FOOTBALL: 11 wins and counting as Tulips clock Cuckoos

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SPALDING UNITED 2 YAXLEY 1: A typical Andrew Tidswell brace fired Spalding to victory over Yaxley on Saturday as they stayed perfect in the UCL Premier Division.

The striker took his tally to 21 for the season with goals on three and 85 minutes at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field, making it 11 wins from as many games for the Tulips.

TOP TRIO: Andrew Tidswell celebrates his second goal with Jake Gibson (centre) and Mark Jones (right), while (below) Tidswell nets his first. Photos by TIM WILSON

TOP TRIO: Andrew Tidswell celebrates his second goal with Jake Gibson (centre) and Mark Jones (right), while (below) Tidswell nets his first. Photos by TIM WILSON

Andy Furnell’s bundled late consolation did end Spalding’s run of not conceding a league goal for 963 minutes, but Pat Rayment’s men remain a point behind leaders Deeping Rangers with two games in hand.

Boss Rayment said:“Teams are always going to come here and play defensively – Yaxley won’t be the last to try and stop us.

“I’m a bit of a stat man and it’s true that our keeper Michael Duggan didn’t have to take a goal kick in the second half. With that in mind, it was a shame to concede that late goal. We switched off.

“But it was going to happen sooner or later wasn’t it?

Spalding v Yaxley at Halley Stewart Field'First Spalding goal

Spalding v Yaxley at Halley Stewart Field'First Spalding goal

“We’re not scoring as freely as we did last year, but the performances are much better. I’d take clean sheets over getting more goals anyway – goals don’t guarantee wins.

“Sadly a lot of our matches won’t be pretty spectacles as teams set out to defend, but we’re good enough to break them down.

“We’ve won nothing yet, but I couldn’t have asked for a better start than this.”

The hosts wasted little time in opening the scoring against a Cuckoos side that arrived as the UCL Premier Division’s fifth-best team.

Sam Mullarkey, recalled in place of the rested Mark Jones, slipped a ball through for Tidswell to slot a low finish past the onrushing Aaron Butcher.

The expected avalanche of goals failed to follow after the early opener though, with Yaxley more than holding their own. Indeed, they went close when Scott Carter’s fierce low 25-yard drive was turned around the post by Michael Duggan.

At the other end, Butcher got down well to deny Mullarkey at the near post and defender Jamie Stevens flicked a Lee Beeson corner off the outside of the near post.

Sadly, that was Beeson’s final meaningful contribution, with the midfielder carried off after pulling up lame with what looked like a groin injury.

The early stages of the second half failed to ignite, but Spalding were always dangerous from set-plays. They almost pulled off a goal of the season contender too, with Jake Gibson meeting a Dan Cotton delivery with a flying volley that Butcher plucked out of the top corner.

A deep Tidswell cross was then tamely headed wide by Mullarkey as the Tulips chased the all-important second goal.

The pressure continued as Butcher was forced to make a brave low stop to deny a clean-through Tidswell – but he wasn’t to be denied a second.

It arrived five minutes from time, with the excellent Butcher only able to palm a low drive from Spalding sub Danny Steadman into the path of Tidswell, who rifled the rebound into the net.

There was still time for Nathan Stainfield to work Butcher again with a drive from a corner, before the unthinkable happened at the other end.

Furnell’s scrappy injury time strike drew gasps from the Sir Halley crowd, but it mattered very little in the grand scheme of things.

Tulips: Duggan, Canoville, Jackson, Stevens, Stainfield, Webb (Steadman 78), Beeson (Gibson 44), Hall, Tidswell, Mullarkey (Jones 68), Cotton. Not used: O’Neill, Hussey.