FOOTBALL: Smith weighs in with Tulips’ derby opener

Early breakthrough: A back header from in-form Greg Smith (far right and inset) loops over Holbeach keeper Leigh Overton to give the Tulips a second-minute lead on Tuesday night. Photo: MIKE DAVISON SG200911-682MD
Early breakthrough: A back header from in-form Greg Smith (far right and inset) loops over Holbeach keeper Leigh Overton to give the Tulips a second-minute lead on Tuesday night. Photo: MIKE DAVISON SG200911-682MD
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SPALDING UTD 2 (Smith 2, Mowbray 43) HOLBEACH UTD 0: There was no need for bodyguards this time around; had there been, Greg Smith would probably fit the bill.

Eight years ago when these two fierce rivals last met in league action, then-Tulips boss Dick Creasey was concerned enough for his safety to employ security guards in the dugout.

Downpour: Spalding United player/coach Danny Hussey makes the best of the awful conditions at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field on Tuesday night. Photo: MIKE DAVISON

Downpour: Spalding United player/coach Danny Hussey makes the best of the awful conditions at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field on Tuesday night. Photo: MIKE DAVISON

Yet physical similarities to a bouncer are where the comparisons end for Smith, the big guy who is proving the catalyst for getting the Tulips’ season firmly on track. He can head, he can produce skill, he can run a bit, he can hold the ball up – and, critically for a previously-misfiring side, he knows where the net is.

An eighth goal in just four matches since the Corby Town striker signed dual registration forms put the Tulips in the driving seat after just 90 seconds of Tuesday’s drenched derby.

With the original match ball bouncing somewhere in the bus station, there was a ridiculous wait while another was produced from the changing rooms. It proved fatal for the Tigers, who switched off.

Jon-Paul Duncliffe’s deep throw-in to Smith at the front of the six-yard box was easily back-headed by the target man and the ball looped over the despairing dive of Tigers keeper Leigh Overton.

Broly good match: Spectators seek cover during Tuesday's rain-hit match.

Broly good match: Spectators seek cover during Tuesday's rain-hit match.

Talk about drawing the sting early.

A big and brave call by ref Brian O’Sullivan then denied the Tigers the chance to equalise. Ashley Stevens went down as he rolled Glen Fuff in the box. But penalty appeals only ended in a caution for the striker for diving.

In-form Smith is proving the perfect foil for pacy strike partner Simon Mowbray, who celebrated his 24th birthday by firing the Tulips 2-0 up from a 44th-minute corner.

Mowbray could have put the Tulips out of sight from a one-on-one early in the second half, but seemed unsure whether to shoot or round Overton. The keeper took advantage of the split-second dithering to smother the ball.

Holbeach went on to have their best spell, pushing Spalding back for long periods.

Another big decision left the Tigers furious. Stevens bundled the ball into the net from two yards out, but was deemed offside when Adam Jackson crossed from at least close to the left-hand byline.

Then, as the Tigers continued to press, Paul Goodhand smashed a 25-yard free kick off the outside of an upright, Tommy Treacher was denied well by keeper Nick Conroy and sub Shaun Keeble fluffed a shot when well placed.

So, ultimately the Tulips’ front two made the difference. And if Smith and Mowbray can steer clear of injury and keep their partnership developing, many more defences are going to struggle to cope with them – and they will surely have a big say in not only the Tulips’ promotion ambitions but other sides’ too.

Tulips (4-4-2): Conroy, Duncliffe, Earls, Hook, Fuff, Hussey (Baker), French (O’Loughlin), Hughes, Smith, Mowbray, Shahin. Subs unused: Ford, Harris, Thompson.

Tigers (3-5-2): Overton, Allen, Jackson (Brown), Kennedy, Brown, J Stevens, Lambley (Griffiths), Goodhand, Treacher (Keeble), A Stevens, Tidswell. Subs unused: Harper, Brooks.

Match sponsor Royal Taxis’ MOM: Smith

Attendance: 310