Evo-Stik League First Division South - Spalding United 3 Lincoln United 0
Bank holidays should be all about relaxation – but there is work to be done as well.
Easter Monday saw Spalding United produce a brilliant first-half performance which allowed them to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.
Three goals before the break ensured the result was never in doubt.
Then it was simply a case of staying solid and protecting all the points ahead of what promises to be a tougher test next weekend.
On this form, though, the Tulips won’t be frightened of facing anyone.
Again they were without a number of key men but that doesn’t seem to make much difference.
That was certainly the case at the heart of the Spalding defence – despite Lincoln United failing to offer a big threat anyway.
Michael Leary and Jamie Stevens were watching from the sidelines but they might be wondering whether Pat Rayment will bring them back as soon as they are fit.
Chris Hall dropped back from his midfield role and showed that he is more than capable of defensive duties.
His display was excellent – but stand-in skipper Nathan Stainfield was even better.
He was magnificent. He must have won every header and each challenge, apart from a foul four minutes from full-time which was rightly punished with a yellow card.
Moments later Stainfield was officially named as the Tulips’ man of the match.
It must have been the easiest decision ever made by the award’s sponsors.
Stainfield played a huge role in a third successive clean sheet for Spalding.
But he didn’t settle for that – heading home the third goal two minutes before the break after Matty Nolan and Dan Banister had already put the Tulips in control.
The county derby away to Lincoln on Boxing Day had been a tale of two penalties with Michael Duggan’s man-of-the-match performance earning a point.
This time Duggan didn’t have a save to make, thanks mainly to the efforts of Hall and Stainfield in front of him.
After Duggan’s display to protect the 1-0 advantage at Kidsgrove Athletic, he must have welcomed a much easier afternoon.
The early exchanges had suggested Lincoln – led by former Tulip Dave Frecklington – would pose problems but all of their attempts were off target.
When Spalding created an opening, they certainly made it count.
Banister’s work-rate won possession just outside the penalty box but there was still plenty to do for Nolan.
The ex-Holbeach United striker cut inside to create a bit more space and curled a left-footed shot into the far corner of the net.
It was a wonderful finish and soon afterwards Nolan set up Spalding’s second goal.
His right-wing cross was nodded down at the far post by Jamie Thurlbourne with Banister blasting home.
A couple of weeks earlier Spalding had thrown away a two-goal first-half lead at home to Mickleover Sports but there was no chance of that happening again.
The Tulips went 3-0 up and it was effectively game over.
Tom Waumsley was close to a goal for the fourth game in a row when his shot on the turn was tipped wide.
From the corner, however, Thurlbourne’s delivery was met by Stainfield to nod in at the far post.
For the second half, there was an opportunity for the Tulips to relax without any real concern about boosting the goal-difference.
Jack McGovern’s free-kick on the edge of the box hit the wall and handball claims were rejected.
Banister’s corners could have been converted by Hall and Stainfield midway through the second half.
Otherwise it was mainly a matter of keeping it tight and getting ready for a thrilling finish to the season.
4-4-2: Duggan 7; Griffiths 7, Hall 8, N Stainfield 9, Jackson 7; Banister 8, Webb 7, McGovern 7, J Thurlbourne 7 (sub G Stainfield 60 mins, 7); Waumsley 7, Nolan 8. Subs not used: Beeson, Vieira, Adams, Pycock.
3-4-1-2: Peet; Wright, Ward, McDaid (sub Ruthuen h-t); Lemon, Brooks, Toyne, Smith (sub Gibson 28 mins); Duncum; Hutchinson, Cotton (sub Broughton 70 mins). Subs not used: Wilkinson, Frecklington.
Nolan (15 mins, 1-0); Banister (26 mins, 2-0); N Stainfield (43 mins, 3-0).
Brooks, Ward, Lemon, N Stainfield (fouls).
Nathan Stainfield – magnificent performance.
Leek Town (A) – Saturday.