Pilgrims 0-1 Hartlepool United
by Barbara Singleton
A solitary and somewhat disputed goal sentenced Boston United to their first defeat in five matches. But the Pilgrims still emerged with plenty of credit from an encounter in which they pushed table-topping Hartlepool all the way, with many observers feeling they were worthy of at least a share of the spoils. The moment which settled the issue came in the 70th minute when goalscorer Darrell Clarke appeared to be in an offside position when receiving the ball to fire past Paul Bastock. But referee Joe Ross, who had a good game in the middle, allowed the goal to stand with no flag being raised from his assistant. And despite battling bravely, Boston were unable to find a telling response - although they went mightily close towards the end. The Pilgrims had gone into the game minus the services of Peter Costello, Alex Higgins and Stuart Douglas. Mark Greaves, Tom Bennett and Tony Battersby replaced the trio. Conditions underfoot were treacherous and demanding for both sides in freezing conditions on a snowy surface. But all 22 players made a good fist of putting on a positive show. Early on, Pool skipper Mickey Barron rifled a shot wide from 20 yards. Boston hit back when Battersby's cross was cut out by Graeme Lee as Richard Logan looked to pounce. Next, Neil Redfearn's 30-yard free-kick was drilled straight into the arms of Anthony Williams who was again called into action to deal with another Redfearn free-kick on 11 minutes as the Boston assistant player-manager curled a 20-yarder round the defensive wall. In reply, home keeper Paul Bastock then did well to hold Tommy Widdrington's angled low drive following Mark Robinson's long throw-in. Pool pressed again when Marcus Richardson's low shot-on-the-turn was comfortably gathered by Bastock while, back at the other end, Williams had an equally easy save when he held Logan's 30-yard free-kick. Next, Bennett's ball into the box found Weatherstone who had got beyond the offside trap, but he miscued his attempted lob and a scrambling Williams was able to gather.
More Boston pressure yielded an Angel's free-kick which caused panic in the visiting back line and Williams - under pressure from McCarthy - failed to claim the ball with Battersby's attempted chip landed on the top of the net. Moments before the interval, Boston enjoyed a huge let-off. Clarke capitalised on a mix-up between Bastock and Ben Chapman to cross for Richardson. But unmarked at the back post, he inexplicably fired wide from three yards. Play became very scrappy at the beginning of the second half and Ritchie Humphreys' wild 56th minute effort found its way well over the bar after a corner had only been partially cleared. Angel's teasing ball from the left then evaded everyone in the centre as another home chance went begging. Back at the other end, Bastock did well to parry Barron's shot on 64 minutes and McCarthy was in the right place to hack the ball away as Williams threatened on the rebound. But Hartlepool took the lead on 70 minutes when CLARKE fired in past a stranded Bastock after Mark Robinson had lobbed the ball back in following a partially cleared free-kick, despite there being a huge hint of offside. After that, both sides had decent chances within the space of a minute with Redfearn's free-kick forcing a smart save out of Williams and then Bastock saved well from Clarke. In the dying stages, Boston introduced striker David Town for his first appearance of the season and he looked lively despite having just five minutes on the pitch. He went on one mazy run on the left which resulted in the Pilgrims gaining a corner off Lee. Weatherstone then saw a shot parried wide by Williams from Lee Thompson's centre. And Boston came mighty close to equalising in stoppage time when Thompson's shot cannoned back off a post after Williams had spilled Redfearn's corner. Boston tried in vain to ram home the rebound but two scrambled clearances saved Hartlepool as they held onto three - if somewhat fortunately-won - vital points.
United team: (4-4-2) 1. Bastock, 2. Greaves (Town 85), 3. Hocking, 4. McCarthy, 5. Chapman, 6. S Weatherstone, 7. Bennett, 8. Redfearn, 9. Angel, 10. Logan, 11. Battersby (L Thompson 77). Subs (not used): Gould, Balmer, Conroy (gk).