Spalding United 7
Pontefract Collieries 3
By RAY TUCKER
An incredible performance by Spalding United on Saturday saw them brush aside championship-chasing Pontefract Collieries 7-3 in a ten-goal thriller at the Sir Halley Stewart Field.
On the back of four straight defeats in the Evo-Stik NPL East Division – and a 3-0 battering by the Yorkshire side in mid-November – no one would have given much hope for the Tulips picking up valuable points on this occasion.
But the introduction of three new players and a reshuffle of the pack, promised by manager Matt Easton, saw the form book turned inside out with a display of exciting football not witnessed so far this season.
It had the hardy fans baying for more as the goals flowed, with seven arriving in an electrifying final 20 minutes of the game.
The Tulips’ boss moved quickly to sell the club to central defender Rudy Musambo, midfielder Isaac Cooper and striker Romario Martin, a St Kits and Nevis international, from Hednesford Town virtually on the day they were released by the Premier Division club.
The ‘deal’ saw Kieran Wells move in the opposite direction after being offered a lucrative deal.
However, it was his brother Bradley Wells who stole the show with a devastating hat-trick on the day.
Missing from the Tulips’ squad was captain Ben Davison, who is the subject of a seven-day approach by county rivals Lincoln United.
But Leon Mettam grasped the armband in his absence, while Alex Smith took over goalkeeping duties from regular number one Michael Duggan.
From the outset the Tulips play showed much more urgency and purpose with the towering Musambo stamping his authority on proceedings with a sequence of headed clearances and solid defending to halt the Pontefract advances – a performance which would ultimately earn him the man-of the-match award.
Reward for the Tulips arrived early with Bradley Wells, featuring in his preferred number nine position, notching the first of his trio of goals after just five minutes.
It was a beautiful strike, weaving past three defenders following a penetrating free-kick by Jack Brownell to glide the ball past keeper Ryan Musselwhite.
In the minutes that followed, Smith pulled off a couple of crucial saves to deny Conner Smyth and Eli Hey, and newcomer Cooper, operating a central midfield position for the first time, also held things together as the visitors battled for parity.
But it was the home fans who were exercising their vocal chords in the 32nd minute when full-back Liam Marshall joined the attack to edge the ball over the line when Musselwhite failed to deal with a James Hugo corner kick.
Just a minute into the second half the home lead was extended by skipper Mettam – turning a defining low cross by Brownell past a bemused Musslewhite.
Play was continually played from end-to-end with activity in either goal area. New signing Martin replaced Mettam in the 68th minute and was immediately involved, providing the perfect pass for Bradley Wells to add to his tally on 70 minutes and provide the Tulips with a 4-0 lead.
Christopher Jackson pulled a goal back for the away side in the 76th minute, but just a minute later Martin restored the Tulips’ margin with a stylish finish.
And, with pressure maintained on the visiting side, Bradley Wells celebrated his hat-trick with a solid header from Scott Floyd’s perfectly weighted free kick.
Home fans were at full throttle again in the 84th minute when Martin notched his second and the Tulips’ seventh goal.
Pontefract were still full of fight, and although well beaten scored twice more through Spencer Clarke (85) and Conner Smyth (89).
Tulips: Smith, Floyd, L Marshall (Humble 83), Cooper, Musambo, Spafford, Brownell, Everington, Wells, Mettam (Martin 68), Hugo (White 82). Not used: Duggan.