Evo-Stik League First Division South: Stafford Rangers 0 Spalding United 0
Goalkeeper Michael Duggan returned to action after missing five games because of injury to turn in a man-of-the-match performance in an all-action promotion battle on Saturday.
Duggan earned the plaudits of each and every one of the 508 fans and officials of both clubs for his outstanding display in a very lively and closely contested encounter.
Before the game both teams were separated by just goal-difference in the top five but Stafford Rangers had played three games more and a win was priority for them.
They tried their hardest to achieve this but met a formidable Spalding United defence and in particular Duggan who thwarted them time and again.
Down to the bare bones as far as forwards were concerned with Jordan Hempenstall out for the remainder of the season with injury, Jordan Nuttell also injured and both Gregg Smith and Matty Nolan missing through suspension from their previous clubs, manager Pat Rayment delved into the transfer market and brought in Avelino Vieira from Peterborough Northern Star to lead the front line alongside Nathan Adams.
Both teams were committed to attack on a blustery afternoon and despite the lack of goals there was plenty of action at either end of the pitch.
In the opening minute Adams tested home keeper Adam Whithouse with a beautifully weighted shot into the wind which he plucked from just under the crossbar.
But it was the home team who had slightly the better of the opening period. On 11 minutes Duggan dived to collect a low drive by Sam Smith at the foot of a post and shortly afterwards did well to parry a Dan Cope free-kick which Mitch Griffiths cleared.
Midway through the half a Jamie Thurlbourne corner kick picked out Adams at the far post and his firm header flashed inches over the bar. Ten minutes later Adams again went near to breaking the deadlock, again with a well directed header following some excellent approach play down the left side.
Vieira featured well but was replaced for the second half by leading scorer Tom Waumsley.
Chris Hall, again prominent in the Tulips’ midfield, forced Whitehouse to save his lobbed shot from 30 yards at the second attempt as play continued to switch from end to end.
The Tulips suffered a blow on 70 minutes when centre-half Nathan Stainfield, a rock in the heart of defence, was forced out of the game with a badly cut eyebrow in an accidental clash of heads with Christian Dacres and the game opened up for the home team.
But Duggan continued his heroics, winning his personal battle with the dangerous Stan Mugisha to keep his goal intact.
The Tulips, however, were by no means overshadowed and had their moments inside enemy territory.
Adams and Waumsley combined well throughout and as the game entered added time Waumsley’s deft lob from a tight angle drifted just wide of the far post with Whitehouse grasping thin air.
Spalding: Duggan, Griffiths, Jackson, Stevens, N Stain field (Leary 70 mins), Webb, Hall, McGovern, Vieira (Waumsley h-t), Adams, J Thurlbourne. Sub not used: Pycock.