paired in the same group in the group stage, finishing first and second respectively in the four team group in the first round, with Sutton winning 0-4 at Tonbridge. Sutton were then awarded the victory against Hartley Wintney in the quarter final, before winning at Royston Town in the semi-final, whilst Tonbridge won 2-1 at Erith Town in the quarter final before beating Berkhamsted on penalties after a goalless draw in the semi-final. Sutton United Reserves were aiming for their fourth piece of silverware this evening, having already comfortably won the Premier Division of the Suburban League, the Challenge Cup and the Champions Cup. Tonbridge finished in sixth place in the Premier Division.
On a very overcast but humid evening, the match started quite evenly, although Tonbridge soon assumed the ascendancy, having the first real chance of the game on 17 minutes when their striker dribbled the ball along the edge of the penalty area, seemingly losing his balance, but still managing to fire in a wonderful shot which came back off the underside of the bar. Tonbridge did take the lead on 24 minutes though, when Brett Milham's cross from the right wing was headed downwards by Dodgson with the ball bouncing up into the top left hand corner of the net. However, just eleven minutes later and Sutton were back on level terms, Jordan Oldershaw heading home at the far post from a corner. Tonbridge looked the better side for the remainder of the half, and may have been slightly disappointed to have gone into the interval on level terms.
The second half continued in a similar balanced vein as the first half, although this time it was Sutton who were carving out the better chances, but it was probably a fair reflection on the game that the scoreline remained all square at 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes. Into extra time, and Sutton were completely dominant, with Tonbridge barely offering a threat as they seemed to have run out of gas. Sutton scored what turned out to be the winning goal on 107 minutes when Shaquille Hippolyte-Patrick got on the end of a low long ball forward, before firing in a low cross-shot across the keeper and into the net. Sutton looked the more likely to score again, and in the end they deserved to lift the Shield to put the finishing touch on a glittering season for Sutton's reserve team.