MATCH VERDICT: One point is not enough for Spalding United

Rugby Town equalise through Kevin Thornton. Photos: Tim Wilson
Rugby Town equalise through Kevin Thornton. Photos: Tim Wilson
  • Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South - Spalding United 1 Rugby Town 1
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Football is not supposed to be predictable – that’s why we love it so much.

But Saturday’s stalemate at the Sir Halley Stewart Field came as absolutely no surprise at all.

Locked together on points and aiming to close the gap on the play-off pack, Spalding United and Rugby Town had already fought out a 1-1 draw at the end of November.

An action replay was not really good enough for anyone in terms of those promotion dreams which seem to be slowly fading away.

The Tulips took the lead but ended up happier with a draw.

Rugby fans and officials went away complaining over a disallowed late goal, having taken control after the break to get back on level terms.

Celebrations for Rugby Town

Celebrations for Rugby Town

You could argue it was a fair result after a contest that brought commitment but a lack of quality and very few clear-cut chances.

There had been nothing to report until Spalding went in front on 18 minutes.

Dan Lawlor lofted the ball behind Rugby’s back four and Dan Banister produced a neat finish by prodding a right-foot shot past Sam Andrews.

The advantage was almost doubled soon afterwards as Joe Curtis seemed certain to convert James Tricks’ right-wing cross, only for Mattias Curley to make a magnificent last-gasp tackle.

Tom Waumsley can't find a way through

Tom Waumsley can't find a way through

It took 35 minutes for the away team to offer any threat up against a defence which was superbly marshalled by captain Nathan Stainfield.

Mitch Piggon was inside the six-yard box when his effort was clawed off the line by keeper Michael Duggan and then Callum Powell fired the rebound onto the outside of the post.

Spalding were given a warning when Kevin Thornton curled a 25-yard free-kick fractionally wide.

Two minutes later, though, the former Coventry City midfielder was on target.

Thornton found space at the far post for a simple left-foot finish which offered Duggan no chance.

Powell’s drive was held at the near post and skipper Steve Towers’ long-range shot took a deflection off Stainfield from another challenge.

Tricks fired over on his full home debut and 16-year-old substitute Jonny Lockie sent the ball flashing across the face of Rugby’s goal.

However, the key moment came on 88 minutes as Ellis Humble’s header towards the top corner of his own net was brilliantly pushed out by Duggan.

From the corner, Jake Healy’s set-piece went straight into the home net but referee Andrew Park ruled it out for a foul.

Then, with the final kick of the game, Sam Murphy sent a volley high over the bar.

The chance had gone and two evenly-matched teams could not be separated.

SPALDING UNITED

4-4-2: Duggan 8; Walker 7, Spafford 7 (sub Humble 68 mins, 7), Stainfield 8, Jackson 7; Banister 7, Murphy 7, Lawlor 7, Curtis 6 (sub Lockie 77 mins); Tricks 6 (sub Sanders 77 mins), Waumsley 6. Sub not used: Hussey.

RUGBY TOWN

4-4-2: Andrews; Curley, Ryan, Tullin, James; Thorpe (sub Kolodynski 68 mins), Parker, Towers, Powell (sub Revan 73 mins); Thornton (sub Healy 83 mins), Piggon. Subs not used: Delaney, Wilkins.

REFEREE

Andrew Park.

GOALS

Banister (18 mins, 1-0); Thornton (55 mins, 1-1).

BOOKINGS

Walker, Lawlor (fouls).

ATTENDANCE

152

STAR MAN

Nathan Stainfield – the skipper produced another outstanding display at the heart of Spalding’s defence by winning so many challenges. The sponsors’ award went to Michael Duggan after a couple of saves but Stainfield was brilliant for 90 minutes.

ENTERTAINMENT

★3/5

WHO’S NEXT

Kidsgrove Athletic (A) – Saturday.