TULIPS: Liam let off the Hook by ten-man Spalding

Hero to zero: Liam Hook was sent off after handing Spalding the lead. Photo: SG301011-167NG (NIKKI GRIFFIN)
Hero to zero: Liam Hook was sent off after handing Spalding the lead. Photo: SG301011-167NG (NIKKI GRIFFIN)
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SPALDING UNITED 2 (Hook 10, Smith pen 68) WELLINGBOROUGH TOWN 1 (Difante 51): BATTLING Spalding completed the double over the Doughboys on Saturday with perhaps their most impressive display of the season.

The Tulips were forced to play the entire second half with ten men after Liam Hook went from hero to zero in the space of 34 minutes.

Hook opened the scoring in the UCL Premier Division clash with a beautifully worked 10th-minute strike, but was then sent off on the stroke of half time for a needless head-butt.

Wellingborough soon levelled through Chris Difante and looked odds-on to take the spoils at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.

But Greg Smith stepped up to notch his tenth goal in six games – this time a disputed penalty – to seal an unlikely, but deserved, three points for the hosts.

Spalding boss Andy Stanhope said: “All things considered, I’m pretty pleased with the guys.

“Hooky’s goal was brilliant and I’d like to see him push on a bit more like that in the future. I didn’t see the red card, but he has apologised to the lads and we’ve accepted it.

“We looked in trouble at 1-1, but made the change to 4-3-2 and it really worked.

“Perhaps the penalty was dubious, but Smith was definitely being held. I thought he, Simon Mowbray and Nick Conroy were excellent. Conroy, in particular, has made a huge difference in goal.”

Spalding couldn’t have made a better start. Smith’s sweeping cross-field ball found Dan French, who played in Hook to add the finishing touches to a sublime team move.

Two great crosses from Mowbray then forced Wellingborough’s defence into last-ditch clearances, before Hook saw red on the stroke of half-time. That galvanised the visitors, who levelled when Difante found himself free to notch from six yards out.

Conroy was forced to make a couple of smart stops soon after, before a penalty was awarded to the hosts for apparent shirt tugging on Smith.

The big striker picked himself up to smash home from the spot and secure a fifth league win of the campaign.

Tulips: Conroy, Duncliffe, Earls, Hook, Fuff, Hussey, French, Hughes, Smith (Ford 75), Mowbray, O’Loughlin (Thompson 53). Not used: Harrold.

• JAMMAL Shahin and Shaun Baker return for tonight’s home derby with Sleaford Town (7.45pm). Despite rumours to to contrary, leading scorer Greg Smith is also available to start, but Danny Hussey is struggling with illness.

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