SPALDING UNITED 1 YAXLEY 0: Spalding put the disappointment of last week’s derby loss to Holbeach United behind them with a narrow UCL Premier Division victory over a game Yaxley outfit.
Saturday’s Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field clash won’t live long in the memory for anyone other than Jake Gibson, who netted his first Tulips goal on six minutes to settle the clash.
Pat Rayment’s side were also indebted to keeper Michael Duggan, who pulled off a number of cracking saves to keep their promotion dreams alive. The pick of them, a reflex stop to deny Ondre Odain, was fit to grace any level of football.
Tulips chief Pat Rayment said: “The entire place was a bit flat after the Holbeach loss and it showed.
“It felt like an end of season game, which it really wasn’t. All I’ll say is that we’ve got three points, which at the end of the day is enough. It wasn’t great, but we did enough.
“It’s these kind of games where you reap the benefits of having a top keeper like Michael Duggan. He was called upon to make a few saves and did his job very well.
“It’s important that we don’t get dragged into more games like this. We need to set the tempo in matches and can’t afford to get bogged down in end of season games with teams that have nothing to play for. Look at Holbeach, they’ve been merciless in these kind of games.
“Our target is to finish above St Ives and get that promotion place and that’s still very much achievable.”
The moment of the match was the first attack of the game, with left winger Gibson – in for the benched Nick Jackson – firing a low angled finish past the despairing drive of Aaron Butcher and into the bottom corner.
It was all very routine for Spalding and you sensed the floodgates may then open against a usually stubborn Yaxley outfit.
That may have happened if Chris Hall’s super run and left-foot strike hadn’t cannoned back off the inside of the post a few minutes later, but in truth the home side rarely threatened the Cuckoos goal again.
At the other end, Duggan’s first save of the afternoon saw him hang on to a speculative 45-yard effort from Yaxley skipper Ricky Hailstone, which looked to be heading for the back of the net.
The only other moment of note in the first period saw winger Lee Beeson forced off with what looked like a hamstring injury.
After the interval leading scorer Dan Cotton, who had perhaps his quietest game of the season, was unable to connect with a Gibson cross in what was Spalding’s only real opening.
Yaxley, meanwhile, will feel they deserved at least a point after creating three decent chances. The first saw ex-Spalding youngster Alex Lyon pull a lovely ball back for Andy Furnell, who saw his stabbed effort tipped over by Duggan.
A dangerous run and strike from sub Matt Barber then forced another tidy stop from the Tulips’ number one.
Then came Odain’s chance ten minutes from time, with the dangerous hitman sending a crisp half-volley towards the top corner from close range. Duggan somehow got a hand on the effort and turned the ball past the post, which effectively wrapped up the win for a below-par Spalding.
Rayment’s side will need to produce a better showing at Shepshed Dynamo tonight (7.45pm), as they bid to close the gap on second-placed St Ives to six points.
Tulips: Duggan, Canoville, Thurlbourne, Chamberlain, Jacklin, Hall, Beeson (Smedley 33), McGovern (Kennedy 77), Nightingale, Cotton (Battersby 61), Gibson. Not used: Jackson, Fuff.