Spalding United sent a message out to the rest of the Evo-Stik League with a 4-1 stroll over Premier Division opponents Barwell at Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field tonight.
The Tulips made a mockery of their supposedly lowly status in the First Division South by treating their Premier Division opponents like a UCL Division One side with two goals in each half.
Pat Rayment made two changes from the side that beat Carlton Town 3-0 on New Year’s Day, with Mitch Griffiths and Jack McGovern replacing Jamie Thurlbourne and Lee Clarke respectively.
After an early chance for Barwell’s Callum Woodward who shot wide from 20 yards, Spalding quickly realised that they were more than a match for the Kirkby Roaders as Griffiths shot over from 15 yards after he was supplied by Webb.
But on 17 minutes, the home side went ahead when Tidswell tapped in at the right-hand post from a Tom Waumsley assist.
It was 2-0 eight minutes later when Griffiths made no mistake from a Tidswell set-up as Spalding sprung the visitors’ offside trap.
Shortly afterwards, Barwell left back Eddie Nisevic crossed for Woodward who could only head straight at Duggan while at the other end, Tidswell and Waumsley went close to pressing home Spalding’s dominance with further goals.
Such was the domination, that Barwell striker Jon Stevenson was taken off with a knock (or was it a bruised ego?) after 36 minutes before McGovern drove a vicious angled effort wide before half time.
It was becoming clear that Barwell’s only route back into the match was either from a Tulips’ mistake or a set-piece and it was another substitue, Guy Hadland who gave the visitors hope when he headed in a Francino Francos corner 20 minutes into the second half.
Spalding should have been out of sight before this as Waumsley and McGovern had sight of the Barwell goal but missed.
When composure was needed in the Tulips’ midfield, it was Jamie Stevens who made the game look easy when other around him started to panic as Barwell turned the screw.
Ryan Oliver came on for Tom Waumsley for the last 30 minutes and was lost for words when his header from just three yards out was cleared off the line, only for McGovern to blaze over.
Cue Spalding’s Michael Duggan who, with eight minutes left, produced a match-winning save from Barwell’s Nigel Julian who rpoduced a spectacular 20-yard half-volley that was tipped over the bar by the Sir John Gleed School PE teacher.
Six minutes later, the tie was sealed as Tidswell was set up with a tap-in by Oliver and Lewis Webb made the win academic in added-on time with a low finish at the end of a Tulips counter-attack.
For 16th-placed Sheffield FC who Spalding meet in the Evo-Stik First Division South on Saturday, the message is clear.
Be afraid, be very afraid.
SPALDING UNITED: Duggan; Leary, Stevens, Stainfield, Jackson; McGovern (Clarke), Webb, Hall, Griffiths; Waumsley (Oliver), Tidswell (Hempenstall).
BARWELL: Richards; Lower, Francis, Towers, Nisevic; Woodward (Rickards), Lavery, Julian; Tomkinson; Carney (Hadland), Stevenson (Brehon).