Spalding United got off to a stunning start this season – now they need to finish it off in style.
The Tulips brought up a half-century of competitive games with Saturday’s final fixture of the regular league campaign at home to Northwich Victoria.
Victory over Stocksbridge Park Steels tonight would send Spalding into the promotion play-off final on Saturday.
The campaign kicked off in mid-July as newly-appointed boss Dave Frecklington guided the Tulips into the Lincolnshire FA Senior Cup semi-final with a last-gasp win at Boston United.
His post-match comments about the tactics being “not pretty but effective” proved to be the motto of the season.
Spalding were unbeaten in the opening 10 games of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South programme.
Bradley Wells – who only arrived just before the start of the season – scored 11 goals in that period, plus three in the Emirates FA Cup.
Spalding’s heaviest defeat of the season – 4-1 at Gresley in the Buildbase FA Trophy – was followed by a first loss in the league then one point from five matches during ‘nightmare November’.
In the next two months, though, the Tulips hit back.
They won every game apart from a 1-0 home defeat to top-of-the-table Shaw Lane and a couple of goalless draws – the second leading to a penalty shoot-out exit from the Integro League Cup.
Frecklington’s departure to Gainsborough Trinity came as a shock – but, crucially, there was some stability with the appointment of his former assistant Chris Rawlinson.
A top-five finish and home advantage in the semi-final were never really in doubt.
Tonight, it’s a winner-takes-all battle – victory sets up this weekend’s showdown; defeat means the season is over.
All competitions (plus substitute)
Walker 49, Stainfield 46, Wells 45 (+1), Varley 45, Duggan 43, Lemon 40 (+2), Whitehead 37 (+2), Acar 30 (+5), Spafford 29 (+1), Jackson 23, Downey 18 (+12), Beeson 16 (+2), Wright 16 (+1), Higginson 14 (+12), Field 12 (+9), Mettam 12, Miller 10 (+1), Wightwick 9 (+4), Gatter 8 (+1), Griffiths 8, Barraclough 7 (+6), Walton 6, Lockie 5 (+27), Cullingworth 3 (+4), Hamilton 2 (+3), Costa 1 (+5), Waumsley 1 (+4), Fleming 1 (+3), Durkin 1 (+2), Vince 1, Longville-Daley 0 (+3), Heeley 0 (+1).