United and Sutton battled their way to a share of the honours at Brunton Park on Saturday with a tight first half giving way to an even tighter second period where clear cut chances were few and far between.
Speaking after the full-time whistle, manager Paul Simpson said: “It was a horrible game of football. It wasn’t a good day all round really.
“We just never got going apart from a little spell in the first half. They made it stop-start, and that isn’t a criticism, they’re a team that’s struggling to get results away from home and they’ve come with a game plan.
“They made it really difficult for us and there was just no flow to the game at all. We have to accept that we didn’t do enough to get the flow going to deserve any more than a draw.
“On balance of how it all went the point is probably the fair outcome.”
“I think we all got caught up in our league position and with an expectation of it just happening on the day regardless,” he added. “I think the players had an expectation, the crowd came with an expectation, I could sense it during the warm-up, and I thought there was a nervousness about everything surrounding the day.
“I’ve said this before that the players have to lift the crowd, but we weren’t able to do that. The crowd didn’t lift us the other way, and it was just one of those days where it didn’t happen all round sadly.
“We need to be better. We’ve got to get this idea out of our heads that we deserve to be in the top six and that’s why everyone turns up expecting it to go their way. It’s not how it works.
“We’ve got ourselves into the top six because of the way we’ve gone about it so far this season, and because of the way that the fans have come and lifted everybody when it’s been that kind of day. We need to get back to that.”
Always to be considered with any draw on your own pitch is whether or not it was an opportunity missed.
“We have let an opportunity go, but I don’t believe in this old thing where people say it’s two points lost, because it’s a point more than we had at the start of the day,” he insisted. “There have been times when we’ve lost that type of game, but that hasn’t happened on this occasion.
“We just haven’t done enough to win it which is a really big disappointment for everybody. I’m going to have to go away, as the manager with my staff, and look at why we didn’t have enough energy and why there was no spark to us.
“We have to get it going again. I thought the goal we scored showed real quality. It was well worked from a corner and that’s something we’ve worked on in training. Maybe in the second half with a little bit more quality from Callum [Guy] we’d have got in on another opportunity.
“The bonus is that we picked up a point, we didn’t lose the game and we move on as we get ourselves ready again for a big game at the weekend.”
With the quality of Ryan Edmondson’s fifth of the campaign of such a high standard it was hoped that it would provide the spark that had was much needed on the day.
“That’s what I was hoping as well,” he admitted. “The game was really flat, the whole performance was flat, but I think their equaliser knocked the stuffing right out of us.
“We weren’t ruthless enough and we didn’t stop any part of that move at source. We talked this week about working really hard to stop crosses, and I don’t think we worked hard enough on our left-hand side to track them.
“We certainly didn’t smell the danger in the centre of the pitch, and we were a little bit slow to react. The way we conceded probably epitomised our performance.
“It sounds disrespectful but it was a nothing ball down the channel that we didn’t react to. Instead of going and addressing the ball, and their player, our first reaction was to go towards our goal instead of getting into a foot race to try to stop the cross.
“In all goals there are mistakes, a catalogue of things that could have prevented it, and that certainly was the case with that one. At that point in the game we should have been doing things really ugly, and instead of trying to play a short pass on the halfway line we should have either put it in row Z or popped it over the top and into the corner.
“That would have put them back in their half and with it all still to do. Instead we were a yard off it each time, but credit to Sutton because they came with a game plan and they’re always difficult to play against anyway.”
“We need to find a solution for how to play against that type of physical team and also, when a team is making it a stop-start game, we need clear minds and to be brave enough to get a foot on the ball and string some passes together,” he continued.
“When we did it, particularly in the first half, we actually caused them problems. Like I say, to concede when we did and in that manner was disappointing.
“We had enough bodies there to deal with it to start with. It’s a misplaced pass around the halfway line, but that shouldn’t mean you’re going to concede a goal. It was a scrappy one from our point of view, so it’ll always be disappointing.
“It gave them a lift and something to cling onto, when really it was a horrible game where if we’d have been clean in everything we did we’d have won 1-0 and nobody ever really remembers why.
“Being honest, there was very little you would want to remember, but if you take the three points you move forward having put it behind you.”
Looking for positives, we highlighted that once again it was a point from a game that not so long ago we would probably have lost.
“Look, we didn’t play the football I would have liked to have played, but the bonus is that we didn’t lose the game,” he said.
“We wanted to make something happen. I was standing there and discussing with Gav as to what changes we could make to try and affect it, but I don’t really know what we could have done that was going to give us a spark.
“There was very little I could have done because it didn’t look like anybody had the life in them. Wholesale changes smacks of a bit of panic if you’re doing that.
“When you’re a coach and you’re suddenly throwing everything out of the window and go to something totally different, players look at you and wonder what you’re doing.
“We’ve been consistent so far this season, we tend to start away, particularly with a back five, and there’s a little bit of fluidity about the front five, how we do that.
“We felt with the shape we were going with would cause them problems, then we had to change it after about 20-odd minutes.
“In the second half I went to a back four because I wanted to see whether we could get a little bit of energy into midfield. We tried lots of things.
“I didn’t think it was one of those games which was going to be easy for a sub to come off the bench to affect it.
“When Jamie Devitt came on he had a few little glimpses of finding a pass for us, and I took Callum [Guy] off because I thought he started to look a bit tired. He missed a full week of training with tonsillitis and anyone who has ever had that knows that it knocks the stuffing out of you.
“Hopefully he’ll benefit from that and another week of training. We’ll just have to wait and see how everybody else is.
“What we can walk away with is that we took a point and I think I just heard somebody say that we’ve climbed a place in the table as well, which is a little bit odd, but I suppose that shows that we are in a good position.”