YAXLEY 1 SPALDING UNITED 1 (0-3 on penalties): Tulips chief Pat Rayment admitted he was left with mixed emotions after seeing his side book a spot in the UCL Knockout Cup final on Tuesday night.
A last-minute header from Miles Chamberlain denied hosts Yaxley a shock success and forced a nail-biting penalty shoot-out at In2itive Park.
Jamie Thurlbourne, Lee Beeson and Dan Cotton all scored their penalties to send Spalding through and secure a final date with St Ives Town on Monday, May 6.
But Rayment couldn’t hide his disappointment at what he perceived to be another lacklustre performance from his promotion-chasing team – and ordered them to improve.
“I’ve got to be happy at reaching the final,” said the Spalding supremo. “It’s great to have that to look forward to at the end of the season.
“But once again the performance was way below what we expect at this club. If I was an outsider looking in, I’d think this team had nothing to play for and were just seeing the season out.
“I’ll tell you now, we’ve still got a massive amount to play for and it’s absolutely scandalous if even one of my players thinks otherwise.
“I accept that we don’t have the same team ethic as a Holbeach or a St Ives. That’ll come in time. But what I can’t accept is a lack of desire – and I’ve seen that in three of our last four games. I’m very protective of my players and this club. We’re still on track to reach our goals. But I won’t accept a lack of effort. It looks bad on me and the coaching staff.
“We look after the players at this club, so it’s disappointing to see such performances – even if we are winning.”
Yaxley, who dumped Holbeach United out in the quarter finals, were typically dogged.
Jack McGovern, Cotton and Tony Battersby missed decent chances for Spalding in the first half, before ex-Tulip put the hosts ahead on the stroke of half time with a low drive from the edge of the box.
That’s how it stayed up until the final minute, when defender Chamberlain jumped off the bench to head home a dramatic equaliser and force extra time.
A stunning save from man-of-the-match keeper Michael Duggan ensured that the Tulips took the tie to penalties – and he followed that up with a penalty save from Ali Nyang in the shoot-out.
McGovern did miss Spalding’s second penalty, but Ricky Hailstone and Scott Carter both followed suit as the visitors took the spoils 3-0.
The Tulips visit lowly S & L Corby in the UCL Premier Division on Saturday (3pm).
Tulips: Duggan, Canoville, Thurlbourne, Fuff (Chamberlain), Jacklin, Hall, McGovern, Smedley (Doherty), Battersby, Cotton, Gibson (Beeson).