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The Conference Years: Sutton United

13 June 2014

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Remembering where we once were.

They’ll never forget it in Sutton. And nor will anyone else for that matter; when the yellow and brown which represented semi professionalism and non league football defeated the sky blue of Coventry City and the top flight in the third round of the FA Cup.

The year was 1989 and the record stood for over 24 years!

Rovers would first encounter Sutton United in November ’99 at the romantically named Gander Green Lane and come off worse against the part-timers. 

Mark Watson’s 20th minute goal for the hosts was enough to see off Ian Snodin’s visitors in front of a crowd a shade over 1,000.

The return had a few more interesting points to consider. For a start, Rovers won thanks to Glen Kirkwood’s 23rd minute strike against a side which contained the brother of successful Wimbledon striker Efan Ekoku, Nko, and Scott Maxfield donned the goalkeeping gloves for the hosts as Andy Warrington went off late in the game due to injury and Rovers didn’t have a substitute goalkeeper.

Doncaster-born Neil Ilman, who Rovers loaned from NORTHWICH VICTORIA where he had reportedly scored 16 goals in 12 appearances, made his one and only (substitute) appearance for Snodin’s men and was never seen again in a red and white shirt, while Sutton would be relegated after finishing 13 points from safety.

Sutton were founder members of the Conference South but duly lost their place in 2006 following relegation to the Isthmian League (seventh tier).

Their stay there wasn’t too long lasting however and, after play-off failures on two successive attempts, they gained promotion as Champions – back to the Conference South – in 2011.

Their form in play-offs continues to plague them, however, and after back to back top 5 finishes, they were defeated by Welling and DOVER respectively in the play-off semi-finals, despite finishing 2nd last season.

Former Rover Jamie Lawrence is reportedly on the coaching staff in Surrey, and the U’s will be looking for a return to the Conference in the near future.

*Rovers forward Neil Campbell challenges for the ball in Rovers’ 1-0 defeat in Surrey against Sutton United in November ’99. The visitors would win the return fixture at Belle Vue in January, though.*

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