Sills and Betteridge
Hykeham Town 1
Skegness Town 0
Saturday was not a good day for Skegness Town - but a avery good one for their opponents Hykeham Town.
Not only did they beat title rivals Skegness with the last kick of the game, but league leaders Horncastle were beaten by the odd goal in seven at Wyberton, writes Nigel West.
So the 2006 champions edged closer to the title thanks to their last gasp winner from substitute Josh Thomas.
They may have a backlog of league fixtures to fit in, but Hykeham have emerged from the weekend as strong title favourites.
It was unconvincing on Saturday, but having conceded on average less than half a goal per league game, they are in the box seat to win their first silverware for seven years.
In fact they are still in with a chance of four trophies, having reached the semi-finals of both the Challenge Cup and Supplementary Cup and the final of the Lincolnshire FA Junior Cup.
Having dropped points to Market Rasen Town on their last away league encounter, the seasiders were in need of a sound performance.
A draw did not seem to be enough for the seasiders so late in the campaign, but that appeared the most likely outcome after a cat-and-mouse affair that produced very few opportunities for either side.
Indeed, both goalkeepers had a quiet afternoon.
With the return of Liam Parker and Miles Chamberlain into the centre of the Skegness defence, Andy Parish and Michael Hardy missed out with relegation to the bench.
They started brightly with a high tempo and forced the home side back for much of the first half.
Will Britton squandered an early chance when he shot wide after breaking free of the home defence.
But opportunities were rare and the closest the Lilywhites came to a breakthrough was midway through the first half when Hykeham keeper James Cooper got enough on a Keiron Elliott shot to divert it wide of a post.
Cooper was also able to deal easily with a Liam Papworth shot late in the half after he got in behind the home back four.
At the other end Skegness keeper Harry Ashton was largely a spectator as the seasiders maintained the initiative.
Ironically, it was Ashton who came closest to breaking the deadlock for the visitors during a scrappy second half.
His long wind-assisted clearance bounced once in front of Cooper and then had the home keeper scurrying back to tip the ball over his cross bar.
With big defenders queuing at the far post, delivery from the resultant corner failed to clear the first defender, a regular feature of the seasiders’ frustrating afternoon.
A 71st minute diving save to his left from a Michael Sullivan shot kept Ashton’s fingers warm, but most of the half was fought out in midfield.
Hardy replaced Matt Veall with 15 minutes to go and Ben Davison joined the attack as the Lilywhites stepped up their search for a winner.
They thought it had arrived with five minutes left when Liam Parker found himself in space behind the Hykeham defence.
As defenders screamed for an offside flag, Parker lifted his opportunity over the cross bar.
Hykeham then hit the champions on the break.
A defence-splitting pass out to the left in the first minute of stoppage time was latched onto by Thomas and he coolly dinked the ball past the advancing Ashton.
The home side had just placed one hand on the championship trophy and the seasiders’ disappointment was plain to see after referee Neil Birkitt blew the final whistle immediately after the restart.
Skegness Town: Harry Ashton, Ashley Murrell, Jamie Epton, Keiron Elliott, Miles Chamberlain, Liam Parker, Liam Papworth, Ben Davison, Will Britton, Matt Veall, McCauley Parker, Michael Hardy, Ben Drysdale, Andy Parish, Daniel Reid.
Tonight (Wednesday, March 25) the Lilywhites are at Louth Town Reserves (kick-off 7.45pm).
On Saturday they are back in the Lincoln area with a visit to Nettleham’s Mulsanne Park (kick-off 3pm).