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Cambridge United 1-2 Pilgrims

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

A casual look at the final Third Division table provides pleasing viewing for Boston United connections. The Pilgrims are comfortably located in mid-table and (when taking into account the missing four points) have to all intents and purposes seemingly negotiated their debut season as a Football League club in commendable fashion. But, of course, everyone knows better! However, the view from an all-time high of 15th place is a hugely satisfying way to go into the summer. United's comparatively lofty placing was cemented by a tremendous 2-1 success away to Cambridge. The result helped Boston to avenge an early-season home loss against the same opponents. It also yielded a welcome fourth win on their league travels, enabled the side to sign off the campaign with a maximum haul of 12 points from their final quartet of fixtures and gave goalkeeper Paul Bastock an ideal memento of his record-equalling 572nd competitive first team appearance for United. Their victorious finale came courtesy of goals towards the end of each half from early substitute Mark Angel and midfielder Simon Rusk which sandwiched a 71st minute equaliser from Omer Riza. Boston had begun well, despite having to shuffle their ranks following the late withdrawal of defender Stuart Balmer. Mark Greaves was drafted in just before the kick-off, but the Pilgrims settled well and almost took the lead in the fifth minute when Peter Costello struck a fierce drive which was pushed aside by Shaun Marshall following Rusk's excellent run and cross from the right. Tom Bennett was desperately trying to open his Boston goalscoring account at the 38th attempt this season, and he came close twice with shots that went wide. Richard Logan also threatened, firing just wide after twisting clear of Stevland Angus. But after a lively display in the opening stages, he aggravated a long-standing knee injury and was replaced by Angel in the 28th minute. At the other end, Paul Bastock was called into action seconds later but he was more than equal to Fred Murray's low drive from the left.

Boston continued to dominate and further chances went begging. Simon Weatherstone fired over from 20 yards after latching onto a poor Angus clearance, Bennett's dipping 20-yarder was well parried by Marshall and then Rusk drilled a 20-yard shot over the top. Marshall made another great save on 31 minutes, tipping away Costello's rising effort, after a fine assist by Weatherstone. ANGEL, though, fired his side in front on 37 minutes. He seized possession and shot home a curling 25-yarder after seeing an initial drive well parried by Marshall. Duffield had chased onto the loose ball to set up the breakthrough. Weatherstone's header within a minute of the restart was well held by Marshall from Rusk's centre before the Us started to stamp their authority on proceedings. Bastock was forced into two smart saves to deny the Cambridge attack. Jonathan Heathcote got on the end of Riza's crossfield pass, but saw his fierce drive parried by Bastock. The Boston keeper then made another fine save seconds later, again from Heathcote, as the young left-winger found space in the Boston defence. RIZA wasted two good chances, drilling over and then wide before eventually pulling Cambridge on level on 71 minutes, firing home after Luke Guttridge's corner had been headed on by Terry Fleming followed by something of a scramble in the Boston six-yard box. In reply, Bennett flashed a 20-yarder wide of the post following good play by Angel, Weatherstone and Rusk. Later, Weatherstone's bobbling effort was then clawed wide by Marshall following Duffield's low cross. But Boston deservedly went back in front in the 83rd minute when RUSK nodded home at the back post after a great run and cross down the left from Angel who had been set clear by Ben Chapman. Home manager John Taylor had introduced himself into the action for a rare appearance, and he almost grabbed his side an equaliser in the 88th minute, but Bastock denied the man who is the only survivor of his own time at the Abbey Stadium from the early 1990s.

United team: (4-3-3) 1. Bastock, 2. Costello (Beevers 82), 3. Greaves, 4. Hocking, 5. Chapman, 6. Rusk, 7. Bennett, 8. Ellender, 9. Weatherstone, 10. Duffield, 11. Logan (Angel 28). Subs (not used): Gould, Town, Conroy (gk).