SPALDING UNITED 1 GORLESTON 0: Spalding’s money-spinning run in the FA Cup continued thanks to a first-half strike from veteran hitman Tony Battersby on Saturday.
The ex-Lincoln City striker notched five minutes before half-time at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field to settle the first qualifying round clash.
It was a deserved success for Pat Rayment’s Tulips, who bank a hefty £3,000 in prize money for seeing off Yarmouth-based visitors Gorleston.
Next up for Spalding is another home tie against Ryman League Premier Division opposition. They will host either AFC Hornchurch or East Thurrock (who replay tonight) on September 28.
Rayment said: “Obviously at 1-0 you’re always susceptible to a sucker punch, but never felt like we’d concede. Our defenders are just loving defending at the moment. “Adam Jackson is in the form of his life and Jamie Stevens is looking like a Football League player. “Nathan Stainfield is adjusting to our style superbly and Jonny Allen is keeping Lee Canoville out – which speaks for itself. It was the second game this season that Michael Duggan hasn’t had a save to make, too. “We want to go as far as we can in the FA Cup and I doubt either Hornchurch or East Thurrock will relish coming here next. “We’ve got a home draw, which is all we can ask for. The lads will be looking forward to testing themselves against Step Three opposition.”
Spalding bossed matters from the off, with Chris Hall forcing a smart early save from keeper Elliott Pride after unleashing a low drive from 20 yards.
Midfield enforcer Lewis Webb then went within a whisker of opening the scoring, but he was just unable to turn home a low Lee Beeson cross at the back post with the goal gaping.
Webb went close again moments later, as he chased a long pass forward from Andrew Tidswell. Keeper Pride missed the ball, but Webb was denied a routine tap-in by some desperate last-ditch defending.
Frontman Battersby was next to go close, as he rifled into the side netting following a trademark Beeson delivery. The Spalding winger was the hosts’ chief threat all afternoon.
Over on the other flank, Dan Cotton was next to sting Pride’s palms with a swerving drive from 20 yards that needed tipping around the post.
Having spurned a host of chances, the Tulips finally made the breakthrough on 40 minutes. Battersby delivered a lofted pass for Beeson at the back post, who in turn delivered across the face of goal for Tidswell.
Spalding’s leading scorer could only direct the ball back into the middle, with Battersby on hand to bundle home from six yards.
The second period wasn’t quite so one-sided, but with man-of-the-match Jamie Stevens and defensive partner Nathan Stainfield in colossal form, the hosts never looked like surrendering their advantage.
Spalding did fashion further chances, though. The impressive Beeson raced clear down the right after a slick Tidswell pass on 47 minutes, but he missed at the near post.
Beeson then tested Pride with a low 30-yard free kick, which was shoveled around the post.
Tidswell also tested the visiting keeper with a low left-footed drive, while Hall crashed a deflected volley just over.
Goal machine Tidswell was again within a whisker of adding to his tally for the season when he whipped a curling effort inches wide with about five minutes left – but there was almost a nasty sting in the tail late on.
Christy Finch fired a late effort past Michael Duggan into the net, but Gorleston’s celebration of an unlikely leveller were ended by a flag, with the ball having gone out of play in the build-up.
Despite the narrow nature of their victory, Spalding’s passage to the next round never looked in doubt - and hopes are now high of an exciting run in the world’s most famous domestic knockout competition.
Tulips: Duggan, Allen, Jackson, Stevens (c), Stainfield, Webb, Beeson (Steadman 87), Hall, Battersby (Mullarkey 70), Tidswell, Cotton (Steadman 80). Not used: Canoville, Doherty.