Shrewd recruitment pays dividends for Matt Gray and Sutton United

Sutton United manager Matt Gray believes his club’s formidable start to the campaign is owed largely to their shrewd recruitment during the summer transfer window.

The U’s, who won promotion to League Two for the first time last season, sit 7th in the division following three consecutive league wins.

Sutton may be football league newcomers, but Gray is confident his squad has the depth and strength to sustain at this level, thanks to the club’s activity over the summer in particular.

Gray and his team attacked the market by recruiting five new permanent signings, as well as loanee Isaac Olaofe from Millwall, who scored the opener against Portsmouth in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday.

The Sutton boss sensed the squad needed extra reinforcement after earning promotion to the football league, especially as more restrictions have now come into play.

He explained: “The biggest difference between the football league and the national league is the transfer window. When you’re in the national league, you can sign any player at any time.

“We went with a reasonably small squad last year and were fortunate enough not to pick up any drastic injuries.

“This year, we couldn’t rely on that, so we made sure we had a strong and competitive squad from September through to December,” Gray added.

The U’s were given an opportunity to test their squad depth in the 2-0 win at Fratton Park on Tuesday.

Whilst both sides rotated personnel, Sutton dominated the game and limited Portsmouth to zero shots on target across the 90 minutes.

Eager to make ground in a winnable competition, Gray felt he was able to offer some squad players valuable minutes whilst still fielding a competitive eleven.

He stated: “By no means was I weakening the side.

“It’s a competition we want to do well in, as it’s the most realistic chance of us getting to Wembley.”

Gray is no stranger to life in the football league, having previously represented Aldershot Town and Crawley Town as assistant manager before switching his office to Gander Green Lane.

SUTTON UP: Matt Gray proudly stands with the National League trophy after winning promotion to League Two last summer. Credit: Paul Loughlin

This experience has no doubt helped Sutton acclimatise to the new challenge, and Gray’s efforts were rewarded last month with a September manager of the month nomination.

Sutton picked up three wins from four games in September and have yet to drop a point this month in all competitions.

Gray has attributed his side’s fine run of form to an improved ruthlessness in front of goal, which seemed to elude them in the opening fixtures.

He said: “I feel in those first four games, our performances were certainly there. We made the odd mistake, and we were often punished.

“But since the game against Crystal Palace in the Papa John’s trophy, we’ve taken our chances and limited mistakes.”

Sutton United fans will hope their club’s purple patch continues when they travel to Crawley Town at 3pm on Saturday.

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