By Ray Tucker
Morpeth Town 3
Spalding United 0
Playing the final 25 minutes with nine men proved too tall a task for Spalding United against runaway Evo-Stik NPL East Division leaders Morpeth Town on Saturday.
Tulips’ James Cullingworth and Rudy Misambo both picked up two yellow cards and departed the action within two minutes of each other in the 65th and 67th minutes – which left Morpeth’s Highwaymen with the freedom they had been denied earlier to exploit to the full.
Cullingworth’s dismissal was hard to swallow.
He and a Morpeth player crashed into each other in an aerial challenge for the ball, with the Tulips’ defender knocked unconscious in the incident.
Unable to continue, he was in the process of being substituted when the referee showed him his second yellow card, thus reducing the team to ten players.
Spalding performed admirably and were level with the leaders all the way up until the 62nd minute, when Misambo’s foul allowed Joe Walton to open the scoring from the penalty spot.
Then, with their numerical advantage, the hosts duly cashed in with a Michael Duggan own goal (74) and Sean Taylor’s strike (85) settling the clash.
For more than an hour the Tulips had been the equal of their free moving hosts, thwarting their attacking movements with confidence and setting up their own ventures into home team territory.
In fact, the only real shot on target in the first half came from Tulips’ skipper Leon Mettam, whose stinging shot from an angle just outside the area in the 38th minute whizzed past the far post by inches, with keeper Dan Lowson rooted to the spot.
On the occasions that Morpeth posed a threat, the defence and keeper Duggan dealt with it with supreme confidence.
Early in the second half Mettam ran past defenders to chase down a lob by Brad Wells and forced a superb save from Lowson.
From the resulting corner Misambo’s header grazed the woodwork.
At the other end, Duggan saved Wayne Phillips close range shot at the foot of a post.
The deadlock was finally broken by a 62nd minute penalty, conceded by Misambo who received his first caution.
Before the kick was taken Morpeth introduced Walton to the action – and his first involvement was to convert from 12 yards.
The Tulips’ centre back received his second caution, which was hotly disputed, three minutes later and was given his marching orders moments before the incident involving Cullingworth.
The under-pressure Tulips fell further behind in the 74th minute when Duggan, who grabbed the ball as it rebounded from the crossbar, was credited with an own goal.
The final nail into the coffin was driven home by substitute Taylor five minutes from time.
Speaking after the game, Spalding’s Isaac Cooper, who had dominated the midfield alongside Keegan Everington, said: ”With 11 players on the pitch there is no way we would have lost this game.
“We matched them throughout the first hour, but have suffered with some close decisions going against us. It’s so disappointing”.
Tulips: Duggan, Moyses, Marshall (Fixter 83), Cullingworth, Misambo, Hare, Cooper, Everington, Wells, Mettam (Zuerner 70), Hugo. Not used: Martin, Brownell, Acar.
Man-of-the-match (chosen by the host club): Leon Mettam.
Next fixture: Tadcaster v Tulips (March 16).