Spalding United 3 Sheffield FC 2: HARRY Houdini still wouldn’t fancy their scenario, but the Tulips took their first step towards an unlikely great escape by beating the world’s oldest football club on Saturday.
Goals from skipper Gary Pawson, Jammal Shahin and man-of-the-match Josh Nodder earned Andy Stanhope a first win as Spalding boss at a rain-drenched Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.
The victory also ends a three-month winless streak that spanned 15 games and moves the Tulips to within eight points of Evo-Stik League First Division South safety ahead of tonight’s crunch trip to Rainworth Miners Welfare (7.45pm).
Rainworth, who have played three games less than Spalding, sit just above the drop zone in 20th place.
Boss Stanhope said: “This win is not about the points, it’s about the confidence that the win brings to the squad.
“Let’s be honest, it’s only one win and it doesn’t change our position much. A first win since November says it all.
“We were full value for the win though and should have won by more than we did.
“It’s now all about the Rainworth game. If we win that and get a result on Saturday I might actually look at the table.
“Everyone is available so if we can play like we did on Saturday we’ll have every chance.”
A deluge of rain before kick off left the Spalding pitch in a terrible state – but it served as a leveller for the Tulips, who were more than a match for Sheffield FC from the off.
Playing a more attacking system than in recent weeks, Shahin forced Dan Whatsize into a smart early save.
At the other other end, the returning Nathan Thackery kept out strikes from Brian Cusworth and James Gregory as Sheffield began to get a foothold in the game.
But Spalding nipped the pressure in the bud by taking a surprise lead on 26 minutes.
Nodder’s corner from the right was met powerfully by Pawson and his header beat Whatsize at his near post.
If a 1-0 lead was a novelty for the Tulips, they were in dreamland when Shahin doubled their money.
The forward, dubbed “a cracking player” by Stanhope, steered a cracking close-range finish home from an angle.
It’s never simple with Spalding though – and so it proved again.
With seconds left before the break, their two-goal lead was immediately wiped out by a blockbuster 25-yard free-kick from Anthony Lynam.
You almost expected Sheffield to launch a second-half comeback, but it was the Tulips who struck a hammer blow after the break.
Nodder, who was excellent all afternoon, took advantage of some shocking defending from the visitors to curl home a super third via the inside of the post.
Back came Sheffield though, as they reduced the deficit yet again.
Thackery, who made a super save to keep out Cusworth, was powerless to resist as Lynam lashed home a fierce second at the near post.
Speedy sub Jake Outram was twice denied by Whatsize as Spalding searched for a fourth, but the hosts started to drop deeper and deeper in the closing stages.
The officials managed to find seven minutes of added time from somewhere, but the Tulips held firm.
However, should they lose at Rainwoth tonight, Stanhope’s charges will be back to square one.
Tulips: Thackery, Keale, Brewer, Goosey, Pawson, Holding, Carruthers, Thompson, Kennedy (Outram 75), Shahin, Nodder (Self 90). Not used - Chappell, Lyon, Freeman.
GOALS: Tulips - Pawson 26, Shahin 43, Nodder 53. Sheffield FC - Lynam 45 & 70
• Saturday - Quorn v Tulips (3pm).