Holbeach Utd 1 (Tidswell pen 80) Stamford 2 (Jones 7, Smith 65): It is unusual that a home crowd witnesses a defeat but still leaves full of optimism – but every Tigers fan must have left Carter’s Park on Saturday knowing their team is in for another successful season.
Holbeach more than matched a team flying high in a league a level above their own and were desperately unlucky not to get at least a draw out of this thriller.
They were up against it after conceding a soft early goal, and let in another against the run of play halfway through the second half. But they created chance after chance in the sweltering heat and an Andrew Tidswell penalty ten minutes from time was scant reward for their effort.
The Daniels are not pretty to watch and made it clear their’s would be a long ball, no-nonsense approach. But they had the big men to utilise this system and ruffled the Holbeach defence, captain Richard Jones beating Tigers keeper Leigh Overton to a long ball to head in a soft opener.
Holbeach came back and the hard-working Mitch Griffiths just failed to turn in a cross from Tidswell before striker Sam Mulready headed just over. Then from a set piece Jonny Allen struck the post as the Tigers searched for an equaliser that seemed inevitable. But Stamford, big and determined, were always a threat and Overton had to be at his best to save from a ferocious Danny Brooks free-kick.
The Tigers looked the fitter team in the second half heat and visiting keeper Elliot Shilliam was forced into a fine save from a deflection.
The Daniels were losing their shape and offering little, but a scuffed shot into the area found Jordan Smith, and the big striker trapped, turned and slotted in Stamford’s second.
Many teams would have thrown in the towel at this stage, but Holbeach just got even better. An Andy Toyne rasper was brilliantly tipped over, a Tidswell effort was headed off the line and substitute Robbie Harris saw his flick go inches past the post.
It seemed that Holbeach would never score, but then Shilliam was dismissed for taking down Mulready and the impressive Tidswell stroked home the spot kick.
The Tigers pushed hard but Craig Parker’s header was brilliantly saved, Harris blasted wide from 15 yards and a last second Tidswell volley flew inches past the post.
It’s frustrating for the purists when skill and invention are beaten by brawn and muscle, but Holbeach will play much worse than this and win this season.
Tigers: Overton, Griffiths, Flack (Harris 70 mins), Toyne (Palmer 80), Brown, Stevens, Allen, Stupple, Mulready (Treacher 80), Tidswell, Parker. Subs (not used): Jackson, Elston, Stills, Warfield.
• Tonight: Deeping Rangers v Holbeach (7.45pm)