Rayment’s Tulips were positively blooming

The Tulips' top scorer with 28 goals Andrew Tidswell. ENGANL00120130923114907
The Tulips' top scorer with 28 goals Andrew Tidswell. ENGANL00120130923114907
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The Tulips may have wilted a little once the UCL title was secured, but for most of the campaign they were positively blooming.

Pat Rayment’s side started off like an express train, setting a UCL record by winning their opening league 17 matches, including a 12-0 hammering of Boston Town - their highest score since 1964.

Lewis Webb, Jamie Stevens and Lee Beeson celebrate lifting the UCL Premier Division title on home soil.  ANL-140419-181915001

Lewis Webb, Jamie Stevens and Lee Beeson celebrate lifting the UCL Premier Division title on home soil. ANL-140419-181915001

It may be another 50 years before the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field witnesses another scoreline like it, especially if the ambitious Tulips keep rising through the levels as they hope to.

Andy Tidswell ended the season as the league’s leading scorer, despite missing much of the campaign through injury, as he netted at a rate of more than a goal a game - grabbing four hat-tricks along the way. Those trebles included one against Holbeach, the side he had fired to the UCL title a season earlier.

It wasn’t just the forwards who were impressing. In their first 10 league games, Spalding conceded a total of just one goal - and that came during the first half of the opening day victory over Northampton Sileby Rangers.

The nine successive clean sheets that followed, allied to impressive finishing at the other end, saw the Tulips quickly establish themselves as the ones to beat.

Rushden and Diamonds finally put a spanner in the works when ending Spalding’s perfect record with a 2-1 away win in December.

Another perfect record fell when Spalding dropped their first points on the road with a 1-1 draw at Wisbech in February, denying them a tenth away league win on the trot.

Not that there was any hangover from that result as Spalding scored 19 goals in their next three games to kickstart an eight-game winning run.

During that run, Spalding took their season’s goal tally into three figures with Dan Cotton having the honour of netting their 100th league goal of the campaign during an emphatic 8-1 win at Kempston.

The last of those eight winning games, a 2-1 success at Rushden and Diamonds, saw Spalding record a 30th victory in 32 league games as Cotton grabbed the winner three minutes into added on time.

The headlines weren’t about the result that day though as Rayment was punched after the final whistle by a Rushden fan.

By the time of that incident the title had already been secured. Lee Beeson’s hat-trick in a 4-2 win over Kempston had meant only mathematics were delaying the inevitable celebrations and when Huntingdon lost 2-1 at Cogenhoe three days later the champagne could finally be opened.

Huntingdon did, however, spoil Spalding’s superb record by inflicting a double on them in the space of eight days. Not that it dampened the celebrations as the Tulips received the UCL trophy after the second of those games and then ended the season two days later with a victory at local rivals Deeping Rangers thanks to a Cotton double.

That victory took Spalding’s goal difference back up to three figures as a season to remember ended in the same winning style it had started.

Rayment is determined to ensure future seasons will bring plenty more to cheer about for the club.

“I was extremely happy with the way the season went,” he said. “It will obviously be tougher in the higher division and we need to ensure we are focused for every game. Maybe at this level some players will play the game of their lives in the big matches but not at the likes of Stewart and Lloyd or Harborough.

“There will be some adjusting to do but we are putting a two-year plan in place and we hope by the end of it to have earned another promotion.

“We do need to bring some players in to help us move forward but we won the league with a great all-round team effort so we are confident.”