SPALDING UNITED 3 OLNEY TOWN 0: A win, three goals and another clean sheet – overall it was just another standard Saturday for the relentlessly impressive Tulips.
First-half goals from Lee Canoville, Sam Mullarkey and Lee Beeson eased the Tulips past their UCL Division One opponents Olney as they kicked off the defence of their UCL Knockout Cup crown.
At the other end, keeper Michael Duggan had his cigar out for most of the 90 minutes at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field as the UCL’s best defence gave nothing away again.
And while retaining this particular trophy may not be top of Pat Rayment’s hit list this term, he gave a number of his fringe players vital pitch time on Saturday.
A pleased Rayment: “(Keeper) Michael Duggan didn’t even have to take a goal kick in the second half – I think that shows you just how dominant we were on Saturday.
“It was a very one-sided game and we could have had quite a few more goals if I’m honest.
“We’re still taking it just one game at a time, but to keep this run going of not conceding a goal is pretty incredible. The defensive lads are almost taunting the opposition with it now.
“Everyone here is very focused on the goals we have for this season and I can’t praise them enough.
“I think everyone that saw us last season will recognise that we’ve strengthened in the correct places and we continue to show our class week in, week out.”
The Tulips started as they meant to go on with the always impressive Beeson delivering a peach of a cross for Mark Jones on six minutes, only for the striker to head wide from close range.
It was from another Beeson cross that Spalding went ahead four minutes later. The wideman fired a fierce cross across the box, with Tom Kennard palming the ball out for Canoville to lash into the net from ten yards.
Kennard was called into action again moments later, as Jones broke clear on the left and saw a low drive turned away by the keeper.
He could do nothing about Spalding’s second goal, though. Mullarkey, recalled in place of leading scorer Andrew Tidswell, ploughed through two challenges on the left and unleashed an unstoppable high effort in off the angle of post and bar.
Striker Mullarkey had a chance to double his money straight from the re-start, but fired an angled drive just wide after racing clear down the right.
But the Tulips put the game to bed just after the half hour. A quick Beeson free kick found Jamie Stevens free in the box, but he was tugged back by James Pacifini.
That allowed set-piece maestro Beeson to slot home the penalty into the bottom right corner to make it 3-0.
Jones rippled the side-netting from a one-on-one as Spalding threatened to make it 4-0 before half-time, but you sensed it was already ‘job done’ for the hosts.
Indeed, they failed to add to their tally after the interval – but that was largely down to the excellent Kennard.
He made super stops to deny the luckless Jones twice from close range and also kept out two sensational strikes from sub Tidswell too.
It mattered little though, with Spalding safely in the hat for the next round.
Tulips: Duggan, Canoville, Jackson, Stevens, Stainfield, Steadman, Beeson (Cotton 46), Hall, Mullarkey (Tidswell 56), Jones, O’Neill (Gibson 66). Not used: Hussey, Webb.