Mansfield Town 2-1 Boston United
by Barbara Singleton
Boston United's six-match unbeaten record was brought to a halt at the home of promotion-chasing Mansfield Town. But not before the Pilgrims had made their hosts scrap hard for the right to grab maximum spoils. United struck first and grabbed what was at the time a deserved lead. But this advantage evaporated just before the break and the Stags prised out what proved to be the winning striker shortly after half-time. Despite being without key midfielders Tom Bennett (suspended) and Neil Redfearn (ill), United boss Neil Thompson utilised his resources to best effect and almost managed to conjure up what would have been a more than useful share of the spoils. Almost. But no quite. In the end, after falling behind, Boston were unable to really force their way back into contention and succumbed to a brace of goals by the impressively energetic Junior Mendes. Neither side really had an effort on goal in the opening exchanges, but Mansfield threatened when Neil MacKenzie fired a 16th minute 20-yard free-kick just wide of Paul Bastocks upright. In response, United felt aggrieved when they were denied the lead midway through the first period. Home keeper Kevin Pilkington had to be alert to hack the ball away from an in-rushing Graeme Jones after Chris Hogg's forward pass had evaded the Mansfield defence. The subsequent return ball from Paul Ellender freed Peter Duffield and he duly fired the ball home, although the offside flag was raised, somewhat harshly, for a dubious offside decision. The setback did not deter Boston and they deservedly went ahead in the 27th minute when Simon WEATHERSTONE found himself with time to control a loose ball in the area following a Simon Rusk cross from the right before drilling home an unstoppable 12-yarder past an exposed Pilkington. However, the lead was short-lived, as the Stags drew level just six minutes later.
Bobby Hassell's ball down the right-wing found MENDES, who sped clear of all challenges before drilling across Bastock and into the far corner to equalise. Two minutes later Mendes found space down the right. But this time Bastock saved well. Boston almost retook the lead in the 38th minute when Rhys Day sliced the ball inches wide of his own goal following Hogg's right-wing centre. The resultant corner was cleared as far as the edge of the box, where Thompson drilled an effort into Pilkington's arms. With only three minutes of the second half played, Jones was forced off with a reoccurrence of a calf injury, and Stuart Douglas deputised. Mansfield, though, took the lead in the 51st minute when slack marking by the United defence allowed MENDES to power a header beyond Bastock following Liam Lawrence's corner. Bastock then kept United in the game a minute later with a fabulous tip-away save to palm Colin Larkin's rising drive round a post. From the flag-kick Mendes was denied a hat-trick when firing against an upright, before Lawrence blazed the rebound over. Boston tried to hit back and a Weatherstone free-kick was only partially cleared with Stuart Balmer testing Pilkington with a low 15-yard effort, which the Stags' custodian did well to gather. In reply, Mendes went close again in the 66th minute, seeing a 20-yarder deflect wide off Mark Greaves for a corner as Mansfield looked for the killer third goal. Boston had a good chance to equalise in the 78th minute, but Weatherstone sent a header too high from a left wing cross by substitute Ben Chapman. Back at the other end, Boston were again grateful to Bastock, as he made a great point-blank range save to keep out Tony Vaughans bullet header in the 80th minute. United tried to respond again in the closing stages but we unable to muster enough firepower to trouble Pilkington.
United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Hogg, Greaves, Balmer, Beevers; L Thompson, Rusk, Ellender (Chapman 67), Weatherstone; Jones (Douglas 48), Duffield. Subs (not used): Clarke, Potter, Croudson (gk).