SPALDING UNITED 1 (Green 87) PETERBOROUGH NORTHERN STAR 0: It’s often said that titles are won off the back of scrappy 1-0 wins – and Franny Green’s late strike on Saturday could turn out to be key come April.
For 87 minutes at Spalding’s Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field it was very ordinary stuff, with the hosts seemingly unable to break down a Northern Star side that came for a point.
But Tulips boss Pat Rayment has splashed out good money to bring game changers to his side, and ex-Peterborough United hitman Green certainly did that with three minutes left on the clock.
His fierce low drive gave ex-Spalding keeper Nick Conroy no chance – and kept the Tulips firmly in the frame for UCL Premier Division glory.
If that was a memorable moment, what came before it was a largely forgettable game of attack verus defence. City side Star, missing a host of key men, set their stall out to frustrate Rayment’s free-scoring side – and should be credited for blunting the hottest attack in the division.
Spalding had the lion’s share of the first-half possession, but struggled to create their usual spree of chances. Their first clear sight of goal came on the quarter hour, when Conroy saved smartly to deny Kieran Doherty after Green’s initial strike was saved.
At the other end Lee Drury was a relative spectator, but he did have to pull off an acrobatic stop to tip over a free kick from ex-Tulip Liam Hook.
It was very much one-way traffic in the second period, with the hosts dominating possession. They were within an inch of taking an early second-half lead too, but Hook kept his cool to clear a close-range Tolley effort off the line.
An acrobatic Tom James scorpion kick then cleared the bar, before full back Callum Earls – who had another cracking game – stung Conroy’s palms with a near-post effort.
Spalding almost got lucky when Green charged down a Conroy clearance and deflected the ball over the bar, but there was nothing fortunate about the striker’s winner.
Combining well with James down the right-hand side, he fired a fierce drive from an angle past a motionless Conroy, who could do nothing but watch the classy finish.
Green almost topped his goal moments later too. He brought down a hopeful ball forward superbly, before half-volleying a sensational effort towards the top corner. It would have been goal of the season stuff, but for perhaps the best save you’re likely to see all year from Conroy, who amazingly turned the ball over the bar.
The job was already done though – and only time will tell just how important these three points will prove.
Tulips: Drury, Doherty, Earls, Chamberlain, Fuff, Steadman, James, Hall (Kennedy 70), Green, Tolley (Joyce 88), Cotton. Not used: Hussey, Ebdon.
Spalding boss Pat Rayment
“It’s always going to hard playing against a side that shows absolutely no attacking intent. But I’ve got no qualms with Northern Star coming here and defending, if they had tried to go toe-to-toe with us it would’ve been difficult for them.
“We need to get used to teams coming here and doing that really. Any team that comes here and tries to attack us will get beaten, that’s just a fact.
“But that’s why we invested in the likes of Franny Green. He’s a game changer and has earned us a big three points. His touch and strike after the goal was top class – only topped by perhaps an even better save by Nick Conroy.
“It’s no coincidence that we scored late again. We work hard and keep playing football right until the end. I refused to go direct and it worked.”
LFP star man
On a day when neither side really impressed, Green had that little bit of class required to settle an otherwise dull affair.
In a team that has been expensively assembled, his late winner could prove priceless come the end of the season.