With the title in their clutches, Sutton swept the Clarets to one side as Paul Doswell’s men secured their promotion to the National League.
Ebbsfleet – who looked nailed on to return to the top-tier of Non-League football after a three season exile – blew their hopes of automatic promotion after their form that enabled them to lead the table for the majority of the season stagnated.
Sutton escaped a possible three point deduction after coming under investigation from the league for fielding an ineligible player last month, and were instead given a £500 fine and warned of their future conduct earlier in the week.
All Sutton needed, therefore, was a point from their remaining two games to mathematically secure the championship, but even if they lost those they had a healthy 13+ goal difference on the Fleet heading into this match, a team that the U’s beat in front of a 3,000 plus crowd last week.
Still, they were in no mood for taking chances as first-half goals from Dan Fitchett and Ross Stearn put the game out of the reach of the visiting Chelmsford to secure automatic promotion.
City had no reply to their dominating display and will face already relegated Basingstoke Town at home on the final day of the campaign.
The Clarets, fresh off the back of a 6-1 hammering of Gosport Borough, made two changes with the suspended Mark Hughes and centre-back Mark Haines, rested after picking up a slight hamstring strain in that win, replaced by youngster Harry Morgan and Marvin Ekpiteta.
The scope of the game lent itself perfectly to an energetic and frenetic start, and Fitchett almost opened his account for the afternoon but failed to sweep home a fizzed cross on the left.
Billy Bricknell, scorer of four goals last Saturday, fancied his luck from range but managed only to temporarily sting the gloves of Ross Worner as the ‘keeper made a routine stop.
His opposite number, Christian Dibble, then showed a safe pair of hands when he prevented Stern’s curling free-kick early on as Doswell’s outfit looked to put the game to bed as soon as possible.
They were prevented from doing that by some resolute defending from the Clarets, although raking passes from the dominating presence of Nicky Bailey in midfield caused numerous issues throughout the match.
It was only level pegging for a short while as midway through the first-half the U’s edged themselves in front. Pressure had been building with Sutton working the Clarets from side to side with intricate, pinpoint, and decisive passing, resulting in Stearn picking the ball up on the left to hook in a cross. Fitchett stood still in the six-yard box, barely stretching his neck muscles, as he nodded home his 20th League goal of the season and his second in two games. The title confirmed.
Sutton sensed blood and the Clarets had nothing in the way of a reply. An error from Bricknell, tripping on the ball on the half-way line, led to a counter-attack that City failed to cut out. A cross from the right was picked up by Stern – the star of the show without question – and after his initial effort was blocked by the back of McAuley, the winger didn’t hesitate in hammering the ball into the opposite corner to deal a fateful blow to the visitors with seven minutes of the first-half remaining.
And Sutton started the second-half as they finished the first and thought they had added a third when Wishart curled an effort past Dibble, but the celebrations that followed were premature as the left-back eventually glanced over to the far side to see the offside flag raised.
Former Sutton man Lee Sawyer, making his first appearance since March 5th after finding a starting eleven place hard to come by, replaced Bricknell who appeared disgruntled at being removed with over half hour of the match remaining.
Morgan was also brought off for winger Luke Daley as Maher shifted Jack Bridge up front in an attempt to cause some danger, but it was a move made in vein as Sutton maintained their dominance.
They were in control from the get go; their defence was impenetrable and their midfield organised. Coupled with the threat of Stearn, a player who was replaced with 20 minutes to go with his work complete, and it’s evident as to why Sutton have been rewarded with promotion.
This was the result that many would have expected coming into this match, and the Clarets will have to regroup for one last time this season as they welcome Basingstoke next week.
This afternoon, however, belonged to Sutton United.
1. Ross Worner
2. Dan Spence
3. Dan Wishart
4. Dean Beckwith
5. Craig Eastmond
6. Jamie Collins (C)
7. Tom Bolarinwa
8. Bedsente Gomis
9. Nicky Bailey
10. Dan Fitchett
11. Ross Stearn
12. Jamie Slabber
14. Craig Dundas (On for Bedsente Gomis, 52’)
15. Shaun Cooper (On for Ross Stearn, 71’)
16. Louis John
17. Simon Downer (On for Dan Fitchett, 83’)
1. Christian Dibble
2. Rob Girldestone
3. Marvel Ekpiteta
4. Reece Prestedge
5. Marvin Ekpiteta
6. Rory McAuley (C)
7. Jack Bridge
8. Harry Morgan
9. Jason Williams
10. Billy Bricknell
11. Bagasan Graham
12. Luke Daley (On for Billy Bricknell, 55’)
14. Mark Haines
15. Tim Monsheju (On for Jason Williams, 89’)
16. Lee Sawyer (On for Harry Morgan, 55’)
17. Connor Pearce
Referee: Mr. Colin Lymer (Basingstoke)
Assistant Referees: Mr. Chris Felton and Mr. Daniel Simpson
Bookings: Sutton United: None
Chelmsford City: Jason Williams (80’, cynical foul)
Scorers: Sutton United: Dan Fitchett (25’), Ross Stearn (38’)
Chelmsford City: None
HT Score: 2-0
FT Score: 2-0
City Man of the Match: Rory McAuley