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Pilgrims 2-1 Barnet

Coca Cola League

by Pete Brooksbank

The omens really didn’t look good for Boston. With disquiet bubbling under the surface after Wednesday’s Chester debacle, the heavens opened just after kick-off, drenching both teams and forcing a tactical retreat upon spectators at the front of Spayne Road. It made an already gloomy mood darken further. Expectations are pretty low around York Street these days. Gone are the days when the Pilgrims would be expected to dispatch Barnet with a flourish. You’re expected to provide your own entertainment now. Nowadays it’s all about keeping your Dunmore burger dry and counting the number of times Lee Canoville sends the ball sailing over the stand. Still, despite the fading play-off dreams of a boss with his head clearly in the clouds, there’s a season to play out. With most of the talk before, during and after the game centring on the much publicised off-field drama slowly engulfing the club, it’s easy to forget there’s football going on. Mind you, a cursory glance at the pitch wouldn’t give you much clue either. You’d think the groundstaff were having a kick-around, such is the quality of the football that’s driving fans away in their droves. So, anyway, Saturday. Barnet showed up, were pretty poor, forgot to defend, but still forced the nervy Pilgrims to cling on towards the end. Boston had been cruising by half-time. The recall of Paul Ellender and Alan White gave United some structure and presence at the back, and Barnet looked impotent. Julian Joachim continued to look a forlorn figure up front. He still jumps for the lofted balls, but it’s more to show the crowd he’s at least making the effort than a genuine attempt to win a header against a much taller centre-back. Shame the Boston back line don’t seem to notice.

Still, they're far preferable to Barnet's back line, who don't seem to notice the ball, especially from set-pieces. As the bad weather cleared and the sun began to shine, shocking, Sunderland-esque defending more-or-less gifted Laurie DUDFIELD yet another tap-in to follow his half-yard winner against Lincoln two weeks ago. Austin McCann's punted free kick eluded everyone in the box, landing at the feet of an unmarked Alan White, whose hooked cross across the face of goal was spanked home by Dudfield. Boston increased their lead ten minutes later. Brad Maylett's equally deep free kick obviously looked pretty enticing for Barnet keeper Ross Flitney, who ran towards it, arms outstretched, like a scene from a romantic comedy. The ball rejected his overtures and opted instead for Mark GREAVES’ head and the back of the net. Two goals up at half-time, and all Boston needed to do was kill the game off. The second half saw the Pilgrims sitting far too deep, defending the Social Club if anything, and Barnet soon began to ask questions of the home side. Lacking any kind of cutting edge, the visitors introduced Lee ROACHE with twenty minutes to go. He made an immediate impact. Collecting the ball just inside the Boston area, he neatly side-stepped an incoming challenge before tucking the ball away to Kuipers’ right. Barnet could even have snatched a point after a goal-mouth scramble in the last few minutes, but were denied by a brave Kuipers. Boston hung on for a deserved win, but in truth they are nowhere near good enough to challenge for a top seven spot.

United team: Michel Kuipers, Lee Canoville, Austin McCann, Alan White, Paul Ellender, Mark Greaves, Chris Holland, Simon Rusk, Bradley Maylett (Asa Hall 90), Julian Joachim (Jamie Clarke 90), Lawrie Dudfield (Danny Thomas 81). Subs not used: David Galbraith, Gary Silk.

Match report copyright © Pete Brooksbank 2006.