FOOTBALL: Spalding United beaten in final friendly

Alex Marr on the attack for Spalding under-21s against Coventry United
Alex Marr on the attack for Spalding under-21s against Coventry United
  • Full preview of Stocksbridge Park Steels v Spalding United in Thursday’s Spalding Guardian
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Spalding United boss Chris Rawlinson is relieved that the pre-season programme is over.

The final friendly was a 3-1 defeat at Halesowen Town on Saturday as teenager Matt Johnson got a late reply.

Now the Tulips have two training sessions to prepare for the Evo-Stik South opener at Stocksbridge Park Steels this weekend.

Rawlinson said: “It was a bad day with players being unavailable and also having traffic problems.

“Overall, our play and shape were okay. But I must admit I’m pleased that the pre-season games are done and dusted.

“I don’t think I’ve been able to pick from a full-strength squad, although that means we’ve worked on a few things as well.

We haven’t become a bad side overnight after only changing a couple of players from the end of last season. I’ve got confidence in them.

Chris Rawlinson

“Saturday’s game wasn’t a fair reflection of ourselves. I’m glad to get it out of the way.

“People might look at our pre-season form and feel a bit worried.

“But we haven’t become a bad side overnight after only changing a couple of players from the end of last season. I’ve got confidence in them.”

Already without a few key players for a tough test at Evo-Stik Premier Division side Halesowen on Saturday, the Tulips encountered horrid travel conditions with torrential rain, roadworks, delays on the M6 and diversions.

The home team were already on the pitch before one car load of Tulips players arrived at The Yeltz.

With no time for a warm-up after around three hours on the road, there were obvious signs of fatigue.

Conor Higginson and Nathan Whitehead both left the field in the opening stages for some physio treatment but returned on 30 minutes.

Understandably the Tulips were under pressure from the home team who played with pace and considerable flair to go 2-0 up inside the first 20 minutes.

At the other end, Lee Beeson had a header cleared from the line just before the interval but then fired high over the bar from Jenk Acar’s assist.

Five minutes into the second period, Acar was sent sprawling by a rash tackle but the referee allowed play to continue and the home advantage was increased with a superb strike from 25 yards. Goalkeeper Michael Duggan, who made some excellent saves throughout, was given no chance this time.

Neal Spafford, returning from holiday, and Paul Walker were outstanding the Tulips’ defence as Halesowen continued to dominate.

Higginson worked hard to get into a scoring position but his shot was deflected into the side netting.

Reward finally came for the Tulips in the final minute when Johnson, who had replaced Liam Harris for the final quarter, squeezed the ball just inside a post from within a crowded area.

Spalding will have a derby date at Wisbech Town in the Emirates FA Cup preliminary round on August 19.

The Fenmen won 4-1 away to Biggleswade on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Spalding’s under-21 development team were beaten 3-0 by Coventry United in a friendly on their home debut on Saturday.

Alex Smith conceded to Lewis Ludford after five minutes and Connor Tallett doubled the advantage on the half-hour mark. Ryan Palmer netted again five minutes into the second period.