TULIPS: Four-some Tulips smash Saints to lift UCL Knockout Cup

SILVER LINING: Spalding capped their best season in a decade with UCL Knockout Cup success on Monday. The cup winners are pictured with the trophy. Photo by TIM WILSON
SILVER LINING: Spalding capped their best season in a decade with UCL Knockout Cup success on Monday. The cup winners are pictured with the trophy. Photo by TIM WILSON
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SPALDING UNITED 4 ST IVES TOWN 0: The Tulips put the disappointment of missing out on promotion firmly behind them on Monday as they lifted the UCL Knockout Cup in style.

Three goals in 12 first-half minutes from Lee Beeson (29), Jamie Thurlbourne (35) and Dan Cotton (41) blew holders St Ives away at Chestnut Avenue, with Kieron Doherty completing the rout in the final minute.

Both teams fielded under-strength sides in front of 336 fans, but Pat Rayment and his charges were very much worthy winners as they capped their best season in a decade with some silverware.

It was St Ives, promoted at Spalding’s expense on Saturday, who started much the better though – with keeper Michael Duggan forced to make two cracking early stops.

First he was forced to get down low to deny Dan Bannister at his near post, before acrobatically turning away a rasping 25-yard half-volley from Guy Last.

In between those two saves from the Spalding stopper, St Ives were unfortunate not to go ahead when striker Junior McDougald hit the woodwork.

Duggan was forced to race out of his area and clear a long pass forward with his head, but the ball dropped at the feet of the ex-Wycombe Wanderers striker. He expertly lobbed an effort back over the stranded keeper, but saw the ball crash back off the far post.

That seemed to wake the Tulips up and they slowly grabbed a foothold in the game, with the excellent Jack McGovern taking charge of the midfield.

It took 28 minutes for Thurlbourne to fire their first shot on target, but from the resulting corner Spalding grabbed the opener. It was winger Beeson who stole in at the near post to direct a header past the helpless Nick Bennion – and the Tulips never looked back.

The move of the match doubled their advantage, with McGovern and Thurlbourne combining superbly. A flicked ball forward after a period of good possession allowed McGovern to race clear down the right and he unselfishly squared for Thurlbourne to slam home via the inside of the post.

If 2-0 was impressive, Spalding were then in dreamland at 3-0 when Cotton grabbed his 26th goal of the season.

This time it was Luke Kennedy, excellent all game in the hole between midfield and attack, who slotted the killer ball through, allowing Cotton to coolly round Bennion and tap home.

Stunned St Ives looked to have no way back at the interval, but they almost had a helping hand from Spalding early in the second period. A free kick from Jamie Alsop wreaked havoc in the box, with Michael Jacklin deflecting the ball inches past his own post.

At the other end Beeson had a golden opportunity to put the result beyond all doubt, but he screwed an effort just wide after a neat flick from skipper Glen Fuff in the aftermath of a corner.

Chances were few and far between for the remainder of the second half, but Stuart Cobb did blow one big opportunity to give the Saints a sniff of a comeback.

The substitute ran through one-on-one with Duggan following a piercing Lee Ellison pass, but could only direct his angled effort wide of the far post.

Kennedy was incredibly unfortunate not to make it 4-0 seven minutes from time when his close-range shot from a tidy Beeson pass was deflected wide with the goal gaping – but Spalding had one more goal up their sleeve.

It came in added time, with an offside-looking Cotton racing through on goal and laying off for Doherty to tap a rare goal into the unguarded net.

Although the UCL Premier Division’s two other outstanding teams – champions Holbeach United and the promoted Saints – denied Spalding their chief targets this season, it was fitting that they ended their best campaign in a decade with a trophy.

Boss Rayment and everybody involved with the club will hope it’s an ominous sign of things to come.

Tulips: Duggan, Jacklin, Smedley, Chamberlain, Fuff, McGovern, Beeson (Hussey 86), Doherty, Kennedy (Drury 86), Cotton, Thurlbourne. Not used: King, McCready.