Sleaford Town’s festive double-header brought wildly contrasting results with a big league win followed by heavy defeat.
Jamie Shaw’s mid-table side faced opponents with different ambitions as they travelled to second-bottom Boston Town on Boxing Day, and then hosted top-three side Pinchbeck United three days later.
Sleaford duly heaped more problems onto Boston’s basement battle, winning 4-1 at the DWB Stadium, before succumbing by the same scoreline at home to Pinchbeck on Saturday.
The results left Town 14th in United Counties League Premier, still just a tantalising four points off the top 10.
The Boston match began in typical derby fashion with a first half played at a frantic pace, dotted with rash challenges, but few golden chances.
Harry Millard’s drive forced Portas into a decent save midway through, while Brad Hockin was off-target with a driven shot of his own.
But the hosts created decent opportunities of their own, the closest of which struck the Sleaford crossbar just after the half-hour.
Yet it was the visitors who eventually took a grip of the game late in an even first half.
George Couzens fired over after a great cross by Hayden, and six minutes before half-time, Sleaford were ahead through Hockin after a great passage of play.
Shaw’s side started the second half well, with Coupland dragging a great chance wide from Archie Moyses’ run, and within three minutes of the restart, Couzens doubled the lead.
Yet having worked so hard to take control, Town loosened their grip when Boston made it 2-1 just two minutes later.
A full-blooded second half rumbled on, with the game wide open, but Sleaford finally struck a decisive blow with 13 minutes remaining when Couzens snaffled his second after more good work from Moyses.
And just six minutes later, Couzens wrapped up the game, heading in to complete his hat-trick and double his tally for the season to six.
Shaw made just one change for the visit of Pinchbeck, with Shepherd coming in for the injured Hayden, while Ewan Armstrong would make his first team debut off the bench.
But Town started slowly once again and were punished for it when Pinchbeck slotted in a seventh-minute penalty.
The home side gradually worked themselves into the game, and while the visitors had the better of the first half, neither keeper was greatly tested.
Sleaford came out much quicker for the second half and hit the bar after creating panic in the Pinchbeck box.
But the early pressure came to nought when Limb added a breakaway goal to double Pinchbeck’s lead on 48 minutes.
Millard forced a save soon after, but the game was soon over when the visitors stunned Sleaford with two goals in four minutes to go 4-0 up before the hour.
With pride and not points left to play for, Shaw’s frustration grew when Coupland’s penalty was turned round the post midway through the half.
But Sleaford did pull one back straight from the resulting corner when Greenwood headed in from Newman’s delivery.
With nothing to lose, the home side piled on the pressure, but Pinchbeck remained dangerous on the breakaway, and came closest to the next goal.
But they spurned a late penalty, the fourth spot-kick to be missed in the two fixtures between these sides this season.
On Saturday, Sleaford travel to Wellingborough Town who are just a point and two places better off.
Kick-off at London Road is 3pm.