Spalding United 0
Brighouse Town 3
Spalding United were handed a 3-0 reverse by Brighouse Town in their final home game of the season on Monday – but the result isn’t actually as bad as it sounds.
First-half goals from Gabriel Johnson (9), Aaron Martin (28) and Rarman Edmonds-Green (45) were no more than dominant Brighouse deserved at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field as they secured a play-off place in Evo-Stik NPL East Division.
The Tulips, who had almost a full team missing, did well to keep the scoreline down and now look well positioned to stay up following defeats for Carlton Town and Gresley.
Only an unlikely set of results would see Carlton leapfrog Spalding in Saturday’s final round of fixtures now, with boss Matt Easton proud of his players.
Easton said: “It might sound odd, but I’m chuffed with that second half. If we’d have gone on to lose by six or seven, we’d have been in a position where a Carlton win next week would potentially relegate us.
“I asked the lads to go out there and defend well, not chase the game and get anything they can in front of the ball.
“The fans wanted us to attack, but it was so important that we didn’t lose too heavily.
“It was a very one-sided game and Brighouse are one of the best sides in the league, but I’m happy with the result – which sounds odd after a 3-0 loss.
“The players and management team put in a real shift for this football club and hopefully we’ve done enough to stay up now.”
The Tulips made a solid enough start and pinned Brighouse back in their own half following a series of set-pieces, culminating in Taron Hare heading a half-chance over.
But the away side grabbed the lead on nine minutes after a move down the left, with striker Gabriel Johnson on hand to finish from close range following a Reece Kendall cross.
Johnson was involved in a key incident moments later, but was booked for diving following a tackle by Hare. Had the referee given the decision the other way, Spalding may have been down to ten men.
The goal really lifted Brighouse after a slow opening and they should really have doubled their lead on 20 minutes, only for Aaron Martin to head over when clean through. He took the ball on the bounce, but got too much on his looping effort.
They didn’t have to wait long for their second goal, however, with Kendall again delivering superbly from the left for Martin to head a textbook back-post header into the far corner.
With Spalding powerless to resist, they were lucky not to fall further behind when Zephaniah Thomas headed into the side-netting following a deep delivery from Rhys Jenkinson.
There was another let off for the Tulips when Martin raced clear, but failed to organise his feet and fell over in the box.
The pressure finally told in the final minute of the first period, with Rarmani Edmonds-Green turning the ball home from a few yards out following a corner.
Nothing much changed after the interval, with Alex Smith called into action early on. He reacted well to turn Iwan Heeley’s curling free-kick over the bar at the near post.
Smith, who was deputising for Michael Duggan, was called into action again when he tipped a fierce long-range drive from the excellent Kendall over.
At the other end, Luke White worked tirelessly as a lone front man, but wasn’t given any decent service all game, while the Brighouse defence offered little change.
Sub Jack Lazenby was unlucky not to add a cracking fourth for the excellent visitors late on, but just missed the top corner with a thunderous effort.
Despite the defeat, Spalding will travel to Belper Town on Saturday (3pm) knowing that they’ll only be relegated if Carlton, who visit Marske, manage a five-goal swing.
Tulips: Smith, Floyd, Hugo, Cullingworth, Hare, Spafford, Fixter, Everington (Marshall 29), White, Zuerner, Cooper (Mason 79). Not used: Duggan, Brown.
MOTM: Neal Spafford.