Spalding United 1
Carlton Town 4
Disappointed boss Matt Easton felt his Spalding United side looked “physically weak” as they were handed a 4-1 home humbling by Carlton Town in the Buildbase FA Trophy on Saturday.
Spalding had taken an early lead through Luke White, but a devastating hat-trick from Aaron Opoku (35, 76 and 89) and a strike from the impressive Mamoke Akaunu (39) have Carlton a deserved win at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.
For the Tulips, it’s now 12 games without a win in all competitions – and they are already out of every cup competition by mid-October.
Easton, who is yet to manage a win as manager, admits that the time has come for him to get ruthless with his squad.
The returning Cenk Acar, re-signed at the end of last week, wasn’t alone in having little impact – and the Tulips chief has promised to ring the changes.
“It was two steps backwards, really,” admitted Easton. “I thought we were weak – physically weak – and the players need to show more than that.
“We stood up to it for about half an hour, but they were big and strong up front and just bullied us.
“We didn’t create enough. I thought that Kegan (Everington) was the pick of the bunch for us in midfield, but overall as a team, I can’t be having that.
“I’d hoped a cup game could help us build momentum, but this has knocked us back. The lads need to find a bit of strength of character and stand up and be counted.
“I think we need to make changes. We’ve brought Cenk back in, but we didn’t manage to get him in the game. If and when we can, it’ll make a difference.
“We just need to be a bit stronger and a bit more resolute – I’ll have to keep making changes until we get it right.
“There’s no player that could argue with me if they were left out of the side at the moment.
“I’ve said before that the players have to be more ruthless, but maybe I’ve got to be a bit more ruthless too. Maybe the ruthlessness starts with me.
“The last few games before this one, we’ve come away thinking that we should have won them. This time, there was absolutely no way we should have won that game. It just wasn’t good enough.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll have a few new signings in over the next couple of weeks.”
The away side made the better start on a warm but windy day at the Sir Halley, with Michael Duggan forced into a first-minute save to deny Akaunu from close range.
Duggan was called into action again moments later when Kegan Everington’s sliding challenge to halt an Akaunu run almost found the corner of his own net.
However, it was Spalding who broke the deadlock from their first foray forward. White found acres of space on the right and powered a finish past Jack Steggles, who did get a hand on it.
After a lengthy lull, Carlton thought they’d levelled on the half-hour when a long throw was bundled over the line – but the referee ruled it out for a foul on Duggan.
The visitors did equalise five minutes later, however. A fine header from Opoku saw him turn a cross from the right into the far corner of Duggan’s net, via the inside of the post.
Carlton then seized the advantage with a scrappy second, as Duggan’s clearance was charged down into the path of Akaunu – who made no mistake in finding the empty net.
The early exchanges of the second half were very low key, with neither side grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck.
Spalding did fashion a presentable opening when a tricky run and cross from Leon Mettam picked out Gary King, but his half-volley was deflected over.
Ben Davison then lashed a fierce effort from the right just over the bar, as the Tulips slowly began to show signs of life.
At the other end, Carlton really should have sealed the victory when Oliver Clark headed wide from close in after a free-kick on the left-hand side.
They made no mistake with 14 minutes remaining, though. Opoku fed the ball out to the impressive Akaunu, who returned for the favour with a cross for his strike partner to divert past Duggan from close range.
Akaunu, the star man on the day, was unlucky not to grab a second for himself five minutes from time. After a run that saw him bamboozle a few Tulips defenders, his curling left-footed effort came back of the far post.
Carlton weren’t quite done, however, with Opouku taking advantage of some more slack defending to race through and smash his hat-trick goal into the top corner.
Overall it was a demoralising defeat for the Tulips, who look incredibly low on confidence.
Tulips: Duggan, Marshall, Hugo, Fixter, Humble, Everington, White, Davison, King (Floyd 80), Mettam (Jalo 80), Acar. Not used: Zuerner, Waters.
MOTM: Ben Davison.