FC Halifax Town will host a Sutton team on Saturday undergoing a transitional phase, according to Warren Gwillym, who covers the club for the Your Local Guardian website.
Sutton won National League South on the back of a 26-game unbeaten run in 2015/16. The following season they finished 12th in the National League and hit the headlines with a record-breaking FA Cup run to the fifth round where they lost 2-0 at home to Arsenal.
Last season they achieved their highest ever finish in the football pyramid, third place in the National League, losing 3-2 at home to Boreham Wood in the play-off semi-final.
And Gwillym says that having pushed for the EFL last season, expectations were high again this term.
He said: “The U’s were invited into this year’s IRN-BRU Cup (Scottish Challenge Cup). They won 1-0 at Scottish League One side Airdrieonians but lost on penalties at Irish League side Bohemians in the third round.
“The invitation has come at a cost. Trips to Scotland an Ireland have meant a more conjested schedule with league games being postponed.
“A major blow for Sutton was losing striker Tommy Wright who ruptured a cruciate ligiament in the win at Orient. Wright was the Young Player of the Year in last year’s National Game Awards.
“United have used Jonah Ayunga in a bid to fill the void, he’s recently been on loan at Havant, so manager Paul Doswell signed striker Darren McQueen from rivals Ebbsfleet.
“Striker Brandon Thomas-Asante has also joined on-loan from MK Dons and he scored a 30-yard screamer for the U’s in last weekend’s defeat at Bromley.
“Sutton have recently been knocked out of both the FA Cup and FA Trophy by Slough Town and Bromley respectively.
“Doswell has recently adopted a policy of giving youth a chance. Academy product defender Bradley Pearce scored on his full league debut at Fylde but then suffered a nast injury at Bromley, He should be fit, though. Now that Sutton are out of the cups there’s hope they can push on in the league.”
Gwillym says Sutton are going through a transitional phase at the moment.
“Having been spoiled by success in recent seasons, the U’s are going through what manager Paul Doswell has labelled a ‘reset’ season.
“Despite not playing their best, the U’s are still eighth in the table and have managed to grind out some impressive results.
“In recent weeks they’ve shown a never-say-die spirit, coming from 2-0 down at basement boys Braintree to earn a point as welll as levelling twice against Fylde and Solihull Moors to earn 2-2 draws.
“They were unlucky not to salvage a draw from last week’s FA Trophy defeat at Bromley. Sutton are currently the only team to have won at league leaders Leyton Orient and have also recorded a comprehensive 3-0 victory over fellow high fliers Wrexham.
Gwillym says Sutton captain Jamie Collins is a crucial figure on the pitch.
“He is a rock in defence and reliable from the penalty spot. There’s no obvious attacking threat but Thomas-Asante will gain confidence from his goal last week. Ayunga looked a handful before he was loaned out to Havant while Doswell tried other options.
“Tommy Wright is ruled out for the rest of the season. Defender Aswad Thomas also might be ruled out, he’s a good source of crosses from the left and Doswell has described him as a possible player of the season.
“Sutton have tinkered with their style in recent weeks. Having played a direct style for much of the season, manager Paul Doswell has recently tried a passing game. The U’s haven’t won for eight games. Their last victory coming against Dagenham and Redbrisge on November 3.”