YAXLEY 2 SPALDING UNITED 2: Debutant TJ Nightingale struck an injury-time leveller as the Tulips’ title charge took another hit on Saturday.
The striker, signed from higher-graded Eastwood Town, fired home Spalding’s second equaliser of the afternoon in the 94th minute to secure a share of the spoils.
A controversial Luke Hipwell goal gave defensive-minded Yaxley a 14th-minute lead, despite the ball looking to have gone out of play beforehand.
But with the visitors lapping up almost 90 per cent of the possession, Luke Kennedy finally hauled Pat Rayment’s Tulips level just past the hour.
They couldn’t kick on and grab a winner though – and when Matt Cook rifled the Cuckoos ahead with a 30-yard screamer on 87 minutes, an upset looked to be on the cards. Nightingale had other ideas and rescued a draw, but Rayment was left to lament another damaging result.
Having also drawn at Sleaford on Tuesday, the Tulips drop to fourth – nine points behind leaders St Ives with two games in hand.
He said: “That’s four games in a row where a team has lined up with no intention of winning the game. They had five defenders and two holding midfielders from the start. I just can’t remember any other UCL side ever having to put up with these spoiler tactics.
“But it’s up to us to break these teams down – and once again we couldn’t manage it, which is a cause for concern.
“We need to score early and smash these negative gameplans. I’m going to start playing 2-3-5 against these teams – and that’s not a joke.
“We’re still in the mix, though. Quorn beating St Ives has blown the title race wide open. It’s the most exciting season in the UCL for years.”
The Leading Drove clash was the first game played after the surprise departure of leading scorer Shane Tolley to Histon. Tolley, who netted 20 goals after joining from St Neots Town in the summer, had his two-year deal with the Tulips cancelled by mutual consent in order to move up to Step Two of the Non-League ladder.
Rayment added: “We’re an ambitious club and Shane was a big part of what we want to do. But this came to a head on Thursday when we heard he wanted to go to Histon and try his hand at a higher level.
“It was something I gave a lot of thought to. Obviously I didn’t want to lose him, but you can’t stand in a player’s way if they want to play higher.
“Shane was a big earner here, so letting him leave does free up room to make a few changes. He was an absolute pleasure to work with and has a first class attitude. I wish him well.”
Tulips: Drury, Doherty (James), Chamberlain, Smedley, Earls, Steadman, Hall, Kenendy, Cotton, Nightingale, Green. Not used Hussey, Ebdon.