Exeter City fell to a late defeat at the hands of Sutton United at the VBS Community Stadium.
Rob Milsom’s 88th minute penalty proved the difference on a difficult afternoon for the Grecians.
Sutton took the lead in the seventh minute but Tim Dieng equalised almost immediately as Exeter looked for a foothold in the game.
In a game of few chances, Milsom capitalised on Sam Stubbs’ late foul and the home side took all three points.
Matt Taylor was enforced into a host of changes from December 11’s fixture with Tranmere. Cheick Diabate and Sam Stubbs made their league debuts.
City sought to make early inroads and forced a corner from the left. Though Sutton keeper Dean Bouzanis flapped at the first cross, he showed more confidence Harry Kite’s floated delivery back in.
To start a crazy passage of play, Sutton though took the lead in the seventh minute. Omar Bugiel headed home at the far post. But City pegged back just a minute later through on-the-day captain Tim Dieng.
A long-range effort from Jake Caprice was spilled by Bouzanis and there was the silky Frenchman to tap home on the rebound!
Both sides were playing free-flowing football. Sutton threatened Cam Dawson from range but the City shot stopper was more than a match.
Harry Kite was alert to deny Enzio Boldewijn an opening. Kite diverted the winger’s effort wide. Dawson again got down well to Louis John’s speculative effort on 38 minutes.
City’s new defensive duo of Stubbs and Diabate were dealing well with Sutton’s gameplan. The makeshift pairing kept strong guard in a first half where concentration levels could have dwindled.
Sutton began the second half on the front foot without testing Dawson. City were made to work hard for any openings up the other end.
The hour mark approached with few chances for either side created. Cheick Diabate’s wonderful afternoon came to an end on 65 minutes. A great debut called short with an injury scare and Jordan Dyer came on to replace him.
Dyer, who only returned from his loan at Bath on Thursday, was thrusted straight into the action blocking Donovan Wilson’s ranged effort, before mirroring the action a couple minutes later.
City failed to capitalise on a hairy moment from Bouzanis. Podge Amond beat the Sutton keeper to a wide ball but as the U’s regrouped, Jish Key’s cross was claimed by the returning shot stopper.
Substitute Jonathan Grounds was in the right place at the right time to halt a certain Sutton goal. Neat interchange between Joe Kizzie and Donavan Wilson allowed the latter to shoot. With Dawson beaten, the newly-introduced defender thankfully knocked the ball away.
City sent the cavalry forward and carved out their best chance of the half with 12 minutes to play. Grounds strangely snuck behind the high United line and backheeled to Jevani Brown. Brown’s floated ball was met by Amond, who could only head over.
With a couple minutes left on the clock, Sutton United were gifted a penalty after a clumsy challenge. Rob Milsom made no mistake from the spot and United had a gained a late lead.
City couldn't quite find the inspiration to equalise and that's how the scores stayed.
Sutton United: Bouzanis, Barden (Davis 90’), Goodliffe, John, Bugiel (Bennett 80’), Olaofe (Wyatt 90’), Boldewijn, Kizzi, Milsom, Wilson, Smith
Subs: Wyatt, House, Dundas
Exeter City: Dawson, Key, Stubbs, Diabate (Dyer 65’), Caprice, Dieng (Grounds 72’), Collins, Kite, Edwards (Jay 77’), J. Brown, Amond
Subs: S. Brown, Taylor, Jay, Seymour
Referee: Alan Young
Attendance: 3,278 (482 away)