Belfast Telegraph

Arsenal's Wenger in awe as Sutton mix it with Gunners

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

Arsene Wenger said that he was "astonished" by how good National League side Sutton United were during Arsenal's 2-0 FA Cup win at Gander Green Lane.

Paul Doswell's non-league side gave the Gunners a very difficult match, creating chances in both halves, and Wenger was immensely relieved to have won, making it through to the quarter-final against Lincoln City next month.

"Their side was astonishing," said Wenger in the tunnel immediately after the match. "It is basically division five and they are 17th out of 24.

"I was surprised by the speed of their game, the fact they never stopped going until the end. Compared to 20 years ago these teams are fit now and can play at the pace of the Premier League."

Wenger added: "Maybe before they collapsed in the last 20 minutes, that is finished."

With questions swirling around about Wenger's future, he joked that he would not take a job in the National League this summer. "I will never go down there to manage, because it is too difficult," he said.

Doswell said that he was "very, very proud" of his Sutton players for doing better than Southampton did in the last round against a much-changed Arsenal side at St Mary's Stadium.

"I'd have loved to have got a goal for the supporters," Doswell said. "One of my little goals was to do better than Southampton and we have done that.

"They lost 5-0 to them and we lost 2-0 so in my mind that's a moral victory."

He was also delighted that Arsenal promised £50,000 towards two new classrooms at Gander Green Lane as Sutton try to rebuild the club with their FA Cup revenues.

"Arsenal have been superb and we think they will help us with a classroom," Doswell said.

"They promised us £50,000 and that will buy us two classrooms. It's an amazing gesture and we are very thankful."

Doswell was frustrated, though, that a post-match pitch invasion meant that his players could not receive the applause from the fans he thought they warranted.

"It was a shame they couldn't get the round of applause they deserved," Doswell said.

"It was a real shame people came on the pitch and took that away from them.

"I saw a few idiots shouting and screaming at Wenger and the Arsenal players. You saw an idiot run on the pitch, that was the big moment of his life."

In the final minutes a plastic bottle was thrown at Wenger but did not hit him.

Doswell was also unimpressed with substitute keeper Wayne Shaw eating a pie on the bench during the second half, seemingly for a bet.

"I don't think it shows us in the best light," added Doswell, who was left with no complaints about his side's efforts.

"It was a dream to watch my team play against Arsenal, I think the quality that they put out showed exactly what was at stake. I'm very, very proud, that's the over-riding emotion.

"We've had three very, very presentable chances. I'm disappointed we couldn't get a goal for the supporters here but they saw a side that gave every bit that we could have given.

"It's been our cup final. These players have done this club so proud, they'll go down in history and they deserve it."

Roarie Deacon was arguably Sutton's star performer against the side he started his career with and Doswell knows the U's are fortunate to have him.

He added: "This little lad here needs to be playing a better level of football. I don't understand how someone's not come in from League One and taken him because on his day he's more than good enough for that and even one (division) more."

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