NON-LEAGUE NEWS by Marcus Tyler
South London’s leading non-league football club is up for the cup tomorrow – in Scotland.
Sutton United’s most loyal fans face a 846-mile round trip. The fixture takes them all the way to the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie, where their team is to face Airdrieonians in the second round of something called the Irn Bru Cup.
Sutton, along with their National League rivals Boreham Wood, are the first teams from England to play in this competition. The clubs qualidied as the highest ranked teams from the 2017-2018 season that are still in the National League.
They join Northern Irish clubs, Crusaders and Coleraine, and The New Saints and Connah’s Quay Nomads from Wales. Northern Ireland and Wales have each had two clubs in the competition since the 2016. The League of Ireland, from the Republic, have had two Irn Bru Cup teams since last season, and this season Bohemians and Bray Wanderers are in the draw.
It so happens that the draw for the Irn Bru Cup happened in the same week as the Surrey Senior Cup first round. Sutton United were involved in that, too.
There, Sutton were also handed an away tie. But instead of facing a journey of more than 400 miles to Scotland, the Surrey Senior Cup pits them against Sutton Common Rovers, which will require United to make the shortest possible trip – across the corridor under the main stand of their Gander Green Lane ground to the away team dressing room, as Rovers share the same home ground.
Tomorrow’s opponents, Airdrieonians, are part-timers who play in League One of the Scottish League, the third of four tiers in the Scottish game.
Airdrieonians already have some experience of playing opposition from England in this season’s cup campaign – they won their first-round game 3-0 at Berwick Rangers, the Scottish League Two side from the border town on the River Tweed, the only English-based club to play in the Scottish leagues.
Sutton United last season finished third in the National League, the top-tier of English non-league football. They were only denied a trip to Wembley for the play-off final by a 3-2 defeat to Boreham at Gander Green Lane in May. Sutton’s record this season so far is a decent W4 D4 L1, putting them in seventh place in the National League.
Some Sutton fans wanting to witness their club making a piece of Anglo-Scottish football history – it’s 40 years since the old Anglo-Scottish Cup was abandoned for lack of interest – are setting off today for the 423-mile trip to Airdrie, some 12 miles from Glasgow city centre.
Tony Dolbear, from the club, told Inside Sutton, “We don’t have a dedicated coach going to the game but a number of supporters are making their own way by public transport – I think some are going on an overnight coach there and back, some on the train and making a weekend of it, some flying up and back in the day and some driving up and, again, probably making a weekend of it.”
And some will be strolling along to Gander Green Lane for the 3pm kick-off: it is being live-streamed in the clubhouse, entry a fiver… Scottish notes may be accepted.
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