Title race wide open in the Lincolnshire League

Head and shoulders above the rest: Skegness Town's man of the match Jack Cotton beats Hykeham Town's Robin Newman to the ball.
Head and shoulders above the rest: Skegness Town's man of the match Jack Cotton beats Hykeham Town's Robin Newman to the ball.

Sills and Betteridge

Lincolnshire League

Skegness Town 1

Hykeham Town 2

It was a game that Hykeham had to win and one that the Lilywhites daren’t lose.

For the neutrals it was the ideal result, throwing open the race for the Sills and Betteridge Lincolnshire League title.

The seasiders know what they have to do to bring the trophy back to Burgh Road - if Hykeham beat Horncastle in their last game of the season, Skegness need to win their remaining three league fixtures to pip them for the crown.

But it’s not going to be easy.

The three games include back to back fixtures with CGB Humbertherm, who beat high-riding Ruston Sports at the weekend.

Their visit to lowly Heckington United will not be considered a forgone conclusion either, following a recent upturn in United’s fortunes.

One thing’s for certain - it is definitely now a two horse race.

Hykeham have put themselves in the box seat with this result, which completed a league double over the Lilywhites.

The Lilywhites started strongly and Jake Gibson spurned an early chance.

Hykeham keeper James Cooper then dived to his left to pluck a Josh Bartlett strike out of the air.

At the other end Callum Chapman headed a left wing corner just over and the visitors started to even things out with chances created on the break.

Former Lilywhite Craig Leverett was cautioned for pushing Gibson over when he was threatening the Hykeham goal, but it was the visitors who drew the first blood in the 33rd minute. Another corner from the left resulted in pinball across the Skegness goal, and Jamie Epton found himself on his knees trying to guard against a Hykeham boot turning the ball home.

Unfortunately for the home side, he failed and Mike Sullivan was seen to raise his arm to claim the last touch before the ball nestled in the bottom corner of the Skegness net.

Skegness did play some neat football on the edge of the Hykeham box, carving a couple of openings for McCauley Parker, but Cooper twice saved bravely at his feet.

The Lilywhites knew they had to raise their game after the break and again they started brightly, but disaster struck in the 55th minute.

Hykeham striker Robin Newman wriggled clear of his marker and as he was about to pull the trigger to double the visitors’ lead he was caught by Miles Chamberlain.

A penalty and the inevitable red card followed before v isiting skipper Steven Mehta made no mistake.

Liam Parker replaced Jake Gibson and the Lilywhites reorganised, playing three at the back with five across the midfield.

For Skegness too many attacks fizzled out on the edge of the Hykeham box, but during a period of pressure Ben Davison appeared to have reduced arrears when he successfully challenged Cooper in the air, but Leverett got back to clear off the line.

McCauley Parker saw a 25 yarder saved by Cooper.

Jack Cotton was immense for the home side, one minute breaking down a Hykeham attack and the next setting up another raid on their goal at the other end.

Skegness did eventually half the deficit deep into stoppage time with a sweet 30-yard strike from Bartlett that left Cooper rooted to the spot.

But it was too little too late.

A disappointed Skegness boss Nick Chapman reflected on the defeat and said his side didn’t deserve any better.

“We just didn’t turn up,” he said.

“They won with two scruffy goals, but we got what we deserved.”.

And the Lilywhites’ title hopes? “The good news is that it is still in our hands. If we win our remaining three league games we are champions. It’s as simple as that,” he added.

Skegness Town: Ricky Lovelace, Jack Cotton, Jamie Epton, Miles Chamberlain, Jack Smith, Andy Parish, Liam Papworth, Ben Davison, Jake Gibson, Josh Bartlett, McCauley Parker, Matt Veall, Sam Walker, Ben Etches, Liam Parker, Mark Russell.

Match sponsor - Rainbow Carousel Ltd.

Match ball sponsor - Avalanche Ice Cream Kiosk.

On Saturday Skegness have the distraction of a Challenge Cup semi-final at Gainsborough Town.

The winners will play either Sleaford Town Reserves or Horncastle Town in the final.