Leaders Holbeach United effectively ended the UCL Premier Division title hopes of rivals Spalding United with a 3-1 derby win at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field on Easter Monday.
A 29th-minute opener from Wes Lewis and Andrew Tidswell’s second-half double (61 & 85) fired the Tigers to glory in the South Holland clasico, making it three wins over their neighbours this season.
Lee Beeson’s penalty had hauled the Tulips level three minutes before the interval, but two defensive errors in the second period sentenced them to a first league loss of 2013.
With second-placed St Ives Town romping to a 5-0 success at Huntingdon Town, Holbeach remain 11 points clear at the top of the table. But Spalding are now 20 points off the summit and nine points behind the second-placed Saints.
With a bumper crowd of 395 in to watch, Holbeach had the first genuine chance of the match inside five minutes when Mitch Griffiths got in behind the Tulips defence. The winger rounded keeper Michael Duggan, but saw his strike kicked off the line by Nick Jackson.
Spalding had reason to curse their luck on 20 minutes, when they had an effort of their own cleared off the line. Striker TJ Nightingale wriggled free in the box and beat Michael Emery with his close-range drive, but Griffiths was back to slide the goal-bound effort away for a corner.
The opener did arrive just before the half hour – and it came from nothing. Holbeach hitman Jason Turner picked up a loose ball outside of the box and took the ball forward before firing an angled left-foot drive against the far post.
The rebound fell perfectly for Lewis though, who casually slotted home into an unguarded net.
Spalding didn’t really deserve to be behind at that stage and they wasted little time in hauling themselves level.
A clumsy tackle from Andy Toyne on Dan Cotton in the box resulted in a certain penalty on 42 minutes and Beeson made no mistake with a low effort that went just beyond Emery’s reach.
Holbeach did have chances to go in 2-1 ahead at half-time, but a brave close-range stop from Duggan denied the excellent Lewis a second. The Tulips’ number one then got down well to deny Tidswell.
Duggan was called into action early in the second period too. A driving run from the ever-impressive Griffiths saw the wideman get clean through on the right.
The talented Tiger managed to strike a fine effort across the Spalding keeper, but he turned the ball away smartly with his feet.
But there was nothing Duggan could do about Holbeach’s second goal on the hour. Spalding left back Jackson was caught in possession by Lewis, who took his time before calmly laying off for Tidswell to dispatch his 33rd of the season into the net from eight yards.
Although they needed two goals to keep their title dreams alive, the Tulips – unbeaten at home in the league since a 3-1 reverse against St Ives back on September 1 – showed no real signs of getting back into the game.
And they were put out of their misery five minutes from time, as Tidswell robbed Michael Jacklin and raced through to place an outside-of-the-foot finish past the on-rushing Duggan.
The defeat is Spalding’s first in the league since going down 2-1 to Holbeach at Carter’s Park on Boxing Day – and while it effectively ends their title hopes, they remain very much in the frame for second place and indeed promotion.
For Holbeach, it’s another huge hurdle cleared in their pursuit of the first title in a decade. They do have mouth-watering home and away dates with St Ives to come among their final five fixtures, though.
Elsewhere in the UCL Premier Division, Deeping Rangers picked up a 2-0 victory over Lincolnshire rivals Blackstones.
An own goal from Tom Stocks (4) and a second-half Simon Ashton effort (66) move Rangers above Huntingdon into fifth place.
In UCL Division One, another John Currall goal couldn’t prevent Bourne Town from slipping to a 2-1 loss at Harrowby United. Ex-Wake Martin Wormall (16) and a late Wilson strike (84) sunk Darren Munton’s men.
See Thursday’s Spalding Guardian for more action, reaction and pictures from the Easter Monday football.
• UCL Premier DIvision: Blackstones 0 Deeping Rangers 2; Boston Town 0 Sleaford Town 0;Newport Pagnell Town 2 AFC Kempston Rovers 1; Cogenhoe Utd 2 Long Buckby 1; Desborough Town 1 S&L Corby 1; Huntingdon Town 0 St Ives Town 5; Spalding United 1 Holbeach United 3; Shepshed Dynamo 1 Quorn 0; Wellingborough Town 1 Irchester United 0; Yaxley 0 PNS 0.
• UCL Division One: Bugbrooke St Michaels 0 Buckingham Town 5; Harrowby Utd 2 Bourne Town 1; Potton United 1 Wootton Blue Cross 2; Rothwell Corinthians 1 Oadby Town 3; Thrapston Town 3 Burton Park Wanderers 3; Wellingborough Whitworth 1 AFC Rushden & Diamonds 3; Northampton Spencer 1 Northampton Sileby Rangers 0; Olney Town 0 Northampton ON Chenecks 1; Raunds Town 1 Eynesbury Rovers 3.