First Team vs. Spalding United (0 : 3)
Evo-Stik League First Division South
It was a bad day at the office for Sheffield FC on Saturday, writes Stuart James, as they lost 3-0 away to play-off chasing Spalding United in extremely difficult conditions. The Tulips came on top of an ugly war of attrition, with goals from Leon Mettam on 31 minutes, Bradley Wells on 54 minutes and Conor Higginson on 73 minutes.
With a swirling wind and an uneven pitch just the playable side of waterlogged, attractive passing football was never going to win the game, and so it proved as both sides struggled to maintain possession long enough to threaten.
Spalding had an early spurt of pressure, with Jordan Lemon’s looping shot well saved by Sheffield keeper Chris Butt, whilst Club’s forcing of a series of corners came to nothing either.
The hosts thought they’d taken the lead on 10 minutes, as Leon Mettam’s diving header ended in the net, only to see it ruled out for offside.
The visiting bench’s frustration at being on the sharp side of some of the referee’s 50/50 decisions may or may not have been justified, however on the half hour mark a highly dubious award of a throw-in to the hosts was to turn the game, but it would need a piece of magic to set things in motion.
That throw was only half cleared, twenty yards out the ball was controlled on the chest of METTAM, who brought the ball onto a stinging volley that dipped over the head of Butt to land in the top corner.
Sheffield came out of the blocks solidly to respond to the goal, however for all the pressing with the wind assisting, the best chance was a wayward effort from Joel Purkiss.
Spalding should have gone into the interval two goals to the good, as Bradley Wells was put through on goal, only to be denied by an excellent stop by Chris Butt.
The second half saw the hosts with the wind at their backs and six minutes after the restart they had doubled their lead, as Lee Cooksey found himself under heaps of attention from a corner, heading towards his own net with WELLS heading the ball home from inches out.
Club responded once again with a series of corners - and whilst none came to bear fruit - a low free-kick from Joel Purkiss found Danny South in the box, with Spalding keeper Michael Duggan pulling off a fine stop.
The threat of a third was always on the cards as the visitors tried to get back in the game, and Spalding nearly capitalised on the extra space as substitute Jonny Lockie went on a weaving run, only to send a final shot wild and out of the ground.
That third did come as ex-Clubbie Conor Higginson came back to torment once again, as moments after taking the field as substitute, HIGGINSON finished off some neat interplay with Wells to tuck the ball home.
Sheffield ended the game with ten men after the referee judged a sliding tackle from Ross Goodwin on Conor Higginson worthy of a red card, whilst the mêlée that followed between the rest of the players saw just the one yellow – despite a clear kick in the stramash – summing up a frustrating and long day for the visitors.
Spalding United: Duggan, Walker, Miller, Stainfield, Jackson, Lemon, Beeson, Varley (Downey), Acar (Higginson), Wells, Mettam (Lockie). Sub not used: Spafford.
Sheffield FC: Butt, Pursehouse, Cooksey, South, Hanna, Roney (Turner), Ashmore (Magee), Lindley, Gregory, Purkiss (Goodwin), Denton. Subs not used: Royles, Haystead.
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