Sheffield 4 Spalding United 3
Spalding United staged a dramatic fightback from 4-1 down to get within a goalpost of gaining a deserved share of the points at the Home of Football Stadium.
But had they started the game as they finished it, they could well have had all three points winging they way back to South Holland in this seven-goal thriller, writes Ray Tucker.
The game looked to be well out of reach for the Tulips, trailing by three goals with a little over 15 minutes to play, but they took it by the scruff of the neck and Sheffield were soon hanging on for their lives.
Lewis Webb slammed in two superb goals, and in between these Andy Tidswell, who had scored the Tulips’ first in the 54th minute, had the ball in the home net, only to be denied by the raised flag of a referees’ assistant – judged to be just a few inches offside – while Webb was denied his hat-trick when a rasping 86th-minute shot rattled a post.
Sheffield were hanging on for their lives, but hang on they did to gather the spoils.
Their play in the early stages of the game, however, had been superb.
They attacked in strength, taking the lead from a couple of speedy wingers, and carved out numerous opportunities as the Tulips struggled to conjure up any kind of momentum.
The home side grabbed the lead on ten minutes. Reece White’s precision cross from the right was converted by the unmarked Ashley Longstaff, giving keeper Michael Duggan no chance from 12 yards out.
The outstretched legs of home keeper Joe Green kept out a Jamie Thurlbourne drive following a rare break while back at the other end Kern Miller came to the Tulips’ rescue with a goalline clearance.
By the midway period of the opening half Spalding were featuring more prominently with some crisp passing sequences.
Mitch Griffiths forced a save from the keeper and the same player then chipped the ball into the area, but Tidswell’s shot was well off target. Shortly
afterwards, however, the striker had Green at full stretch to save.
Things looked promising for the Tulips for the second period but some shambolic defending for two corners saw Sheffield stretch their lead with two goals in as many minutes through Longstaff and Reece.
The Tulips quickly pulled a goal back with Tidswell homing in on skipper Michael Leary’s centre from close to the right corner flag.
But it was 4-1 on the hour when Ben Algar provided the chance for the oncoming Tim Whittaker to slip the ball past the diving Duggan.
However, the Tulips’ revival was set to begin in earnest. Webb’s deft 74th-minute strike from the edge of the home area set up an intense period of
pressure for the home team to contend with.
Their goal was under constant threat but thankful when Tidswell’s far-post effort was disallowed.
However, they were soon on the back foot again when Webb drove in the Tulips’ third five minutes from full-time.
A draw after such an exciting encounter would have been fully justified but the woodwork denied the Tulips that reward.
Spalding: Duggan, Leary, Jackson, Miller, N Stainfield, Webb, Griffiths, Hall, Tidswell, Oliver (Jones 65 mins), J Thurlbourne. Subs not used: Waumsley, G Stainfield.