SPALDING UNITED 1 COGENHOE UNITED 0: It’s often said that ugly 1-0 wins are the hallmark of champions – something that bodes well for Spalding after their latest victory.
Nathan Stainfield’s scruffy 15th-minute goal was enough to secure back-to-back UCL Premier Division wins over title rivals Cogenhoe on Satuday – and sent the Tulips 16 points clear at the top of the table.
It wasn’t the dominant, free-flowing Spalding show that footballing folk have come to expect this season, but with just 12 league games left to play, it further enhances their tag as champions elect.
Tulips chief Pat Rayment said: “It wasn’t the prettiest game. But credit to Cogenhoe, it’s not easy to play the same team back-to-back. They changed their style a little and made it very hard for us.
“They dominated for the first 15 minutes, but we got a goal when it mattered, which is something we are always capable of. I don’t think (keeper) Michael Duggan had much to do after that.
“You win titles by winning games when you’re playing well, but also when you’re not. This was one of those, especially with so many players missing through injury.
“I have to say though, Cogenhoe are the best UCL team we’ve played this season. They are a great club with good players. But I do think we’ve killed off any chance they have of catching us now, which obviously was the aim before these games.”
From the off it was clear that the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field tussle was going to be nothing like last Saturday’s reverse, when the Tulips ripped the Cooks to shreds in a 5-2 thrashing.
Indeed, it was Cogenhoe who started much the brighter – and they had two excellent chances to break the deadlock inside the first ten minutes.
The first one fell to Tom Liversedge, who found a surprising amount of space in the Spalding penalty area before flicking an instinctive outside of the boot effort just wide of the far post.
Wideman Chris Griffin then called Michael Duggan into action with a low side-footed effort from just inside the area. It was well-placed, but Duggan got down low to turn the ball past the post.
Typically, the Tulips then went up the other end and grabbed the opener.
Jamie Thurlbourne pinged a free kick into the box, with Stainfield able to bring the ball down and send a low drive under the sprawling dive of Matt Finlay. The Cogenhoe keeper will feel he should have done better, but Spalding cared not.
Spalding enjoyed their best spell of the match straight after the opener, but failed to convert two big chances.
Lewis Webb’s inviting cross was met by a free Jones at the near post, but he failed to make significant contact with the ball and the visitors scrambled clear.
A lovely Dan Cotton cross then found the chest of Webb, but Finlay was equal to his well-struck half-volley.
Opportunities – and indeed quality – were in limited supply after the break in what proved a drab second period.
Jones did work Finlay with a fine 25-yard drive, while man-of-the-match Stainfield headed a presentable chance over from a corner soon after.
Winger Thurlbourne also blasted a presentable free kick opportunity over, but it mattered little as Spalding held firm for a 23rd league success from 24 matches.
With just 12 games to go, the title edges ever nearer for Pat Rayment’s men.
Tulips: Duggan, Watson, Jackson, Stainfield, Stevens, Webb, Beeson, Hall (Steadman 68), Jones, Cotton, Thurlbourne. Not used: Hussey, Roberts.