Evo-Stik League First Division South - Spalding United 1 Stocksbridge Park Steels 1
After hitting a half-century at home, Spalding United’s push for the play-offs comes down to two trips in the final week of the season.
The Tulips left it late for only their second draw at the Sir Halley Stewart Field during the current campaign.
Matty Nolan’s leveller on 84 minutes ensured Spalding became the first side in the division to reach 50 points at home.
But overall it didn’t really make much difference.
Pat Rayment’s men already knew two wins out of three would guarantee a top-five finish.
They would have expected to go halfway towards that target in the final home game against Stocksbridge Park Steels.
Spalding didn’t deserve to win on Saturday but they can still get the job done away to Tividale on Tuesday and Romulus next weekend.
Rayment had emphasised before the match how the Tulips would need to play at a high tempo with urgency – even if Steels weren’t up for it.
The trip from south Yorkshire was delayed as they only arrived less than half an hour before kick-off.
However, it didn’t seem to affect Steels whose tactics were pretty clear right from the start.
Quite simply they wanted to frustrate Spalding – and it predictably turned into a mission of trying to hold onto the lead after player-coach Ryan Laight put them ahead.
For the second successive Saturday, Spalding drew with both goals coming from set-pieces. Again it was a fair result at the end of a poor game lacking in quality.
It would be easy to blame the conditions when the ball is bouncing around on a hard pitch.
The wind was another factor but it wouldn’t have been a big issue if the players could have kept the ball on the ground and passed it to each other.
Instead, too often the ball was hit aimlessly into the air so clear-cut chances were always going to be limited.
Spalding set out to be a solid outfit with the return of central defender Jamie Stevens and midfielder Chris Hall in a holding role.
Right-back Dan Banister tried to push forward but the service to the strikers was generally poor while Nolan and Tom Waumsley again found it tough to keep the ball under control.
Stocksbridge took the lead as Harrison Biggins’ corner was volleyed home by Laight from the edge of the six-yard box.
It looked likely to be just enough for three points as Spalding struggled to pose a real threat.
The equaliser came when Jamie Thurlbourne’s corner was headed on by Avelino Vieira and Nolan got the final touch close to the line.
4-4-2: Duggan 6; Banister 6, Leary 6, Stevens 7, Jackson 6 (sub Vieira 79 mins); Griffiths 6, Webb 6 (sub Beeson 63 mins, 6), Hall 6, McGovern 6 (sub J Thurlbourne 66 mins, 6); Waumsley 6, Nolan 6. Subs not used: G Stainfield, Pycock.
STOCKSBRIDGE PARK STEELS
4-4-2: Andrew; Lever, Cardwell, Laight, Coleman; Biggins, Stirrup, Haigh, Heh (sub Critchlow 56 mins); Garside (sub Thompson 87 mins), Grayson. Subs not used: McFadyen, Wright, Scully.
Laight (34 mins, 0-1); Nolan (84 mins, 1-1).
Cardwell (time-wasting); Banister (dissent).
Jamie Stevens – welcome return to the heart of the defence with a typically strong display.
Tividale (A) – Tuesday.