MATCH VERDICT: Easy does it for Spalding United

Bradley Wells (left) and Conor Higginson
Bradley Wells (left) and Conor Higginson
  • Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South - Spalding United 3 Northwich Victoria 1
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The final preparations for Spalding United’s play-off semi-final could not have gone much better.

A comfortable home victory – courtesy of a hat-trick by top scorer Bradley Wells – ended the regular campaign.

And what a season it has been as the Tulips claimed their highest-ever finish.

Hopefully, there will be plenty of celebrations next weekend as well!

Having secured third spot, Spalding could start to make plans for the next step in the promotion push.

Players were given a rest, tactical changes were tested and everyone came through it without picking up any injuries or suspensions.

Leon Mettam puts the ball across the six-yard box

Leon Mettam puts the ball across the six-yard box

Boss Chris Rawlinson’s switch to a three-man defence allowed Paul Walker and Adam Jackson to get further forward.

Conor Higginson enjoyed the freedom of a role behind Wells and strike partner Leon Mettam.

For the second half, the Tulips reverted back to their traditional 4-4-2 which has worked so well all season.

Neal Spafford moved to right-back, Walker stayed in midfield and Higginson went down the left wing.

Bradley Wells opens the scoring

Bradley Wells opens the scoring

Mettam and Jordan Lemon were replaced but this was an ideal opportunity to try out different options, just in case they are needed.

Bottom-of-the-table Northwich Victoria had been relegated on Easter Monday so they were never likely to pose a real threat.

Spalding took control in the early exchanges and they should have added a few more goals.

Higginson and Mettam combined for Wells to open his account for the afternoon.

Bradley Wells can't quite connect this time

Bradley Wells can't quite connect this time

Ten minutes later, it was 2-0 as Mettam hooked the ball on and Wells had time to race clear then pick his spot from the edge of the six-yard box.

The treble was completed near the end after unselfish play from Higginson who squared the ball for an easy tap-in.

Wells had enough chances to claim a double hat-trick while goalkeeper Dylan Forth also denied skipper Nathan Stainfield.

Michael Duggan produced a stunning save at 1-0 to keep out John Bennett’s header.

Yaw Gyimah’s close-range finish could hardly be classed as any consolation following another horrific campaign for one of non-League football’s most famous clubs.

While Northwich drop down again, Spalding will be hoping to leave this division in the opposite direction as they can now focus fully on the play-offs.

Michael Duggan makes a crucial save at 1-0

Michael Duggan makes a crucial save at 1-0

SPALDING UNITED

3-4-1-2: Duggan 7; Miller 7, Stainfield 7, Spafford 7; Walker 7 (sub Heeley 87 mins), Downey 7, Lemon 7 (sub Beeson 63 mins, 7), Jackson 7; Higginson 8; Wells 8, Mettam 7 (sub Whitehead 57 mins, 7). Subs not used: Acar, Scampion.

NORTHWICH VICTORIA

4-2-3-1: Forth; Lawrence, Short, Lyndon, Mannion (sub Matthews 75 mins); Clark, Bennett; Gyimah, Shaw, Kelleher; Imade.

REFEREE

Martin Chester.

GOALS

Wells (10 mins, 1-0); Wells (20 mins, 2-0); Wells (84 mins, 3-0); Gyimah (86 mins, 3-1).

BOOKINGS

Whitehead (foul); Higginson (diving).

ATTENDANCE

145

STAR MAN

Bradley Wells – first hat-trick for the Tulips took his tally to 25 league goals and 29 in all competitions, putting him one away from his target this season. The sponsors’ award went to Conor Higginson who admitted that Wells deserved the honour on Saturday.

ENTERTAINMENT

★★★

WHO’S NEXT

Stocksbridge Park Steels (H) – play-off semi-final, Tuesday.