Rents and Dundas have United back to winning ways
Sutton United returned to action in the Blue Square South with their first home game since November and an important 2-1 win that lifted them out of the bottom three.
United just about deserved the points having been much the better side in the first half, with a Sam Rents penalty giving them a slender lead.
However, even after Craig Dundas had seemingly put the game beyond reach with eight minutes to go there were some anxious moments.
Captain Jamie Stuart was sent off for the second time this season and Eastleigh piled on some late pressure that produced one goal, albeit too late to prevent United from claiming victory.
United boss Paul Doswell gave all three of his new signings their debuts, and it was midfielder James Folkes who caught the eye in the first 15 minutes.
He fashioned the first scoring opportunity when he superbly controlled a poor clearance and fired in a low shot that goalkeeper Ross Flitney was scrambling to push wide, and within 10 minutes had produced a fine cross, only for Marvin Williams to miss his kick at the far post, and then tracked back well to deny Eastleigh a shooting opportunity in the Sutton penalty area.
Another of the new faces, Dean Sinclair, was then involved when Williams, who along with Michael Boateng gave the visiting defence a real headache with their pace on the flanks, pulled a cross back in to his path and Sinclair’s shot was blocked at close range by a defender.
It was becoming a familiar scenario, even more so when on a rare attack Craig McAllister came desperately close to giving Eastleigh the lead when looped a header against the crossbar from a left wing corner.
Four minutes before the break, though, United attacked again down the left and Sam Rents’ cross was met by a powerful Williams volley, which was blocked by Alex Lacey’s arm.
This time, with the defender’s hands at head level when the ball struck him, and the referee ruled in Sutton’s favour despite protests from the visitors, and Rents put United ahead from the penalty spot.
It was the start of a wretched 10 minutes for Lacey, who was booked for the handball and two minutes after half time he was caught by a nasty late challenge from Richard Pacquette, the third of United’s debutants, after he had cleared the ball.
Pacquette was perhaps lucky only to be booked, and Lacey limped off soon afterwards to be replaced by Dale Binns, of whom Sutton had seen plenty last season when playing against Woking.
He was soon testing them again, put in on the left by Damian Scannell’s pass but shooting wide, and this heralded a good spell for Eastleigh as United’s new signings began to tire and they struggled playing in to the strong and cold wind.
Sutton needed Kevin Scriven to be at his best as he dived at McAllister’s feet to deny him a shot after Jai Reason’s neat flick had left him free in front of goal, and then back-pedalled to keep a looping long-range header from Binns out of the top corner with a fine save.
Eastleigh then thought they should have a penalty of their own when Glen Southam’s shot hit a Sutton defender, but this time the referee’s decision was to wave play on, indicating that if it had hit an arm it was one that was down by the player’s side.
Eastleigh boss Richard Hill was incensed enough to earn a seat in the stand for the last 25 minutes, and with fresh legs on, Harry Ottaway linking up particularly impressively with Williams after replacing Pacquette, Sutton loked to have weathered the storm and when Dundas hooked the ball in from close range after a Rents corner from the right had fallen at his feet the points seemed secure.
There was still plenty to come, though, as Stuart, on a yellow card already after a needless foul from behind on Reason, was adjudged by the referee to have kicked the ball away after Rents had been penalised, although the margins, both over whether it was a foul and how long it was after the whistle, were small enough for Stuart to feel a little harshly done by.
It set up a nervy last few minutes as Corey King and Southam both missed good chances and Scannell then shot home after a free kick from the left had fallen to him.
It was too late to affect the result, though, and United were able to celebrate their second home league win of the season.
United travel to AFC Hornchurch this weekend.
Pictures and reaction to follow.