How Sutton United’s Wembley defeat to Rotherham United must be the beginning, not the end of their season

4 min

Sutton United were on the apex of bliss before Rotherham United crushed their Papa John’s Trophy dreams at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

There was less than a minute between Jordi Osei-Tutu’s equaliser and the final whistle as Rotherham, flying high in the league above, left it fashionably late to equalise during an agonising seven minutes of added time.

That stoppage time proved too much for League Two Sutton, with Rotherham going on to clinically dismantle what was left of Matt Gray’s fatigued side in extra-time with emphatic finishing that reinforced their league status.

Although Sutton’s magnanimous performance was spoiled in the dying embers, the Amber Army still enjoyed the historical occasion – and rightly so.

The club chairman, Bruce Elliott, revealed that some fans and players reunited at Gander Green Lane post-match to revel in the moment.

Considering Gray’s men were labelled with the familiar ‘underdogs’ tag, for the majority of the 90 minutes they looked anything but as they provided a positive advert for League Two football. 

They took the lead twice with goals from Donovan Wilson and captain Craig Eastmond to give Sutton a 2-1 lead they never looked like relinquishing until those final injury-time minutes.

Not only did they stifle Rotherham on the pitch but with almost 15,000 fans in support, almost three times the number Gander Green Lane holds, they challenged their rivals’ with their noise off it too.

The Papa John’s Trophy, officially known as the EFL Trophy, is often derided as an unnecessary distraction from a gruelling Football League campaign.

For everyone in attendance though, it should be viewed as a positive diversion from the ferocity and competitiveness of league proceedings, a league in which Sutton still have plenty to play for.

With seven games left to play, they currently sit 11th and only three points off the Play-Off places with a game in hand on the majority of their rivals.

READ MORE: A promotion and Wembley cup final on the horizon? The key to Sutton United’s continued success revealed

The entire club must now reframe their focus for the visit of in-form Leyton Orient on Saturday, who have claimed 12 points from a possible 15 since the arrival of Richie Wellens as their new manager.

There is no time for Sutton to linger in defeat as the chance to make more history with a consecutive promotion is very much on. 

Put into perspective, Sutton waited 41 years to make a Wembley appearance, making the EFL Trophy final in their first-ever season as a Football League side after 123 years in the wilderness of non-league football.

Another trip to Wembley is still very much a possibility with promotion to League One an objective that Sutton are more than capable of achieving and, on Sunday’s performance, more than befitting of.

Therefore, Sunday’s defeat cannot be the end to a memorable season, but another chapter in what continues to be an incredible Sutton story.

‘Gutted’ Matt Gray won’t linger on defeat

Manager Matt Gray insists the heartbreaking Wembley defeat will not detract from Sutton’s quest for back-to-back promotions.

“We were whiskers away from a great 90 minute performance,” Gray told London Football Scene after the 4-2 extra-time defeat to Rotherham.

“I’m gutted to be honest with you, gutted. I feel for the players more than anybody, the shift and the hard work they put in.

“You have to congratulate Rotherham and Paul Warne (Rotherham manager) – you just have to look at the standard of their goals and the quality of their finishes.

“But we don’t get carried away. We will have a day off, then full focus will be on the league.”


Liaising with the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club (UKUSSC) and the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB), London Football Scene has launched ‘London Football Unites for Ukraine’ –  a fundraising campaign to provide as much relief to those in need.

We are urging all the Capital’s clubs, players and fans to raise as much money as possible for British-Ukrainian Aid (registered charity No. 1164472).

Please visit our JustGiving Page to give as much as you can and look out for more events and fundraising activities over the coming few weeks.

London Football Unites for Ukraine:

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