SPALDING UNITED 2 (Mowbray 22 & 32) KEMPSTON ROVERS 3 (Pemberton OG 13, Sturniolo 34, Watson 38):
THE Tulips’ season just wasn’t supposed to start like this, was it?
Despite a classy double from Simon Mowbray, Spalding were soundly beaten by a Kempston side that were two levels below them this time last year.
After a summer of impressive recruitment, Spalding had been billed as second favourites for the UCL Premier Division title before a ball was kicked. But five games in to their new season they look anything but.
That’s a view shared by boss Andy Stanhope. He said: “This team was good in pre-season, but let’s be honest, we’ve been awful for five games.
“I can take the odd bad performance, but not this. Changes will be made and hopefully we’ll have two or three in by the weekend. Kempston aren’t that good, but we made them look great.”
The Tulips started like a team with no confidence, as Kempston – beaten 5-1 themselves by Peterborough Northern Star on Tuesday – cut through them at will.
Callum Mould should have put the visitors ahead inside four minutes, but his strike from the right came back off the inside of the post.
Andrew Phillips then smashed a great chance over from eight yards out, before the opener finally arrived.
A break down the right saw Phillips’ cross bundled home by the unfortunate Jack Pemeberton, who was making his debut at right back.
Tulips keeper Luke McShane was then forced to deny Dan Watson as the promoted Walnut Boys threatened to run riot.
Spalding finally woke up in the 22nd minute as French released Mowbray down the right. The striker somehow placed a sweet finish between Martin Conway and his near post to level the scores.
It got even better for the Tulips ten minutes later, with Mowbray brilliantly heading home from a corner to give the hosts an unlikely lead.
But parity was instantly restored thanks to the lively Josh Sturniolo – and four minutes later a slick move allowed Watson to stroke home a terrific third for Rovers.
The second half in no way lived up to the opener, with Kempston in command for large periods.
Spalding will still be wondering how they didn’t score on 70 minutes though, with Conway pulling off a remarkable triple save to deny French, Mowbray and Rob Hughes.
Mould missed a sitter at the other end, but Kempston were rarely threatened in the closing stages.
With a tough trip to unbeaten Wellingborough next for Spalding on Saturday (3pm), they’ll have to improve on a frankly abject display.
Tulips: McShane, Pemberton (Thompson 54), Earls, Hughes, Fuff, Baker, French, Hook, Harrold (Ford 68), Mowbray, Shahin (O’Loughlin 68). Not used: Hussey, Lyon.