Evo-Stik League First Division South - Romulus 3 Spalding United 0 (match report by sports editor Mark Lea at Coles Lane)
The dream died as a lack of effort summed up a dismal end to Spalding United’s season.
This week the Tulips should be taking part in the play-off semi-finals with a chance to celebrate a second successive promotion.
Instead they missed out because over four games they simply weren’t good enough.
For long periods of the campaign Spalding looked more than capable of a top-five finish – but it’s not all about ability.
The post-match verdict of boss Pat Rayment might look harsh for those who have only seen Spalding at home where the record was excellent.
But you know there are going to be changes when the players are accused of a lack of commitment, effort, urgency and desire.
It’s baffling to wonder why the players couldn’t find those qualities when a play-off place was up for grabs.
Surely making an effort is even more basic than trying to pass the ball to each other.
And if you don’t try hard enough then this is what happens and you get exactly what you deserve.
Spalding were so close to adding another game or two at the end of the season.
However, they only have themselves to blame after lacklustre performances at Leek Town, Tividale and Romulus along with a home draw against Stocksbridge Park Steels.
When it mattered during the run-in, Spalding failed to deliver – not once, four times.
The season started with a 2-0 defeat Sutton Coldfield Town and the Tulips were back on the 3G pitch at Coles Lane on Saturday to see their campaign come to an end.
A win would have sealed a play-off spot but that never looked likely.
In a must-win game, it took more than half an hour for the Tulips to get going and offer any threat.
By that stage they were 1-0 down as dreadful defending gave a free header for Joel Grandison to convert Matt Curley’s right-wing cross.
A double substitution made little difference as the Tulips were fortunate not to concede again until the final moments.
Jack McGovern should have nodded an equaliser and Spalding created chances to get back into a game where they were second best.
However, they still did not show much urgency. It looked like panic as they eventually realised the season was set to finish in disappointment.
Matty Nolan’s flick was disallowed for offside and just seconds later Romulus substitute Jordan Francis fired into the top corner of the net.
Grandison raced clear in stoppage-time to cut inside and slot home the third goal.
That left Spalding to think what might have been if they had put in more effort.
4-4-2: Parsons; Evans, L Francis, Lee, Branch; Curley, Smith, Fitzharris, Bottomer; Ahenkorah (sub J Francis 82 mins), Grandison. Subs not used: Leek, Taylor.
4-4-2: Duggan 7; Griffiths 5, Leary 5, Stevens 6, Jackson 6; Beeson 5, Hall 5, McGovern 5, J Thurlbourne 5; Waumsley 4 (sub Webb 52 mins, 5), Vieira 4 (sub Nolan 52 mins, 5). Subs not used: G Stainfield, Adams, Pycock.
Grandison (22 mins, 1-0); J Francis (85 mins, 2-0); Grandison (90 mins, 3-0).
Smith, Grandison (fouls); Lee, Beeson (kicking ball away).
Michael Duggan – a couple of good saves prevented an even bigger defeat.