National League
Sutton UnitedSutton United3HartlepoolHartlepool United0

Sutton United 3-0 Hartlepool United: U's win National League title and promotion to EFL

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Sutton United players celebrate
Sutton secured the title thanks to six wins in their past seven games

Sutton United brushed aside Hartlepool United to clinch the National League title and ensure they will start next season as an English Football League club for the first time in their 123-year history.

Rob Milsom's first-half free-kick was fumbled over the line by Pools keeper Brad James to set the U's on their way in front of more than 1,000 fans at a joyous Gander Green Lane.

And with Sutton increasingly in control, Louis John's deflected strike from a corner made it 2-0 before top-scorer Isaac Olaofe's fine individual strike sealed a sixth win in seven games.

Torquay United's 2-2 draw with Barnet on Saturday meant the U's would be certain of both promotion and the title with victory, and they were great value for a win in a lively and fiercely competitive game against fellow promotion contenders.

Pools, who were already guaranteed a play-off spot, could have taken a huge step to finishing third and avoiding a qualification tie.

They can still achieve that feat and earn a home semi-final tie at the same time but now must beat Weymouth and hope Stockport fail to win in the final round of fixtures.

Pools still had title aspirations of their own with six games remaining following a 16-game unbeaten run, but three defeats in four means they may now miss out on third spot.

The visitors made a good fist of spoiling the party in an even first 30 minutes full of chances, but Sutton's pace, power and more direct approach then wore the visitors down.

An 'unbelievable' Gray day in south London

Sutton manager Matt Gray is flanked by chairman Bruce Elliot and vice chairman Adrian Barry
Boss Matt Gray (centre), chairman Bruce Elliott (right) and vice chairman Adrian Barry savour Sutton's special day

U's boss Matt Gray was thrilled after steering the club to promotion in his first managerial role, just two years after he was appointed. The U's finished 15th last season and Gray told BT Sport the success was hard to comprehend.

"Words can't really describe how I am feeling right now," he said. "There are so many good teams and managers in the division and you look at the size of the clubs and for us to come out on top is an unbelievable achievement.

"I am so lucky to be at this club. Everyone pulls in the same direction and we have an unbelievable group of players and an unbelievable group of staff."

Long-serving chairman Bruce Elliott said: "It's unbelievable we are still getting to grips with it. To go up with one game to go is brilliant and we are still pinching ourselves.

"We couldn't have organised it better. It's been perfect with having fans back having missed them all season."

Elliott said there was still much work to do to get the ground and pitch ready for League Two football, notably replacing the artificial pitch.

"We have to change the pitch so the grass will go down," he added. "We will have floodlights coming in and some more seats and one or two other bits and pieces as well. Hopefully we will have enough time to start the league season on time here."

Olaofe strike seals title in style

Isaac Olaofe scores for Sutton against Hartlepool
On-loan Millwall striker Isaac Olaofe's late goal was his 16th for Sutton this season

The U's had the first noteworthy attempt when Craig Eastmond rounded keeper James but was unable to get his shot on target from a very tight angle and Omar Bugiel also had a low strike deflected just wide.

In between, Pools were dreadfully unlucky not to lead when Jamie Sterry's thunderous strike crashed back off the post and keeper Dean Bouzanis made a fine save to push away on-loan Newcastle defender Lewis Cass' follow-up half-volley.

The hosts also had very strong claims for a penalty ignored when James wiped out Donovan Wilson as the striker looked to get on the end of a flick-on, while Wilson had a strike well blocked by James and a Bugiel header from a corner clipped the top of the bar.

But the goal, when it arrived, was a gift. Milsom's 25-yard free-kick should have been a regulation save but James made a complete hash of it as he dived to gather and it squirmed in at the near post.

Luke Armstrong did have a goal ruled out for handball after the break, but that was as close as the visitors got.

John almost added a second but his looping header hit the bar with James beaten, while the keeper had to make a stunning reaction save to tip Wilson's overhead kick over the bar.

But two goals inside the final 17 minutes ensured Sutton moved five points clear of Torquay with just one game to play.

EFL status eclipses glorious giant-killing past

Sutton United assistant boss Mickey Stephens during his playing days
Assistant boss Micky Stephens played in midfield during Sutton's famous FA Cup run in the 1988-89 season

Sutton have a rich history in the FA Cup, famously beating top-flight side Coventry City in 1989 and regularly making good progress in the competition during that era.

More recently the U's reached the fifth round in the 2016-17 season where they lost 2-0 to Premier League side Arsenal.

The wild scenes of celebration at Gander Green Lane eclipsed all those memorable cup runs, although assistant boss Micky Stephens provides a neat link to the cup win over Coventry 32 years ago, playing in midfield in what had been the most celebrated day in Sutton's history.

Line-ups

Sutton United

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Bouzanis
  • 2Barden
  • 6John
  • 8Davis
  • 24Milsom
  • 5Goodliffe
  • 15Eastmond
  • 7AjiboyeSubstituted forBeautymanat 84'minutes
  • 25Olaofe
  • 28WilsonSubstituted forRandall-Hurrenat 76'minutes
  • 9BugielSubstituted forSho-Silvaat 86'minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Wyatt
  • 10Beautyman
  • 11Randall-Hurren
  • 13House
  • 17Sho-Silva

Hartlepool

Formation 5-3-2

  • 13James
  • 23Sterry
  • 2CassSubstituted forWilliamsat 61'minutes
  • 4Liddle
  • 15JohnsonBooked at 55mins
  • 26Francis-AngolBooked at 57mins
  • 8Featherstone
  • 7DonaldsonSubstituted forMolyneuxat 71'minutes
  • 14Holohan
  • 11Oates
  • 29Armstrong

Substitutes

  • 3Ferguson
  • 6Shelton
  • 10Molyneux
  • 18Williams
  • 27Elliott
Referee:
Simon Mather
Attendance:
1,050

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Sutton United 3, Hartlepool United 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Sutton United 3, Hartlepool United 0.

  3. Substitution

    Substitution, Sutton United. Tobi Sho-Silva replaces Omar Bugiel.

  4. Substitution

    Substitution, Sutton United. Harry Beautyman replaces David Ajiboye.

  5. Goal!

    Goal! Sutton United 3, Hartlepool United 0. Isaac Olaofe (Sutton United).

  6. Substitution

    Substitution, Sutton United. Will Randall replaces Donovan Wilson.

  7. Goal!

    Goal! Sutton United 2, Hartlepool United 0. Louis John (Sutton United).

  8. Substitution

    Substitution, Hartlepool United. Luke Molyneux replaces Ryan Donaldson.

  9. Substitution

    Substitution, Hartlepool United. Luke Williams replaces Lewis Cass.

  10. Booking

    Zaine Francis-Angol (Hartlepool United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  11. Booking

    Ryan Johnson (Hartlepool United) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  12. Second Half

    Second Half begins Sutton United 1, Hartlepool United 0.

  13. Half Time

    First Half ends, Sutton United 1, Hartlepool United 0.

  14. Goal!

    Goal! Sutton United 1, Hartlepool United 0. Robert Milsom (Sutton United).

  15. Kick Off

    First Half begins.

  16. Post update

    Lineups are announced and players are warming up.

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As It Stood

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Sutton United41259772343884
2Torquay412310868392979
3Stockport412014768323674
4Hartlepool4121101062431973
5Notts County4120101162402270
6Wrexham4119101263422167
7Chesterfield412061558421666
8Bromley411812116253966
9Eastleigh4018111148371165
10Halifax411981462521065
11Solihull Moors40186165547860
12Dag & Red41178165247559
13Boreham Wood411316125144755
14Maidenhead United401411155857153
15Yeovil41157195867-952
16Aldershot41156205562-751
17Altrincham40129194559-1445
18Weymouth41116244567-2239
19Wealdstone4197254597-5234
20Woking4189244065-2533
21King's Lynn4078254593-4829
22Barnet4067273388-5525
23Dover00000000
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