Emirates FA Cup third qualifying round replay - Spalding United 1 Sporting Khalsa 2
What a wasted opportunity for Spalding United.
The Tulips were two home wins from reaching the FA Cup first round proper for only the third time in their history.
But the dreams are all over and they really should only have themselves to blame.
Instead of making excuses about the referee’s decisions, Spalding must accept this was a golden chance of glory and they have thrown it away in a case of what might have been.
They led from the opening minute of Saturday’s tie until stoppage-time as a penalty gifted another opportunity for Sporting Khalsa to continue their magical adventure.
The Tulips must have felt very confident of finishing off the job in Tuesday’s replay.
Boss Pat Rayment argued ahead of the game that there would be “so much more to come” from his team.
Well, the reality is that too many players produced very average performances when it mattered.
Josh Moreman, as usual, was a real threat and Mitch Griffiths – who put Spalding ahead and then hit the post – kept battling away to create chances.
However, Ross Watson’s daft dismissal for two fouls in the first half proved to be the key moment.
There were post-match complaints that the sending-off was harsh.
Yet some supporters felt Watson’s first challenge on the touchline might have been worthy of a red card.
The right-back’s second bookable offence was clearer to see from the main stand.
A high boot on Michael Nelson inside the centre circle was simply stupid and left the referee with little option.
Surely a player of Watson’s experience must know that you should be more careful – especially after a booking so early into the match.
Until that stage Spalding again looked in control and they should have been further in front following Griffiths’ goal on 13 minutes.
Moreman tried his luck after two minutes but Khalsa keeper James Pemberton’s comfortable save was a sign of things to come because he was not properly tested over two games.
Adam Millson’s tenacious work set up Griffiths for a clever lob over Pemberton and the Tulips pushed for a second goal to kill off Khalsa’s spirit.
Pemberton was stranded outside the penalty box when Griffiths’ long-range chip clipped off the post.
Moreman came close and another attempt was cleared off the line by Tim Jackson.
But immediately after the red card, Khalsa were level.
Marvin Nisbett poked the ball in when Spalding failed to clear a corner, although the goal was initially credited to Craig Bannister who had claimed to get a touch.
Moreman posed the only threat for 10-man Spalding but poor defending from a free-kick allowed substitute Simeon Townsend to glance a header into the far corner of the net.
Nialle Rodney nodded off target and penalty appeals for handball were dismissed as Adam Jackson’s shot was blocked following a free-kick which should never have been awarded anyway for a ‘back-pass’ picked up by Pemberton.
Griffiths’ deflected drive went straight to the keeper and Spalding skipper Nathan Stainfield was sent forward in last-gasp desperation.
Four minutes of stoppage-time failed to produce further chances and Khalsa could celebrate in real style.
While our focus remains on Spalding’s disappointing exit, let’s give the credit and respect which Khalsa deserve for a fantastic achievement.
4-1-3-2: Duggan 6; Watson 3, Spafford 6, Stainfield 6, Jackson 6; Murphy 6; Millson 6 (sub Lawlor 70 mins, 5), Banister 6, Moreman 7; Griffiths 7, Waumsley 5 (sub Rodney 67 mins, 5). Subs not used: Walker, Lockie, Hussey.
4-1-4-1: Pemberton; Campbell, Lawley, Robinson, Jackson; Wherton; Kinch (sub Hadley 65 mins), Bannister, Meese, Nelson (sub Cooper 76 mins); Nisbett (sub Townsend h-t). Subs not used: Uppal, Cork.
Griffiths (13 mins, 1-0); Nisbett (40 mins, 1-1); Townsend (77 mins, 1-2).
Watson (second bookable offence).
Watson, Nisbett, Lawley, Campbell, Spafford, A Jackson, Wherton (fouls).
Mitch Griffiths – scored, hit the post and played in three different roles during the night.
Goole (A) – Evo-Stik Northern Premier League First Division South, Saturday.