SPALDING UNITED 3 SHEPSHED DYNAMO 0: Spalding’s promotion hopes remain alive after a cracking victory over old foes Shepshed at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field on Saturday.
Skipper Lee Canoville, frontman TJ Nightingale and red-hot Dan Cotton – who could’ve had a first-half hat-trick – grabbed the goals in an entertaining clash.
With leaders Holbeach United and second-placed St Ives Town also winners, it was vital the Tulips kept their unbeaten league run of ten games going.
Spalding supremo Pat Raymeny said: ““It should’ve been 10-0 really – and that’s no joke. Dan Cotton missed about four one-on-ones on his own.
“He was absolutely unplayable yet again and was unfortunate to only get the one goal.
“But 3-0 is still a nice scoreline and keeping a clean sheet is also very important for us.
“I said that we needed to win this game to keep our title hopes alive and we’ve done it. This team is certainly capable of winning every game we’ve got left and therefore still has a big chance of winning the title.
“Our home form has been incredible. We’ve only lost once here in the league all season and that’s played a large part in our success. We’ve also not lost since Boxing Day and the lads continue to gel as a team.”
Mid-table Shepshed – regular opponents from back in the Evo-Stik Division One South days – were business-like throughout.
Their left-side pairing of Joe Flint and Rob Mulonga worked hard, producing some intelligent play and quick-fire breaks which tested the home defence to the extreme, particularly in the first half. Both players, however, were, like the home team, guilty of glaring misses.
Mulonga had the perfect opportunity to haul his side level within a minute of falling behind to a 21st minute close range strike by Canoville, who half-volleyed home from six yards after a precision cross by Kieron Doherty.
Then came chances galore for Cotton. Three times in a short space of time, the first opportunity created by a neat back header by Lee Beeson, he found himself in space with only veteran keeper Neil West to beat, but each time his finish lacked finesse.
The home lead was stretched on 36 minutes with Nightingale converting with an acrobatic effort in a crowded area from a corner situation.
The second half followed a similar pattern with the Tulips, though playing some good football to create openings, failing to kill the game off. An excellent break down the right side on 60 minutes saw Cotton go on a run. His final low drive cross found its way to the far post and Jamie Thurlbourne, but he was unable to make clean contact with the ball and his effort slipped the wrong side of a post.
Nightingale then worked two quick openings, but failed to get the ball past keeper West.
Indeed, the Tulips had to wait until the first minute of added time to boost their tally with Cotton finally ending his drought. He grabbed his 21st of the season with a clinical finish – but missed out on a second 90 seconds later.
Although it was a frustrating day in front of goal, Spalding end March with a 100 per cent record and with three highly valuable points in the race for honours.
Tulips: Duggan, Canoville, Jackson, Chamberlain, Jacklin (Fuff 45), Doherty (Kennedy 60), Beeson, Hall, Nightingale (Gibson 78), Cotton, Thurlbourne. Not used: Smedley, Battersby.