Spalding United overcame their FA Trophy exit in the best way possible with a 4-1 win over Leek Town in the Evo-Stik Division One South on Saturday.
Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field was no place for the footballing purists, but a policy deployed by Tulips boss Pat Rayment earlier in the season to become more direct paid dividends against their Staffordshire opponents.
The Blues never looked comfortable on the increasingly deteriorating pitch in a game where Jamie Stevens returned to Spalding’s central defence alongside Nathan Stainfield.
Before kick-off, Spalding were presented with the Division One South Fair Play Award for October and after a minute’s silence on Remembrance weekend, the Tulips set about their task with a determination to prove a point against the visitors.
A stray pass by Blues wideman Niall Maguire led to the Tulips’ opening goal as Lewis Webb set up Tom Waumsley to score after just eight minutes.
Influential midfielder Jack McGovern, preferred to Jamie Thurlbourne in a three-man formation across the centre of the park for Spalding, stopped an equaliser for Leek on 15 minutes when he deflected an 18-yard piledriver from Anthony Danylyk off the line.
Leek did equalise on 35 minutes though when a Paul Donnelly free-kick was glanced home by Darren Chadwick and they were close to going in front when a Danylyk snap shot from 30 minutes forced a superb save out of Michael Duggan.
Waumsley almost grabbed a second for Spalding ten minutes before the break, just failing to touch home a McGovern right wing cross while Maguire floated a 30-yard free-kick over the Tulips’ bar.
Early in the second half, Jackson almost gave Leek the lead with a 25-yard shot which went wide before Thurlbourne replaced Mitch Griffiths on 57 minutes and combined with McGovern to put Waumsley through on goal, only for Ben Chapman to save at the goalscorer’s feet.
But on 62 minutes, Spalding were ahead when a pullback by Jordan Nuttell found McGovern who sweetly lobbed Chapman to make it 2-1.
Waumsley could have made it three when he headed a McGovern cross wide before Chris Hall made no mistake with 11 minutes to go, deliciously half-vollleying a McGovern assist into the corner of the Blues’ net.
The Spalding fans chanted “We want four”, but they had to wait until four minutes into stoppage time when Ryan Oliver weaved his way round a tired Leek defence before slipping the ball past Chapman.
No amount on earth would have been enough to be a fly on the wall in the Tulips’ dressing room if Rayment’s lads hadn’t won.
Spalding United assistant boss Marcus Ebdon admitted how important it was for his players to bounce back from their FA Trophy exit at the hands of Leek Town.
Ebdon said: “We told the lads that they needed a performance and they came up with one.
“We changed our shape a bit and put three midfielders in there which helped us in a big way.
“We got on the ball more often and won the midfield battle as well which was pleasing.”
The Tulips were unrecognisable from the side that conceded soft goals in their previous two meetings with Leek, due in no small part to the return in central defence of former Holbeach United captain Jamie Stevens.
Ebdon said: “Jamie was talking to the lads, he led a great line and that’s what he brings to us.
“We looked far more stable than we were without him so we’re very pleased to have him back.”