Sutton United 3-0 Hartlepool United report: Pools crumble as Sutton crowned 2020-21 National League champions
Sutton United were crowned National League champions with a convincing 3-0 win over Hartlepool United at Gander Green Lane.
Goals from Rob Milsom, Louis John and Isaac Olaofe saw the U’s clinch promotion and the National League title for the first time in their history.
The buzz from the stands returned and the scent of burgers and chips floated around the stadium as around 1,000 home supporters made their way to their designated areas of the ground for what would prove to be the biggest game of the 2020-21 National League season so far.
Both sides went into the game knowing what they had to do following Saturday’s National League results elsewhere. For Sutton, it was simple, three points would win them the National League title and a first ever promotion to the Football League in the club’s 123 year history.
For Pools, they knew a win would see them leapfrog Stockport County and into the coveted third place play-off spot.
Pools made two changes from the win at Aldershot Town. Brad James kept his place in goal while David Ferguson dropped to the bench for the first time in 2021 with Zaine Francis-Angol handed his first start for the club.
In midfield, captain Ryan Donaldson returned in place of Mark Shelton for only his third start of the year.
The match itself was all action from the very start with Craig Eastmond getting played through within the first 10-minutes before rounding James only to fire over from a tight angle.
It was an early warning from the hosts who would keep up the pressure despite Pools creating opportunities for themselves at the other end.
Nicky Featherstone’s short corner eventually fell to Jamie Sterry on the edge of the box. The Pools defender, who is yet to score for the club, unleashed a powerful 20-yard strike which cannoned back off the right-hand post.
Rhys Oates and Lewis Cass tried to put the ball in on the follow up but couldn’t find the target.
Sutton then hit the woodwork themselves as Omar Bugiuel’s header hit the top side of the crossbar following a corner.
And after 35-minutes, the hosts found the breakthrough as Milsom’s free-kick squirmed under Brad James and into the goal. A disappointing one for the Pools stopper as he got a good hand on the ball but let it spill to give Sutton the 1-0 lead which they took into half-time.
The second half almost got off to a perfect start for Pools as Luke Armstong bundled in Francis-Angol’s knock-down but the referee blew his whistle for handball to disallow the goal.
Sutton threatened at the other end with Omar Bugiuel hitting the crossbar shortly before the hosts found the all important second goal.
Another set-piece saw the ball find Louis John who volleyed the ball into the bottom right corner to make it 2-0.
Sutton found the third goal in the closing stages as Olaofe broke away, twisted past Gary Liddle and found the bottom right corner.
And with that, the league title was Sutton’s. They go up to the Football League for the first time in their history while Pools take their chances in the play-offs.
Pools remain fourth and prepare to host Weymouth for their final game before the play-offs at Victoria Park next weekend.