Spalding United can’t afford another defeat in tonight’s semi-final showdown with Stocksbridge Park Steels.
The South Yorkshire side have already beaten the Tulips twice this season.
Indeed, six meetings in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League since Spalding’s return to Step Four in the non-League pyramid have produced just four points.
A poor record for the Tulips against Stocksbridge Park Steels goes back even further.
Just over eight years ago, Jamie Vardy – now of Premier League champions Leicester City and England – struck a hat-trick against Spalding.
Tonight, they must stop the goal-scoring threat from the likes of Scott Ruthven – who had a spell at Lincoln United with Tulips boss Chris Rawlinson – to keep alive their promotion dreams.
In their first season back at this level, Spalding missed out on a play-off place due to a 3-0 defeat at Romulus on the final day.
They had drawn 1-1 at home to Stocksbridge Park Steels eight days earlier thanks to a late leveller by Matty Nolan.
Last term, the Tulips were forced to settle for mid-table mediocrity.
However, they have stayed in the top three this term since August.
Stocksbridge Park Steels are the only side apart from league champions Shaw Lane to have beaten Spalding home and away.
Harrison Biggins and Adam Hinchcliffe opened up a 2-0 lead at the Sir Halley Stewart Field in November.
In the absence of Nathan Stainfield due to a neck injury, stand-in skipper Bradley Wells pulled one back.
But Chris Hamilton’s last-minute goal was a consolation after Joe Lumsden made it 3-1 midway through the second half.
On the opening day of this month, Matthew Reay and Brodie Litchfield were on target either side of a penalty save to deny on-loan striker Leon Mettam what would have been a second-half equaliser.
If the scores are level after 90 minutes tonight, extra-time will be played, followed by a penalty shoot-out if needed.
The winners will face runners-up Witton Albion or fifth-placed AFC Rushden & Diamonds in Saturday’s final.
The highest-placed team will have home advantage in the final, so the Tulips would be away to Witton or meet AFC Rushden & Diamonds at the Sir Halley Stewart Field.
Spalding were not allowed to reduce admission prices for tonight’s game as league rules state it must be classed as a cup tie with the gate receipts being shared.
Entry is priced at £8 (adult), £5 (concession), £2 for under-16s and £1 for under-11s. Season tickets are not valid.
Likely line-up (4-4-2): Duggan; Walker, Miller, Stainfield, Jackson; Beeson, Whitehead, Varley, Lemon; Wells, Mettam. Subs: Lockie, Downey, Spafford, Higginson, Acar.
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Stocksbridge Park Steels
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ONE TO WATCH
Harrison Biggins – the midfielder scored twice inside the opening six minutes at Chasetown on Easter Monday as Park Steels secured a play-off place. He was also on target in the previous wins over Market Drayton Town and AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
November 29: Stocksbridge Park Steels 0 Spalding 2
April 18: Spalding 1 Stocksbridge Park Steels 1
January 2: Stocksbridge Park Steels 2 Spalding 1
April 12: Spalding 0 Stocksbridge Park Steels 2
November 19: Spalding 2 Stocksbridge Park Steels 3
April 1: Stocksbridge Park Steels 2 Spalding 0