Evo-Stik League First Division South: Lincoln United 1 Spalding United 1
Goalkeeper Michael Duggan turned in a five-star performance to ensure Spalding United’s unbeaten run continued at Ashby Avenue on Boxing Day.
He was prominent throughout an often bruising encounter but really earned his money in the closing stages as Lincoln United threw caution to the wind in an attempt to turn home advantage into three vital points.
With the scores level following a couple of second-half penalties, Lincoln – managed by former Tulip Dave Frecklington – thought they had succeeded as the game entered the closing stages, finally getting the ball past the inspired Duggan. But their celebrations were short-lived with a raised flag on the touchline indicating a handball offence.
They bombarded the Tulips goal after this but were continually frustrated by a rock-solid defence and with Duggan pulling off some stunning saves.
After the game one Lincoln official commented that it had been a game as in times past, full of end-to-end action – a typical Boxing Day encounter.
Full of action it was but without the footballing flair, on a seemingly ‘fast’ playing surface, that many of the 196 fans in the ground were truly expecting from two teams full of expectation of featuring the play-offs come the end of season.
The Tulips were within of inches from taking a 15th-minute lead. A long pass back by defender was completely missed by an advancing Robert Peet and the ball zipped towards goal, only to make contact with a post and go behind for a corner.
Minutes later Jack McGovern connected with the ball on the turn and saw it go inches over the bar and then Chris Hall forced Peet into full-stretch save.
When the home team ventured forward they invariably met the ‘stone wall’ - the Tulips pairing of Nathan Stainfield and Jamie Stevens - to deny them.
Challenges and tackles were bruising on occasions and one of these saw Tom Waumsley emerge after treatment by phisio Sam Seal with the makings of a beautiful black eye. Still feeling groggy, he failed to appear for the second half, being replaced by Andrew Tidswell.
Another casuality was Jordan Hempenstall who limped out with bruised ribs midway in the second half.
The introduction of Tidswell brought the opening goal of the game. He was unceremoniously brought down as he jinked into the home area and Jamie Thurlbourne converted the 52nd-minute penalty.
When Lincoln replied Duggan came to the Tulips’ rescue with a fine save, the first of many, at the expence of a corner.
The 64th minute forced him in the action limelight again, this time to deny the every dangerous Daniel Brooks, but as the ball ran free Stainfield was adjudged to have impeded a home player and referee Mark Jones pointed to the spot. Brooks stepped up to level the scores.
While the Tulips had enjoyed the better possession in the early part of the game it was Lincoln who pulled the strings late on, but the scoreline remained unchallenged and at the final whistle a draw was the fairest possible result.
Spalding: Duggan, Leary, Jackson, Stevens, N Stainfield, McGovern, Griffiths (sub Clarke 86 mins), Hall, Waumsley (sub Tidswell h-t), Hempenstall (sub Oliver 65 mins), J Thurlbourne. Subs not used: Nuttell, Pycock