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White chases his man

Darlington 1-0 Pilgrims

Coca Cola League

Last week Darlington's manager David Hodgson made the seemingly outrageous claim that he could guarantee a victory over Boston United. Darlington began the match with the sort of injury problems that have also dogged Boston's side in recent weeks. Their shortage of strikers meant they had to head their attack with midfielders Bobby Petta and Craig Russell and give debuts to new signings Jonjo Dickman and Keith Gilroy. Boston still had a few selection problems of their own. Chris Holland returned from suspension and Darlington born Alan White slotted into the defence after Friday's move from Leyton Orient, but Mark Greaves, Daryl Clare and Dean West were still not fit enough to make their way on to the team sheet. The game was played in a bitingly cold wind with alternating periods of rain, bright sunshine and hail. The first half was a fairly scrappy affair with few clear cut chances for either side. Paul Ellender stopped a promising Darlington attack by knocking the ball away from the advancing Russell with his hand, thus giving away a free kick on the edge of the area and picking up a booking. Darlington won two corners following the kick, but couldn't make them pay. Boston's first real chance fell to Jason Lee who met White's cross with a good header, but Darlington keeper Sam Russell was able to make the save. Nathan Abbey was then called into action at the other end when he was able to block a powerful shot by Petta after he had broken clear and only had the keeper to beat. Ten minutes from half time Lee Thompson, making a rare start for Boston, almost gave Boston the lead when he got on the end of a great cross from Austin McCann, but he headed just over the bar. The second half was much more exciting with good chances at both ends.

Two minutes after the restart Boston came within a whisker of taking the lead. Danny Thomas suddenly burst past his marker on the left wing and sent in a great cross to Andy Kirk. Boston's top scorer turned and shot only to see it blocked by defender Matthew Clarke. The ball came out to Jason Lee who's first effort was parried by the Darlington keeper. The ball came back to Lee and his second effort was cleared off the line by a diving header by Brian Close. At the other end Petta missed a great chance when he got on the end of a through ball from McGurk, but he blazed wide. Simon Rusk then had a pot at goal, but his shot wasn't quite hard enough to give Sam Russell any problems. Twenty two minutes into the half, quite how Kirk volleyed wide from three yards out after Thomas had found him with yet another superb cross, I doubt if even the striker knows. Boston were punished for the miss just two minutes later when David MCGURK bundled the ball home in a goalmouth scamble following a Darlington corner. As normal time came to a close Andy White made a great intervention to prevent Darlington increasing their lead, when he knocked the ball away from an incoming attacker after a cross from the right had penetrated the Boston defence. In stoppage time Boston threw everyone forward, including keeper Nathan Abbey, in their search for an equaliser, but dogged defensive play kept them out. After the match manager Steve Evans commented: "Dave Hodgson's just said to me "How we beat you I don't know", so that's probably reflective, because they're normally quite strong here."

United team: Nathan Abbey, Alan White, Austin McCann, Paul Ellender, Chris Holland, Simon Rusk (David Staff 77), Lee Thompson, David Noble, Andy Kirk, Jason Lee (Courtney Pitt 86), Danny Thomas. Subs not used: Steve Melton, Dominic Roma, Stephen O'Donnell.

Match report copyright © Ken Fox, 2005. Photograph copyright © Ted Blair www.dafts.co.uk 2005.