Sam Murphy showed all the qualities of a natural centre-half in only his third game at the heart of Spalding United’s defence.
This season, since a summer arrival from Peterborough Northern Star, he has often produced impressive displays in the Tulips’ midfield.
Murphy dropped back for last week’s goalless draw at Carlton Town in the absence of Neal Spafford and Ellis Humble.
He was named man of the match in Saturday’s stalemate at Belper Town who fought back to cancel out a first-half opener from Joe Curtis.
Then on Easter Monday at home to fifth-placed Lincoln United, Murphy stood out again.
It’s not all about his aerial ability and willingness to put in a tackle.
Murphy showed plenty of composure and tactical awareness alongside Nathan Stainfield as Spalding kept another clean sheet.
The Whites failed to have a single shot on target – mainly due to the defensive unit as Michael Duggan was given so much protection for an easy afternoon in goal.
Murphy made a series of well-timed interceptions to prevent the ball even coming into the penalty area.
He read the game superbly – perfectly illustrated during the closing stages.
Murphy hooked a right-wing cross from the six-yard box and within seconds he was in the right position to head away at the near post from a left-wing delivery.
Those efforts might have gone unnoticed if Spalding or Lincoln had performed well all over the pitch.
However, this was a bore draw with both teams failing to keep possession.
The only shot on target came with 11 minutes to go as Adam Jackson’s long-range drive was comfortably held by Mariano Ziccardi.
Charley Sanders came so close to breaking the deadlock just before the break but his effort flew fractionally away from the top corner.
In the second half Sanders saw another attempt blocked for a corner and Paul Walker was also denied by last-gasp defending.
Dan Banister fired too high but there were few chances at both ends as a lack of quality meant these sides cancelled each other out.
On the stroke of half-time Stainfield kept out Matthew Cotton who had found a way past Murphy – the only time he was beaten all afternoon.
Lincoln could have taken three points as Duggan’s poor punch from Robert Norris’ corner led to a clearance by Banister at the far post.
But neither side had done enough to record a win and, having slipped into mid-table, Spalding’s fourth draw this month showed why they are now realistically out of the race for a play-off place.
If they had won all of those games then the Tulips’ dreams of promotion would be alive.
Instead, they have dropped out of contention and this was a truly awful game to watch – probably the worst all season.
4-4-2: Duggan 6; Spafford 7, Murphy 8, Stainfield 7, Jackson 7; Walker 6, Banister 6, Lawlor 6, Curtis 6 (sub Lockie 79 mins); Waumsley 6 (sub Tricks 79 mins), Sanders 6 (sub Humble 90 mins). Subs not used: Kadar, Talbot.
4-4-2: Ziccardi; Lemon, S Wright, Jacklin, Gibson; Fairclough, Brooks (sub Toyne 74 mins), Whitehead, Griffiths (sub Smith 79 mins); Cotton (sub Cann 90 mins), Norris. Subs not used: Wilkinson, K Wright.
Fairclough, Walker (fouls).
Sam Murphy – showed composure and tactical awareness in only his third game at the heart of the Tulips’ defence.
Shaw Lane Aquaforce (A) – Saturday.