Spalding United 2
It was derby deadlock on Saturday as Spalding United battled back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with rivals Stamford at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.
The Tulips look set for a heavy BetVictor NPL South East Division beating when Oliver Brown-Hill lashed a stunner into the top corner on just 30 seconds and ex-Spalding striker Tom Siddons lobbed home a 20th-minute screamer from distance.
But Matt Easton’s side benefitted from some poor away defending to pull one back before the break, with skipper Lewis Brownhill sliding home a cross from Jamie Jackson.
Much-improved after the break, the hosts then drew level from the penalty spot through Jackson following a 65th-minute incident that saw Stamford’s Cleveland Taylor sent off.
Both sides had late chances to pinch all three points, but a draw felt like the right result on the day.
Tulips chief Easton, who thought that he got his tactics wrong in the first half, reckoned that the game’s key moment went against the Daniels and was very pleased with a point.
“I think getting a winner would have been a bit too much to ask for,” admitted Easton. “But that would have been the cherry on top.
“At 2-0 down, we looked poor and looked like we weren’t going to get a great deal out of the game.
“They were controlling the game – but then they gave us a lifeline right before half time.
“Then, we came out in the second half all guns blazing with loads more energy and much more momentum going forward. We also showed better decision-making and got the ball down.
“I have to take some of the blame for the first half as I asked them to play in a certain way and I got it wrong. We planned to go more direct, but it didn’t work as we handed them the ball back.
“I accepted that responsibility at half time and told them to play like we normally play. We started getting the ball down and Jenk (Acar) started running with the ball and Jamie (Jackson) started running with the ball; that’s how we want to play.
“I have to be honest, though, I’m not sure the penalty incident was deserving of either a red card or a penalty. If it’s a penalty, it should have only been a yellow card, too.
“But we deserved a bit of luck as we played well and created chances and we can’t really ask for much more than that.
“To be honest, when they went down to ten men, so did we. George (Zuerner) pulled up with a hamstring problem a few minutes after their red and we just put him out on the right as he could only really jog.
“If we could have made a change, maybe things would have been different.
“We did create a few chances after that, but it wasn’t to be for us.
“Overall, I’m delighted with a point. They are a good side and they’ll be up there.
“Graham (Drury) has them organised and they are strong, while also being very good on the ball.
“We did much better in the second half and, from our point of view, if we go into the winter months in that mood with everybody fit and everyone firing, I think we’ll do alright.”
Spalding were without regular number one Michael Duggan for the derby – and his replacement Alex Smith was picking the ball out of his net inside the opening seconds.
Cosmos Matwasa fed the ball to Brown-Hill, who shifted the ball onto his left foot and smashed the ball into the far top corner from just inside the box.
Brown-Hill almost doubled his money soon after when he waltzed through the centre of the Spalding defence, but was unable to slot past Smith when one-on-one.
The visitors didn’t have to wait too long for their second goal, though. Siddons nodded a long ball forward into his own path and unleashed a superb dipping lob from long range that nestled in the roof of a helpless Smith’s net.
Spalding did go close to pulling a goal back when debutant Kevin Bastos pulled an inviting ball back for George Zuerner, but he curled his effort over when well-placed.
Stamford had looked in complete control of the first period, but threw their hosts a lifeline on 44 minutes when sloppy defending allowed Jackson to pinch the ball and square for skipper Brownhill, who made no mistake in forcing the ball home from close in.
That lit a fire under the Tulips, who almost levelled in the first minute of the second period when Danny Haystead kept out an effort from Bastos before superbly finger-tipping Zuerner’s goal-bound header past the far post.
At the other end, Smith stood tall to block an effort from the dangerous Brown-Hill and James Hugo pulled off an incredible last-ditch tackle to deny Siddons.
But it was Spalding who were causing plenty of problems and they were level when a clean-through Jackson went down under a challenge from Taylor.
With the right-back sent off, Jackson picked himself up to send Haystead the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Sadly for Spalding, Zuerner soon injured his hamstring and, with all three subs already made, was forced to play on at half-capacity on the right wing.
That nullified the Tulips’ numerical advantage somewhat, but they almost won it late on when Jordan Cooke cleared Joel Brownhill’s goal-bound effort of the line.
Haystead also tipped over Jackson’s last-gasp strike as both sides had to settle for a derby draw.
Tulips: Smith, Floyd (Withers 67), Hugo, Zuerner, Richards (Greenwood 55), Hare, Bastos (J Brownhill 55), Everington, Jackson, L Brownhill, Acar. Not used: Brooks, Hart.
Sponsors’ MOTM: Lewis Brownhill.