Spalding United drop points against title rivals at home

Mitch Griffiths jumps for a header for Spalding United against Stafford Rangers at Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.  Photo by Tim Wilson.
Mitch Griffiths jumps for a header for Spalding United against Stafford Rangers at Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field. Photo by Tim Wilson.
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The Tulips suffered their first defeat of the season to a Stafford Rangers side that are being tipped for championship honours this season.

But the Tulips will rue the host of scoring opportunities spurned on a Sir Halley Stewart Field pitch that is in superb condition, earning the praise of both team’s management members.

Tulips’ boss Pat Rayment, so often a critic of the pitch in past seasons, said: “I just cannot praise theground staff enough. They have worked wonders getting the playing surface into pristine condition.

“I’ve just got to get my team to perform better on it. Well done to everyone involved, it’s much appreciated.”

In a keenly-contested game Stafford looked every inch championship material during the first half, playing fast attacking football.

But the Tulips, trailing 1-0 at the interval, were much i-proved after the break and despite conceding a second goal, had enough scoring opportunities to have earned a share of the points.

Charley Sanders had the ball in the Stafford net after just three minutes but a goal was disallowed for an alleged infringement on goalkeeper Adam Whitehouse.

Play quickly switched to the other end where the lively Ben Haseley found space and turned smartly to drive the ball inches past Michael Duggan’s far post.

But Haseley was not to be denied, nipping round the home defence to collect Christain Dacres neat chip to lob over the advancing Duggan to give his side the advantage on 17 minutes.

Both goals were constantly under pressure with Josh Moreman and Sanders going near for the Tulips and Haseley forcing a superb save from a busy Michael Duggan.

Spalding had soaked up a lot of pressure from the visitors and went in at half-time still trailing by just a single goal.

They upped their game considerably in the second half but only a smart save at the foot of a post by Duggan denied Nathan Rooney and Stafford a second goal.

The better scoring chances started to arrive for the Tulips with Tom Waumsley and Josh Moreman both going close.

In reasonably quick succession, the Tulips were denied by goalkeeper Whitehouse and a gaggle of feet in a crowded area.

But it was Stafford who found the net to seemingly put the game out of reach for the battling Tulips – Rooney squeezing the ball through a packed area on 77 minutes.

But it was never-say-die for the Tulips, who refused to go down without a fight.

Sanders worked some magic to gain enough room to fire in a great 85th minute goal.