Spalding United 0 Belper Town 1: DEFEAT was tough to take for the Tulips as a last-gasp Ruben Wiggins-Thomas strike proved the only blemish on a gutsy display.
In what was Andy Stanhope’s first home game as boss, a new-look Spalding squad ultimately failed to climb off the bottom of the Evo-Stik League First Division South table.
The hosts lacked any real threat going forward and you wouldn’t have backed them to score had they played all day.
But there was a genuine tenacity about their play, and for the first time in recent memory they looked relatively assured at the back.
Despite seeing his new side slip to a second defeat under his now week-long charge, Stanhope was pleased with what he saw.
He said: “I thought we were much improved from Tuesday and you can’t fault the effort and commitment the lads put in. But you don’t get anything for playing well and I really couldn’t see us scoring.
“It’s now my job to bring some more attacking talent in.”
Stanhope handed home debuts to no less than nine of his starting line-up at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field on Saturday.
Keeper Nathan Thackery, defenders Jason Keale, Alex Lyon and Alistair Holding, midfielders Jordan Drury, Correy Carruthers and Harry Deane and strikers Luke Todd and Chris Baker were the new additions.
Thackery, who was named man of the match, is the only one not tied down to a permanent deal.
In addition, Stanhope has confirmed that Stuart Goosey (player/coach) and former Tulips boss Bob Don-Duncan have joined his backroom staff.
The opening period on Saturday was nothing to write home about, mind.
Belper’s Daryl Thomas was guilty of missing the two big chances of the half.
He was denied by Thackery on seven minutes, before missing the target from ten yards with the goal gaping on the half hour.
David de Oliveira managed the only shot on target for the Tulips, but his long range effort didn’t really test Alessandro Barcherini.
Belper continued to run the show after the break, as Matt Thorpe fluffed another excellent chance after a sweeping move down the right.
Thomas also sliced a golden opportunity wide at the near post, while Jon Froggatt saw a goal-bound header somehow cleared off the line.
The nearest Spalding came to a goal was when Luke Todd rounded Barcherini, but his weak effort from an angle was easily cleared off the line.
But just when you thought the game was grinding to a halt, Belper grabbed all three points with a scrappy effort befitting the game. Thackery made two excellent saves from point-blank range, only for Wiggins-Thomas to scramble to ball home from six yards.
It was rough justice for the Tulips, who just about deserved a share of the spoils.
Tulips: Thackery, Keale (Kirby 72), Lyon, Drury, Holding, Pawson, Carruthers, Deane, Todd, Baker (Allen 83), de Oliveira (Shaw 57). Not used: Donaghy, Flintoft.
Tonight - Lincoln Utd v Tulips (7.45pm); Saturday - Rushall Olympic v Tulips (3pm).