FOOTBALL: Tulips held at windy Wisbech

LEVELLER: Mark Jones notched Spalding's only goal at Wisbech on Saturday. Photo by TIM WILSON

LEVELLER: Mark Jones notched Spalding's only goal at Wisbech on Saturday. Photo by TIM WILSON

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Table-toppers Spalding United dropped UCL Premier Division points for only the second time this season after drawing 1-1 at windy Wisbech Town on Saturday.

Playing against the ample wind in the first half, the Tulips fell behind on 15 minutes when former favourite Tony Battersby capitalised on a rare mistake from keeper Michael Duggan.

Mark Jones did slide home a deserved leveller for Pat Rayment’s side just past the hour mark, but neither side could really say they deserved all three points in what was Spalding’s first league draw of the campaign.

One of only three UCL Premier Division games to beat the weather, Wisbech’s pitch surprisingly passed an 11am pitch inspection. It has surely seen better days, but was certainly playable.

It wasn’t a day for good football, however, with the gusty wind making for a cliched game of two halves.

With the wind at their backs in the opening 45 minutes, the hosts set about making life very difficult for the Tulips.

That being said, returning striker Andrew Tidswell could have put the visitors ahead early on, but he missed his kick from an inviting Jones delivery.

Tom James then headed an effort wide at the other end, before the Fenmen grabbed a bizarre opener. Ex-Tulip Battersby closed down a hesitant Duggan a blocked his clearance, before chasing down the loose ball and blasting past the scrambling keeper.

Duggan did make amends minutes later with a diving low save from Danny White’s vicious 25-yard drive, before the lively James lashed a good chance wide at the near post.

There was a big let-off for Spalding in the final stages of the first half too, with Adam Millson unable to convert a golden opportunity from close range. The midfielder, who once enjoyed a loan spell with the Tulips, just wasn’t able to sort his feet out quickly enough and the chance passed.

As expected, the roles were reversed after the break and Spalding enjoyed lengthy periods of dominance. Jones needed just 30 seconds of the second period to angle a left-footed drive just past the post, while Lewis Webb curled a fine 20-yard effort just past the top right corner a few minutes later.

Jones then saw a goal-bound half-volley deflected wide, before a Dan Cotton free kick was met by Nathan Stainfield’s head and nodded heroically off the line by Wisbech’s Scott Johnson.

There was a decent penalty shout for winger James at the other end following a diving challenge from Ross Watson, but it was pretty much all Spalding at that stage.

It was, of course, no surprise when the visitors finally hauled themselves level on 61 minutes. Chris Hall, who probably hated the deteriorating pitch more than most, showed nimble footwork on the edge of the box before firing a low effort towards the far corner.

Lea Jordan saved the strike well, but the ball fell nicely for the alert Jones, who slid home instinctively.

With Spalding now hot favourites to take all three points, the chances kept coming. A Cotton cross just eluded a free Tidswell, while Webb headed a sweeping Adam Jackson cross wide at the far post.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic though – and Rayment’s side were indebted to a brave sliding tackle from Watson that stopped a fizzing drive from White 15 minutes from time.

The final ten minutes saw Webb screw a presentable chance wide at the near post, while Jordan pulled of a smart stop to keep out a snap-shot from the ever-dangerous Jones.

But the closest the Tulips came to a winner was ten seconds from time, when Stainfield’s powerful header flew just past the far post.

Although they had the better of the chances overall, the point – which moves Spalding 17 points clear at the top – is probably a very good one for Rayment and his side.

With Deeping Rangers, Bourne Town, Moulton Harrox, Pinchbeck United, Crowland Town and Deeping Rangers Reserves all seeing games postponed, there was pretty slim pickings elsewhere on the Saturday schedule.

Of the games to go ahead, Holbeach United Reserves were perhaps involved in the most exciting encounter...although it turned out to be a disappointing day for them.

The Tigers’ second string were dumped out of the PFA Challenge Cup 4-2 by AFC Stanground at Carter’s Park, in a game that went to extra time.

Having trailed 2-0 at the break, goals from Tom Brooks and club legend Dean Elston forced an additional 30 minutes, but the visitors notched twice more to seal their progress.

In Peterborough League Division One, Moulton Harrox Reserves enjoyed a big 7-2 win over Farcet United, but Long Sutton Athletic succumbed to a 6-2 beating at Netherton United Reserves.

More football in Tuesday’s Lincolnshire Free Press.

RESULTS


• UCL Premier Division: Boston Town 1 Stewarts & Lloyds Corby 0; Sleaford Town 0 Yaxley 3; Wisbech Town 1 Spalding United 1.

UCL Division One: Northampton ON Chenecks 2 Blackstones 1; Oadby Town 4 Olney Town 0; Peterborough Sports 1 Wellingborough Whitworth 1.

ChromaSport Peterborough & District League: Premier Division: Uppingham Town 1 Coates Athletic 0.

Division One: Moulton Harrox Reserves 7 Farcet United 2; Netherton United Reserves 6 Long Sutton Athletic 2.

Division Two: Crowland Town Reserves 4 Oundle Town 2; Long Sutton Athletic Reserves 0 Peterborough ICA Sports A 1.

Division Three: Wittering 4 Ryhall United Reserves 3.

Division Four: Baston Reserves 3 Peterborough Sports A 0; Stamford Belvedere Reserves 2 Ryhall United A 0; Sutton Bridge United Res 3 Warboys Town Reserves 3.

Division Five: Parkside Athletic Reserves 2 Tydd St Mary Reserves 6.

PFA Challenge Cup: Holbeach United Reserves 2 AFC Stanground 4 (AET); Langtoft United Reserves 1 Stamford Belvedere 3; Guyhirn 2 Baston 3.

Boston & District League: Premier Division: Benington 0 Old Leake 1; Fishtoft 0 Billinghay Athletic 5; Spilsby Town 0 Skegness Town Res 0.

Division One: Coningsby 1 Pointon Res 4; Freiston Res 3 Ruskington Rovers 1; Skegness Utd Res 1 Woodhall Spa Utd 2.

Division Two: Friskney 3 Leverton 1; Holbeach Bank v Fishtoft Res (abandoned after seven minutes due to high winds - Holbeach were winning 1-0); Nelson 2 Mareham Utd Res 1.

Division Three: AFC Tetford 5 Rippingale & Folkingham Res 3; Boston College 5 Park Utd 0; Pointon A 0 Spalding Harriers Res 2.

Mason Bros Lincolnshire Junior Cup: Semi-inal: Swineshead Institute 0 Ruston Sports 2.

Barclays Brokers Willoughby Shield: Round One: Swineshead Res 4 Kirton Town Res 3