Sutton United 2022/23 Season Review: No incredible and historic highs but still a campaign to celebrate

4 min

Having defied all the odds during a memorable EFL debut season, Sutton United were once again tipped to struggle this time round.

And, although the Us couldn’t sustain a Play-Off challenge or reach a Wembley final, Matt Gray’s side more than held their own – something that can be considered a success in its own right.

There’s a Football League resilience and nous around the Us which was at times tested to the limit through injury crises, winless runs and a frustrating knack of conceding late goals.

A mid-table finish (14th) proves Sutton are a well-organised football league outfit although Gray will be concerned as to how his side tailed off by the end, hoping the 11-game winless streak does not stretch into next season.

Up until that moment the Us were still harbouring Play-Off hopes following a resounding win over Crawley Town before a goalless draw at Barrow and an uninspiring home defeat to Grimsby sent them into their current downward spiral.

Their run-in may have consisted of facing all of the top six in their last nine games but alarm bells should be ringing by the back-to-back 4-1 defeats to Colchester United and the already relegated Rochdale in the final two away games of the season.

Nevertheless, Sutton have generally adapted well to any situation or issues that have come their way – beginning as far back as last summer with the noteworthy departures of David Ajiboye (Peterborough) and Dean Bouzanis (Reading).

The Us took time to regain consistency and their usually brilliant home form also let them down in the early stages, suffering three defeats in their opening ten Gander Green Lane league fixtures in comparison to last season’s impressive tally of just four throughout the entire campaign. 

Sutton were also hampered by a number of their new arrivals struggling to make an immediate impact with Gray turning to inexperienced duo Kylian Kouassi and Tope Fadahunsi in their search for much-needed goals.

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Injuries also hampered progress in the early stages, losing Ben Goodliffe to a cruciate ligament injury and Jon Barden to a broken leg meant at times the Us had only one fully-fit central defender.

The 2-0 home defeat to Tranmere typified the club’s dire injury situation as Louis John was forced off after just seven minutes before his centre-back replacement Aaron Pierre was unable to continue after 17 minutes.

Coupled with the winless run at the time, it was undoubtedly Gray’s toughest spell as Sutton boss with the South London derby victory at AFC Wimbledon in mid-October alleviating some of the pressure.

Sutton would go on to do the league double over the Dons although they would go on to lose to them in the EFL Trophy – just weeks after an underwhelming FA Cup First Round exit at home to non-league Farnborough.

After claiming 12 points out of a possible 15 over the festive period, Sutton entered the January transfer window with renewed purpose and one eye on the Play-Offs.

After announcing the return of Ajiboye on-loan, Lee Angol also joined from promotion rivals Bradford to boost the attacking ranks with the pair going on to score three goals in their opening seven league games.

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With the squad strengthened and the injuries easing, Sutton only suffered two league defeats across 15 games from Boxing Day to late March to leave them four points off the Play-Off places.

The 3-0 trouncing of Crawley was unfortunately as good as it got though, with the game also seeing Omar Bugiel win the League Two Goal of the Month for a delicious close-range backheel.

In comparison to the incredible highs of the past two years, this season could feel a bit of a letdown, but in the context of where the club have come from and what they have achieved, a lull in proceedings may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Images provided with thanks to Paul Loughlin/Sutton United FC.

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