A team which misses penalties cannot hope to bridge a gulf of three divisions and Sutton United, of the Blue Square South, duly lost to League One Notts County in the FA Cup second round yesterday. Trailing to the first of two goals by Jeff Hughes, the part-timers wasted the chance to draw level on the brink of half-time when Stuart Nelson saved Leroy Griffiths' penalty. County will now play Doncaster Rovers in the third round.
For an hour there was little to choose between the teams, then the superior fitness of Martin Allen's side enabled them to dominate though it was not until the 90th minute that Hughes scored his second.
Sutton, on live television for the first time in their history, had majorettes, balloons and a giant giraffe mascot, but some of the FA Cup magic had inevitably been dispelled two hours before the match when Li Tie, conducting the fourth-round draw, sent the winners of this tie to the Keepmoat Stadium.
During the week Sutton's chairman, Bruce Elliott, and several of his players had enthused about the idea of knowing in advance who they might play at the next stage. The hope was it would serve as an added incentive, but the draw seemed more of an inducement to Notts County, who will fancy their chances of reaching the last 32 at the Championship strugglers.
Not that this seemed apparent from the opening stages with the non-League team sharper into the tackle and quicker on the offensive. Craig Watkins, who was with Havant & Waterlooville when they went to Anfield three years ago but did not play, was a lively presence. Only a well-timed last-ditch tackle by Sam Sodje prevented him testing Nelson from close-range after 13 minutes. Four minutes later the County goalkeeper was brought into action, diving smartly to his left to save Harry Beautyman's header.
County had offered little when they took a fortuitous lead 10 minutes before the break. Karl Hawley worked a bit of space around the edge of the box but Kevin Scriven had his shot covered only for Hughes to deflect it past the stranded goalkeeper.
Eight minutes later Ben Burgess looked set to put the tie to bed when he took the ball around Scriven only for Karim El-Salahi to make a saving tackle. The defender injured himself in the process and soon limped off, but it looked as if his sacrifice was worth it when Sodje brought down Watkin to concede a penalty. Nelson, however, dived to his left to turn aside Griffiths' spot-kick.
Paul Telfer, the former Celtic, Coventry and Southampton player, led Sutton's response with a free-kick Nelson gathered. The goalkeeper was relieved a few minutes later when Beautyman, unmarked, headed Griffiths' cross over. Subsequent chances proved elusive and when substitute Karl Murray was dismissed with five minutes left after two brisk cautions Sutton looked out. Confirmation came when Hughes scrambled in his second.
Sutton United (4-4-2): Scriven; Telfer (Orilonishe, 82), Downer, Page, El-Salahi (Murray, 44); Beautyman, Riviere, Piper, Griffiths; Dundas (Taggart, 71), Watkins.
Notts County (4-4-2): Nelson; Kelly, Pearce, Sodje (Edwards, 59), Sheehan; Judge, Bishop, Mahon, J Hughes; Hawley (Bencherif, 90), Burgess (Demontagnac, 59).
Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire).