TULIPS: Gary is Spalding’s Vase King

DEBUT DELIGHT: Gary King lobs home Spalding's winner (above) - then takes the plaudits from his team-mates (below).
DEBUT DELIGHT: Gary King lobs home Spalding's winner (above) - then takes the plaudits from his team-mates (below).
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ELY CITY 1 SPALDING UNITED 2: Wembley is one step closer for the terrific Tulips after Gary King’s debut double fired them into the last 16 of the FA Vase on Tuesday night.

The speedy striker notched on 31 and 35 minutes at Ely, as Spalding battled back from Austin Diaper’s early opener to win the fourth round tie.

Pat Rayment’s side will now host much-fancied Guernsey on February 9, knowing three more wins will be enough to book a final at the home of English football.

Chuffed boss Rayment paid tribute to his team, who also had wet and wild weather – plus a heavy pitch – to deal with at The Unwin Ground.

He said: “What a battle. They absolutely peppered us with long balls – and it was like a mini-cyclone out there.

“We just about deserved it on the night and certainly had enough clear-cut chances to make life a little easier.

“Gary King had an ideal debut and he’ll only get better. I also thought Lee Drury and Miles Chamberlain in particular had outstanding games.

“I’m on record as saying that we can go all the way and I still believe that. We’ve got a home draw next, which is all we can ask for.”

Eastern Counties League Premier Division hosts Ely started much the better – and it was no surprise when the lively Diaper netted the opener on 11 minutes. He took a cross down superbly and fired a powerful low effort past the dive of Drury.

Spalding soon settled down and were awarded a penalty just after the half hour when skipper Lee Canoville was tripped. King stepped up to fire low past Lee Pacey, who got a hand on the strike.

The turnaround was complete four minutes later, as King raced onto a hopeful through ball to superbly slide home his second.

After the break Ely bombarded the Tulips, who were indebted to a string of stunning stops from Drury – the best of which saw him turn Andy Claydon’s effort over.

At the other end, TJ Nightingale had two gilt-edged one-on-one efforts saved by Pacey, as the visitors looked to settle the tie.

The hosts hit a post late on following an almighty scramble from a long throw, but stand-out defensive showings from Chamberlain and Glen Fuff kept them largely at bay and sealed a hugely impressive win.

It’s back to UCL Premier Division action at Newport Pagnell on Saturday (3pm), but Spalding could be forgiven if the infectious Wembley fever has already set in.

Tulips: Drury, Canoville, Freeman (Hussey 75), Chamberlain, Fuff, Steadman, Cotton, Hall, Kennedy, Nightingale, King. Not used: Battersby, Doherty, Smedley, McCready.