FOOTBALL: Tulips ready to roll after eye-catching Poppies win

CLINCHER: Sam Mullarkey (right) put the finishing touches to Spalding's win on Saturday with a late strike at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.
CLINCHER: Sam Mullarkey (right) put the finishing touches to Spalding's win on Saturday with a late strike at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.

SPALDING UNITED 2 KETTERING TOWN 0: Depleted Spalding rounded off their pre-season schedule with an eye-catching friendly win over the higher-graded Kettering on Saturday.

Second-half strikes from Lee Beeson (68) and Sam Mullarkey (90) were enough for the Tulips at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.

But it could have been very different, with man-of-the-match keeper Michael Duggan pulling off a key penalty save two minutes before Beeson nodded the hosts ahead.

The Poppies started much the better and Duggan was forced to pull off smart stops from Ryan Cherry and Jake Newman early on.

Spalding’s first sight of goal came in the 20th minute, when Beeson beat Kettering keeper Michael Quick to a cross – but his header was kicked off the line.

The hosts then went on to enjoy their best period of the game, with Dan Cotton seeing a deflected free kick scrambled clear and Mullarkey firing wide at the near post following a fine run and cross from Beeson.

Lively winger Beeson then delivered another low cross for Danny Steadman, but the midfielder kicked fresh air when well-placed as the first period ended goalless.

Kettering again came out of the traps quicker than their hosts after the break, but found Duggan in unbeatable form.

The Tulips’ keeper somehow got down low to pull off a one-handed stop from Newman, before coming face-to -face with the same player from the penalty spot after Adam Jackson tangled with Louis Hamilton. The spot-kick was at a nice height, but Duggan still did superbly to palm it away to his right.

It proved a pivotal moment, with Spalding taking the lead from their next attack. A lovely cross from Matty O’Neill picked out Beeson, who headed home the goal his performance deserved.

Newman’s personal battle with Duggan continued after the opener, with the Tulips’ number one turning his swerving drive around the post – again with one hand.

Ben Ford lobbed an effort over as the Poppies looked for a leveller, but it was Spalding who had the last word in the final minute.

O’Neill showed great feet before crossing for Mullarkey, who calmly fired the ball low into the far corner to wrap up a confidence-boosting win for the Tulips ahead of next week’s big kick-off.

Tulips: Duggan, Doherty, Jackson, Allen, McGovern, Steadman, Beeson (Ebdon 88), Hall, Mullarkey, Cotton (Webb 60), O’Neill. Not used: Hussey.