Spalding United stumbled to their heaviest defeat of the season to championship-chasing Shaw Lane Aquaforce on Saturday – but not without turning in a battling display.
In fact, for much of the game the Tulips did well, but fell short in front of goal at either end of the pitch.
But without doubt Shaw Lane are the strongest team Spalding have played all season and, with 16 wins on the bounce, are a good bet to overcome current leaders Stafford Rangers to win the title.
Deputising for manager Marcus Ebdon and assistant boss Danny Hussey, who were both unavailable, it was left to director of football Bob Don-Duncan to conduct things from the technical area.
After the game he said: “New boys to the league this season, they have adapted well, and from what we have experienced, they are the strongest team we have faced.
“It was an opportunity for us to blood Hayden Talbot in goal with Michael Duggan unavailable.
Shaw Lane grew in confidence and we made some basic mistakes when defending and the scoreline looked like we felt, deflating.Bob Don-Duncan
“Young Jonny Lockie also had another opportunity to show his pace and hopefully it will stand them in good stead for the future.
“We had chances in the game and certainly could have taken them in the first two minutes – both falling to Tom Waumsley, the first one saved and the second finding the side netting.
“At 1-0 down we started the second half well and looked like getting back in the game, only to concede a dubious headed goal from a corner when Nathan Stainfield was used as a step ladder at the back post.
“After that, Shaw Lane grew in confidence and we made some basic mistakes when defending and the scoreline looked like we felt, deflating.”
James Walshaw gave Aquaforce the lead after 14 minutes after latching on a loose ball to fire past Talbot.
Further chances fell for the home team but the Tulips dug in deep.
Dan Banister had the ball in the net within three minutes after taking a neat ball from Waumsley in full stride, but his effort was disallowed for offside.
Early in the second half Joe Curtis forced a good save from Tom Morgan at the foot of a post and for 10 minutes, with Paul Walker turning in a man-of-the-match display down the right wing with some great runs into enemy territory, the Tulips played their best football of the game.
But the pattern changed dramatically following Aquaforce’s second goal, against the run of play, on 57 minutes.
Gavin Allott used Stainfield’s back to gain height and head in at the back post. Appeals for a foul, however, fell on deaf ears.
Lee Bennett put the result beyond doubt in the 66th minute with a narrow angled shot that zipped along the goalline. The ball was hooked away but an assistant’s flag was smartly raised, indicating it had indeed crossed the line.
Adam Priestley came off the bench to boost the home tally with further goals on 72 and 84 minutes.
Spalding: Talbot, Spafford, Jackson, Murphy, Stainfield, Lawlor, Walker, Banister, Waumsley (sub Tricks 80 mins), Sanders (sub Humble 68 mins), Curtis (sub Lockie 65 mins).Subs not used: Eason, Butland.