Spalding United’s four-month unbeaten run in Evo-Stik Division One South came to a crashing halt after a 2-0 home defeat to Tividale.
On a day when the Tulips were presented with the league’s Fair Play Award for January and also unveiled their new sponsor for the remainder of the season, Pat Rayment’s men turned in one of their poorest displays of the season against their mid-table opponents.
Rayment made two changes to the side narrowly beaten at Stamford in the Lincs FA Senior Trophy, with Nathan Stainfield and Ryan Oliver replacing Jack McGovern and the injured Jordan Hempenstall respectively.
But this time it wasn’t the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field pitch that malfunctioned as Spalding never got going in a game where they looked underwhelmed at the prospect of going 16 games unbeaten in the league.
Adam Jackson sent a 25-yard drive high and wide after seven minutes before Oliver’s pass to Andrew Tidswell was almost diverted into his own net by Tividale central midfielder Sam Williams.
But at this stage, the Black Country side were restricting their high-flying opponents to long range efforts as Jamie Thurlbourne failed to hit the target on 19 minutes from 20 yards out.
Tividale went ahead three minutes later when a free kick by left back Zach Foster was headed on by skipper Richard Huckfield to the impressive Jordan Archer who turned and volleyed past Michael Duggan in the Tulips’ goal.
Spalding huffed and puffed in search of an equaliser as right back Michael Leary poked an Oliver header down wide on 26 minutes before Thurlbourne forced the Dale’s Charlie Price into a save from 12 yards’ out after a goalmouth scramble.
Jackson tried his luck from distance on 37 minutes before Leary missed a golden opportunity six minutes before half time, heading a Thurlbourne free kick straight at Price for five yards out.
Archer almost doubled the Dale’s lead on 42 minutes when confusion in the Tulips’ defence was nearly punished with a lob over the advancing Duggan.
While Spalding were firing blanks in front of goal, on-loan striker Mark Jones was scoring for Boston United and new signing Nathan Adams was on target for Yaxley in the UCL Premier League.
Michael Leary did finally head home for Spalding five minutes into the second half, only for assistant referee Christopher Reeson’s flag to be already up for offside.
Tom Waumsley, Lewis Webb and Jack McGovern were all introduced within 25 minutes of each other as the Tulips searched for a leveller which almost came when Stainfield headed a Thurlbourne free kick towards the Tividale goal on 68 minutes, only for a defender to clear.
A minute later, Spalding were reduced to ten men as Adam Jackson was red-carded for what referee Alastair Wilson interpreted as a bad challenge on Tividale right back Chris Field.
On 76 minutes, another Thurlbourne free kick was deflected wide before Tividale sealed the points as Duggan dropped a Tividale corner and Huckfield forced the ball over the goal line.
The visitors almost rubbed in the embarrassment four minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game when substitute Mitchell Botfield got past Leary and sneaked a goalbound shot in at the near post which was saved by Duggan.
But by then, the game was lost for Spalding United and so was their 15-game unbeaten run in Evo-Stik League Division One South.
If Rayment is to be believed, the time is up for the Tulips’ misfiring strikers as well.
After the game, Rayment said: “Poor from us, very poor - we let ourselves down big time.
“They (Tividale) got the goal and killed the game, from their point of view.
“We weren’t good enough to break them down and it’s two games on the bounce where we can’t put the ball in the back of the net.
“I’m going to have to do something about it - and I will.”