Evo-Stik League First Division South - Spalding United 1 Sutton Coldfield Town 0
This time Spalding United took the opportunity.
Missed chances were the story of the Tulips’ opening-day defeat on the artificial pitch at Sutton Coldfield Town
On Saturday, despite a dreadful surface which makes playing football almost impossible, Pat Rayment’s men returned to winning ways by seeing off the league leaders.
A run of four successive defeats was ended as Spalding closed the gap on the Royals.
It doesn’t really matter whether or not they deserved it - although the positive performance was worthy of maximum reward.
The display was certainly much better than the Tulips had managed in league losses to Tividale and Mickleover Sports.
Young goalkeeper Sam Donkin - brought in from Corby Town to deputise for Michael Duggan during his recovery from bruised ribs - took the sponsors’ man-of-the-match award on his home debut.
Three second-half saves were probably behind that decision as Donkin denied strike pair Justin Richards and Jordan Nadat.
However, credit for keeping a clean sheet must go to the back four and in particular Nathan Stainfield.
The centre-half must have won every challenge, even though he is being forced to cope with a knee injury which would rule him out of playing every midweek and weekend.
At the other end of the pitch, there were mixed fortunes for two players also making their first appearances in a blue shirt at the Sir Halley Stewart Field.
Alex Simmons had another quiet day before being replaced just past the hour mark but Matty Nolan made an instant impact.
The pre-match talk centered around Andrew Tidswell’s proposed move to Holbeach United - yet Nolan has come the other way and already delivered a winner.
Nolan couldn’t miss from close range when a free-kick was nodded across the six-yard box and substitute Tom Waumsley failed to connect in front of goal.
Five minutes later Spalding’s advantage came close to being cancelled out as Joel Kettle headed against the post from Tom Turton’s corner.
Even though Nolan’s goal was the only clear-cut chance after the break for the Tulips, they should have been ahead in the first half.
Indeed, for the second successive Saturday, they could have gone in front in the first minute as Lewis Webb’s low drive was pushed out by Lee Evans.
Simmons struck the near post, Chris Hall volleyed wide and Nolan was denied by a goalline clearance.
A bright start by Spalding turned into a bigger battle but overall they looked stronger.
You can mark this down as a hard-fought victory against one of the Tulips’ rivals for a promotion place.
4-3-1-2: Donkin 8; Leary 7, Stevens 8, N Stainfield 9, J Thurlbourne 7; Griffiths 7, Webb 7, Hall 7; McGovern 7 (sub Hodge 66 mins, 7); Nolan 7, Simmons 6 (sub Waumsley 61 mins, 7). Subs not used: L Thurlbourne, Adams, Nuttell.
SUTTON COLDFIELD TOWN
4-4-2: Evans; Lycett, Ramsey-Dickson, Kettle, Jackson; Taylor (sub Leek 70 mins), O’Callaghan, Turton, Stephens; Richards (sub Sheldon 81 mins), Nadat (sub Danks 81 mins). Subs not used: Male, Gwilliams.
Nolan (74 mins, 1-0).
Webb (dissent); Hall (foul).
Nathan Stainfield - passed fitness check on knee injury and produced a superb display. Although goalkeeper Sam Donkin got the sponsors’ award for a series of saves, the centre-half must have won every challenge to protect the clean sheet.
Brigg Town (A) - Tuesday.