Jordan Lemon made a happy return to his former club as the Tulips regained top spot in the Evo-Stik NPL First Division South. A fifth successive win lifted the Tulips into pole position, making it a very Happy New Year.
Lemon’s goal came with 15 minutes left as the Tulips, having beaten the Daniel's by the same score at home on 29th August 2016, complete the league double over Stamford.
Top scorer Bradley Wells took his tally to 20 so far this term, cancelling out Jamie McGhee’s 17th minute opener, when he and Brad Barraclough combined in the 25th minute of an evenly balanced contest.
Spalding got what they deserved in the end with a dominant second-half display – proving yet again they know exactly what it takes to pick up points in this league. As boss Dave Frecklington has been saying since he came to the club last summer, it might not be pretty at times but it’s certainly proving to be very effective.
The first period was what you would expect from a local derby – plenty of effort and not much quality.
Stamford went ahead as Courtney Meade delivered a lovely cross which McGhee met with a diving header to guide the ball inside the near post of the deputising Sam Vince. That was the first goal the Tulips had conceded in 390 minutes since left-back Adam Jackson returned to the defesive unit.
First-choice goalkeeper Michael Duggan was forced to watch due to a knee injury and former Pilgrims' stopper Vince performed admirably when called upon on his league debut. With skipper Nathan Stainfield on top form again, Vince had plenty of protection after that early setback.
It could have been worse for the Tulips as home captain Jordan Smith nodded wide from Jake Duffy’s cross when it seemed for all the world he'd stretch the host's advantage.
Six minutes later, it was all-square thanks to another close-range finish by Wells. The striker – who got both Spalding goals in the home win over Stamford back in August – was in the right place at the right time as Stainfield & Barraclough combined to feed him following a Jordy Lemon free-kick.
Meade’s drive deflected off Jackson but at the other end Matt Varley could perhaps have done better with a header from Conor Higginson’s corner.
In first-half stoppage-time, Brad Barraclough had a great opportunity for the visitors; he went past Kern Miller but saw his shot kicked to safety by the Daniels' fine young custodian, Sam Donkin.
Wells couldn't capitalise on a glorious chance to put Spalding in front five minutes after the break: Conor Higginson found him on the edge of the six-yard box but the left-foot volley he smashed goalward was kept out with a fine save by Donkin.
As the Tulips took control, Higginson’s free-kick was punched over the bar and Wells flicked a header wide.
With the last quarter of the game upon us, Wells and Barraclough combined as Lemon raced into the box; the pass that found the zesty Lemon was sublime and he beat Donkin low-down from a tight angle for what proved to be the winner.
There was to be no way back for Stamford as the Tulips closed out the rest of the game for another highly impressive victory and a day which saw them return to the league summit thanks, in no small measure, to the inactivity of both Shaw Lane AFC and Newcastle Town on the Bank Holiday Monday.
Team: Sam Vince, Paul Walker, Neal Spafford, Nathan Stainfield, Adam Jackson, Jordan Lemon, Matt Varley, Nathan Whitehead, Conor Higginson (Jason Field, 79 mins), Bradley Wells, Brad Barraclough (Jonny Lockie, 85 mins). Subs (not used): Jack Wightwick, Terry Fleming, Michael Duggan
Tulips' Man-of-the-Match: Bradley Wells
With thanks to Mark Lea of the Spalding Guardian/Lincolnshire Free Press for Match Report content