Carlisle United 2-1 Pilgrims
by Barbara Singleton
Boston United figured in an exciting clash to kick off the New Year, but in the end they succumbed to basement side Carlisle who are now stirring vigorously in a bid to achieve an escape act which would be miraculous even by Houdinis standards. The Pilgrims made a creditable fist of trying to prise some sort of reward from Brunton Park but - despite taking an early lead - ultimately found a revitalised Cumbrian outfit just too hot to handle. The match had started at a frantic pace with the home side being quick out of the blocks and exerting considerable pressure on the Boston back line, notably with teenager Matt Fryatt looking purposeful in attack and experienced duo Paul Simpson and Andy Preece orchestrating things in midfield. And in the first few minutes Boston had a couple of scares Fryatts cross from the right just evading Simpson and then keeper Paul Bastock pulling off a good save to deny Chris Billy. But, somewhat against the run of play on 10 minutes, Boston drew first blood when Graeme JONES dashed between two defenders to get on the end of a Ben Chapman pass and toe-poke the ball past keeper Matt Glennon. However, the Pilgrims were unable to consolidate their position and conceded an equaliser three minutes later. A long-range free-kick from Simpson was expertly pushed aside by Bastock, but from the resultant corner (taken by Simpson), the ball eluded Bastocks grasp and agonisingly bounced into the net off the chest of Boston defender Chris HOGG. For a while, Carlisle were then rampant and the likes of Paul Ellender, Mark Greaves and Matt Hocking had to man the pumps to prevent their side from springing more leaks. Gradually, however, the sting went out of the home attack as Boston managed to gain more possession through the middle of the park with Tom Bennett getting himself on the ball more often. However, apart from a couple of weak half-chances for Adam Boyd and Peter Duffield, there was little to suggest any more joy for Boston. Then towards the interval, Carlisle upped the tempo again.
Mark Greaves was booked for tripping Preece on the edge of the Pilgrims box. But Peter Murphys resultant free-kick was well blocked by the Boston wall. Moments before the half-time whistle Fryatt again got in a position to shoot but saw his effort deflected up and into the grateful hands of Bastock. Apart from a couple of attacking Boston flurries, the early part of the second half again belonged to Carlisle with Bastock having to save well from Preece and Fryatt. Boston answered with Boyd seeing a shot blocked after good build-up work involving Bennett, Ben Chapman and Duffield. But the action soon switched to the other end and on 59 minutes Peter Murphy missed a real sitter when failing to cash in on good work by Preece, Billy and Simpson. But in the 62nd minute Brendan McGill skipped down the right, evaded Chapman and centred for FRYATT to head home. At this point Carlisle were running rampant and Fryatt then forced another good save from Bastock. Boston tried to hit back when Paul Ellender went close with a header and the Pilgrims then threw on all their allocation of substitutes midway through the second half with transfer-listed duo Graham Potter and Stuart Douglas joining Neil Redfearn on the pitch at the expense of the injured Chapman and Duffield and Boyd respectively. Boston almost drew level in the 72nd minute when, from a Bennett corner, Ellender forced an effort towards the home goal, but the ball was hacked off the line. Carlisle hit back and Preece went close to netting a third but saw his shot flash inches too high. In the dying throes, Boston threw men forward to try and grab an equaliser with Redfearn and Potter both sparking moments of danger. But then at the other end McGill almost netted a third but was again denied by Bastock. And then Kevin Henderson broke free after a lapse by Hocking only to lose out as Bastock advanced. At the other end Potter was almost in for the chance of an equaliser, but he slipped at the crucial moment and the opportunity was lost. And then seconds from time Redfearn cursed his luck when seeing a rasping drive from distance smack away off the underside of the bar.
United team (3-4-3): Bastock; Greaves, Hocking, Ellender; Hogg, Weatherstone, Bennett, Chapman (Potter 62); Boyd (Redfearn 67), Jones, Duffield (Douglas 69). Subs (not used): Balmer, Croudson (gk).