Craig Eastmond’s injury-time goal condemned FC Halifax Town to a 1-0 defeat to Sutton in their final home game of 2018.
Like on Tuesday against Boreham Wood, the game looked there to be won for Town, but they couldn’t produce enough quality when it mattered to make the breakthrough.
Assistant manager Phil Hughes described the draw on Tuesday as an opportunity missed, and it was hard not to reach the same conclusion here.
The Shaymen worked hard to limit another of last season’s top seven to few chances, but frustratingly lacked a cutting edge in-front of goal, which was laid bare when Eastmond struck late on to snatch all three points.
Town were the better of the two sides from the opening exchanges, looking more creative and certainly more inclined to attack.
Matty Kosylo, who returned to the side after suspension in place of Mekhi McLeod, brought a decent save out of Sutton keeper Jamie Butler moments before Niall Maher’s shot was also saved following a one-two on the edge of the box with Sanmi Odelusi.
On-loan James Ferry again caught the eye in midfield, providing a composed presence allied with a willingness to get stuck into tackles and close down the opposition.
The athleticism and work rate of Jacob Hanson was also impressive yet again at right-back. Just a shame he’s due to go back to Bradford next month.
Odelusi had a shot blocked after some shaky Sutton defending, with Halifax just lacking a cutting edge in the visitors’ penalty box to cap a good half.
Town’s front-four had offered fluid movement at times and some flashes of inter-play against a Sutton side primarily set-up to frustrate the hosts.
The visitors had offered little other than Brett Williams’s glancing header from a free-kick and a tame Eastmond shot from 20 yards that Sam Johnson dealt with comfortably.
Kosylo had a shot blocked towards the end of the opening 45 after Dayle Southwell’s cross was laid off to him by Jordan Preston.
Half-time came at a good time for referee Marc Edwards, whose first red card of the season was shown to Sutton coach Ian Baird amid a bad-tempered end to the half; Sutton boss Paul Doswell was already serving a touchline ban for being sent-off against Braintree last month.
Kosylo and Odelusi had been booked for The Shaymen, although the hosts will have felt the same punishment should have been handed out to the odd Sutton player too.
The contest descended into a more scrappy affair after the interval, with few chances being created in a physical battle on an increasingly deteriorating pitch.
A lengthy stoppage due to an assistant referee going off injured didn’t help either.
Hanson’s rasping drive from range was well held by Butler just after the hour mark, while Kenny Davis’ drive went over the bar from a free-kick lofted into the box at the other end.
Southwell drove the ball wide from 25 yards after Preston’s pass in-field, but the hosts were only really threatening from outside the box.
There were ironic cheers when Davis was booked for Sutton by the over-officious Edwards before Matty Brown headed substitute Ben Tomlinson’s free kick off target.
But there was a sting in the tale when Eastmond swept home a low pass from the right in added time.
Halifax: Johnson, Hanson, Clarke, Brown, Sellers, Maher, Ferry, Odelusi (Tomlinson 68), Kosylo, Preston, Southwell (Edwards 79). Subs not used: Rowley, Duckworth, McLeod.
Shots on target: 4
Shots off target: 4
Sutton: Butler, Bennett, Collins, Davis, Ayunga (McQueen 86), Eastmond, Bailey, Beautyman (Taylor 90), Pearce, Thomas-Asante (Bolarinwa 57), Williams. Subs not used: Beckwith, Cadogan.
Scorer: Eastmond (90)
Shots on target: 5
Shots off target: 3
Referee: Marc Edwards
Town man of the match: James Ferry