SPALDING UNITED 2 DESBOROUGH TOWN 1: A classy Dan Cotton strike lit up an otherwise drab affair on Tuesday night as the Tulips kept their UCL Premier Divison title hopes alive.
The winger finished off a scintillating move involving Jamie Thurlbourne and skipper Lee Canoville to open the scoring on 27 minutes, taking his tally for the season to 18.
Jay Smedley doubled the lead with a more fortuitous effort just before the break – and although resilient Desborough pulled one back through Martin Anderson (81) late on, Spalding held on to close the gap on leaders Holbeach United to 17 points.
Satisfied Spalding supremo Pat Rayment reckoned that Cotton’s cracker was worth the admission fee alone.
“It’s another one ticked off,” said the Tulips chief, whose side have four games in hand on the table-topping Tigers. “It was hard work, we had four players drop out on match day.
“But it was all about the win, which keeps the pressure on Holbeach – who are having a bit of a wobble.
“Desborough were very resolute and are a better side than people give them credit for, so I have to be happy with the win. Dan’s goal was sensational, everyone that saw it got their money’s worth.”
With Chris Hall, Tony Battersby, Tyrone Kirk and Danny Steadman all missing, Spalding handed a rare start to veteran Danny Hussey – and also had keeper Lee Drury on the bench as a playing substitute.
Visitors Ar Tarn, who were skippered by former Spalding boss Richard Scott, enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges. They fashioned one decent chance, with Ben Williams cutting inside and forcing a smart near-post save from Michael Duggan.
An even better opportunity arrived on 26 minutes, as midfielder Tom Mills blasted over from six yards with the goal gaping. Spalding then scored from their first meaningful attack – and on a night devoid of much inspiration, Cotton’s opener proved to be the best moment of the match.
A Thurlbourne free kick picked out Canoville, who delivered a precision cross for the red-hot Tulip to divert his seventh goal in four games first-time into the corner.
It was 2-0 on 40 minutes, Smedley profiting from a clearance that canoned back off a defender to slot low under the helpless keeper.
A desperate second period followed, with neither side really getting a foothold in the game. Anderson did pull one back with a lovely side-footed finish nine minutes from time – and although Scott forced a last-gasp save from Duggan, Spalding rarely looked like blowing their lead.
Tulips: Duggan, Canoville (Beeson 52), Hussey, Chamberlain, Jacklin, Kennedy, Smedley, Doherty, Cotton, King, Thurlbourne. Not used: Fuff, Drury, Ebdon, McCready.