Spalding United 2 Market Drayton Town 4: TWO late goals from Jason Oswell put the Tulips on the brink of Evo-Stik League First Division South relegation.
If, as expected, two teams go down this season, Spalding will be consigned to the drop if they fail to win at title-chasing Kidgrove Athletic this weekend.
Having lost 6-1 to the second-placed side just ten days ago, it would appear they are doomed.
For much of Saturday’s tussle with Market Drayton, it was clear just why the Tulips are rock-bottom of the table.
But they did play with an element of pride and desire in the second half as they fought back from two goals down with strikes from Gary Pawson and Matt Kennedy.
Stopping short of admitting defeat, boss Andy Stanhope confessed that he now has half an eye on next term.
He said: “It was a strange one really. We tried something different by putting Gary Pawson up front, but it really didn’t work.
“We were lucky only to be 1-0 down at the break and the second looked to have killed us. But our substitutions worked and we looked like we could win it before they grabbed two at the end.
“It’s fair to say we’re looking to next season now, wherever we are playing.
“There’s no point giving up and getting smashed every week. You never know, if we can finish off the bottom we may get lucky.”
The first half at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field was typical of Spalding’s dire season. Drayton striker Tom Rogers rattled the woodwork twice in the early exchanges, while Dorryl Proffitt missed an absolute sitter.
Eventually, away skipper Duncan Swan-Horler beat debutant keeper Leigh Cook with a free header on 22 minutes (see picture right).
Rogers got his goal immediately after the restart – and Drayton were cruising until 15 minutes from time.
Pawson, who is enjoying a fine season in front of goal, headed home a Corey Carrithers free-kick to reduce the deficit and moments later Kennedy prodded home a shock leveller from three yards out.
Spalding sensed an unlikely victory was possible, but Oswell had other ideas with two cracking late finishes.
However, on both occasions he benefited from the kind of defending that has long been Spalding’s Achilles heel.
Tulips: Cook, Chappell (Self 70), Lyon, Warner, Baker, Thompson (Kennedy 56), Carrithers, Ingram, Pawson, Shahin, Nodder (Outram 58). Not used: Holding, Brewer.
Goals: Spalding - Pawson 74, Kennedy 77. Market Drayton - Swan-Horler 22, Rogers 46, Oswell 84 & 90
• Saturday – Kidsgrove Athletic v Tulips (1pm).