A last-minute goal denied Spalding United on the final day of the season which also marked the departure of management duo Marcus Ebdon and Danny Hussey for family and work commitments.
Saturday’s game with Leek Town was the Tulips’ 14th draw in the league this term (equalled only by Kidsgrove Athletic) and saw them finish in 12th position.
It was a case of “if only”. If only some of those draws could have been converted into wins the Tulips would more than likely have achieved their target of finishing in a play-off place.
Losing their two main strikers and a dominant midfielder over the Christmas period was an over-riding factor.
This was a game that the Tulips dominated for long periods when some excellent football was denied the ultimate reward.
Spalding created but missed a host of scoring opportunities, particularly in the first half with Charley Sanders - enjoying his best game of the season - posing a constant threat to the visiting defence with some forceful play.
Only the woodwork denied him of the goal he richly deserved just five minutes from the interval.
The early stages of the game saw skipper Nathan Stainfield volley over the bar after collecting Adam Jackson’s lob into the area. And twice in quick succession Tom Waumsley missed out from Sanders’ assists.
In a rare foray into home territory Jackson cleared Niall Maguire’s effort from the line.
The Leek defence was kept busy as goalkeeper Chris Martin produced a fingertip save to turn Waumsley’s stinger over the bar while Sam Murphy’s header skimmed the woodwork.
Ten minutes into the second half Martin emerged high in a crowded area to punch the ball clear from Dan Lawlor’s driven cross and moments later Michael Duggan
watched a chip from Tim Grice float over the bar.
The Tulips swiftly resumed their attack and won two corners in succession, the second on 69 minutes reaping its reward with Stainfield rising high at the far post to beat Martin.
However, this ignited a flame to instigate a determined fightback by Leek.
Duggan produced an excellent save at full stretch to turn Chris Baker’s effort away from the target. Further efforts, though, were held in check by a solid home defence.
A home win seemed the only outcome but with the referee playing the advantage, Baker - although appearing to be offside - raced through to deny the Tulips with an equaliser, giving Duggan no chance with a clinical finish.
Spalding: Duggan, Walker, Jackson, Spafford, Stainfield, Murphy, Banister, Lawlor, Waumsley (sub Lockie 86 mins), Sanders, Curtis. Subs not used: Butland, Hussey, Ebdon, Talbot.