MATCH VERDICT: Hard work rewarded for Holbeach United
What a feeling when the plans are fully rewarded.
It seemed simple because Holbeach United went back to basics – as promised by Seb Hayes.
The Tigers had to do much better than the trip to Yaxley three weeks earlier when they crashed to a 3-0 defeat in the Knockout Cup semi-final.
Hayes felt the title dream would end as well if Holbeach lost again.
But he had a plan – and the players worked hard to turn it into three points.
It was all about keeping a shape and stopping Yaxley from exploiting spaces like they had done previously.
In the early exchanges, it looked set to be another bad night for the Tigers.
However, it soon turned into a terrific effort all over the pitch.
Holbeach couldn’t keep possession as the Cuckoos spread the ball around far too easily.
Dan Cotton came close a couple of times to punishing the Tigers’ slow start.
But as soon as the deadlock was broken at the other end, Holbeach stayed in control.
Danny Brooks – who had a major role in front of the back four – delivered a corner kick which George Zuerner nodded home via the underside of the crossbar.
With extra belief courtesy of a one-goal advantage, the plan worked even better.
Holbeach looked a threat in the final third but they stayed solid defensively, knowing they could still cause plenty of problems on the counter-attack.
Cotton missed the target and Rick Drury denied Matt Sparrow but Yaxley couldn’t apply enough pressure.
Olly Sutton’s fingertip save kept out a ferocious effort by Spencer Tinkler and, from the corner, they were involved again as a header was held on the line.
Brooks then began a move which released Will Bird on the left flank and, although Sutton pushed the ball out of Lewis Leckie’s reach, it broke for Joe Smith to stroke a neat finish into the far corner.
So, instead of being out of the title race, Holbeach are within touching distance of top spot. The championship battle looks set to be close and the Tigers are very much part of it.
4-2-3-1: Sutton; Duncliffe, Spencer, Watson, Pike; Nolan (sub Saunders 81 mins), Hook; Sparrow, Butterworth (sub Baines 71 mins), Cotton; Waumsley. Subs not used: Haime, Page, Blake.
4-1-4-1: Drury 7; Griffiths 7, Braithwaite 7, N Jackson 7, A Jackson 7; Brooks 7; Zuerner 7 (sub Bird 61 mins, 7), Tinkler 7 (sub Warfield 86 mins), Smith 7, Avis 7; Leckie 7 (sub Sanders 84 mins). Subs not used: Harker, Cartwright.
Zuerner (18 mins, 0-1); Smith (81 mins, 0-2).
Hook, A Jackson, Braithwaite, Saunders (fouls).
Danny Brooks – set up opener and started move for second goal but key role all night.
Harborough Town (H) – Saturday.