Pilgrims 1-1 Oxford United
by Barbara Singleton
It was another case of late anguish for Boston United. But at least there was some comfort to be gained from a testing clash with promotion-chasing Oxford. The visitors claimed an 88th minute share of the spoils through Jefferson Louis, a goal which cancelled out a fine first half header by Graeme Jones. However, at least a home point and a creditably competitive Boston display helped to lift some of the clouds of gloom which had gathered over York Street during the preceding few days. And hopefully it will act as a catalyst for even brighter times to come. The Pilgrims, with a clutch of changes to their line-up, had set off with a good attacking tempo and three chances emerged inside the opening 10 minutes. Jones curled a shot inches too high, an outrageous dipping drive from distance by Lee Thompson tested keeper Andy Woodman and then Simon Weatherstone hurried a snap-shot and the ball bobbled through to the keeper after a Jones through ball had split the Oxford back line. The visitors gradually got back into the reckoning with early substitute and ex-Pilgrim Mark Rawle - on for fractured leg victim Andy Scott - got in a shot which Stuart Balmer did well to block. A few minutes later Rawle did well to wriggle free and set up colleague Dean Whitehead. But his drive flew too high. But Boston hit back in the best way possible, by taking the lead. In the 35th minute a good attacking move culminated in a cross from Weatherstone being met by JONES and his header curled beyond Woodman and into the net.
Just before the break the scores were nearly levelled up but Rawle headed wide from a Whitehead cross. After the break Bostons revised back line was disrupted when Mark Greaves was forced to hobble out of the action to be replaced by Ryan Clarke. Boston almost doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute when Mark Angel accepted a short free-kick from the left by Tom Bennett but his goal-bound curling strike was hacked clear by Paul McCarthy. Straight from the resultant breakaway, Whitehead broke free from the home defence but chipped wide when left with only Bastock to beat. Visiting full-back Scott McNiven was lucky to receive just one yellow card after chopping down Angel twice inside a minute. Referee Kevin Friend hoisted yellow for the first offence, but strangely kept his cards concealed for what looked a much more robust second challenge. McNiven duly made way for Louis 56th minute introduction and twice within a few minutes the substitute saw a header and then a shot fly inches off target. Boston battled hard to try and put the game beyond retrieval, notably with Thompson working superbly in midfield in tandem with solid defensive work by Matt Hocking and Balmer. But Weatherstone and Jones were unable to pierce the Oxford rearguard again and the visitors held on to launch their late point-saving mission. It came when home substitute Stuart Douglas conceded a free-kick wide on the left and from Whiteheads delivery LOUIS rose to loop a headed equaliser in off Bastocks right hand post.
United team (3-5-2): Bastock; Greaves (Clarke 47), Balmer, Hocking; Beevers, Bennett, Thompson, Angel, Chapman; Jones (Douglas 78, Duffield 90), Weatherstone. Subs (not used): White, Croudson (gk).