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Grimsby Town 3-2 Pilgrims

Coca-Cola League

by Pete Brooksbank

"It’s there! It’s there! Daryl Clare!" BBC commentator Michael Hortin once memorably screamed, as Scott Dalton lost control next to him. You’ll remember the game and the circumstances: Boston United stunning Southport as they steamrollered their way to the 2001/2002 Conference title, a match which saw the Pilgrims claw back a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 and a match which sealed Clare’s reputation as the Conference’s deadliest striker. Ah, yes, those were the days. Remember the warm fuzzy feeling inside, the astonishing drama? Good, wasn’t it - even though you knew that someday, whenever that may be, Boston would be on the wrong end of a similar comeback. Of course, we’ve had our disappointments in the intervening four years, but none to equal this entertaining calamity. With an hour gone at Blundell Park, Pilgrims fans would no doubt have been thinking the good times were set to return. Two goals up and playing with a verve and swagger not seen since the brown envelope days, Steve Evans’ grubby, broken halo, which vanished four years ago, was in serious danger of being picked up cheap at auction, fixed, cleaned, polished and returned to the Boston dugout atop a velvet cushion by a white-glove wearing butler. Then a kid called Peter Bore ambled onto the pitch and promptly restored the natural balance. After a low key, but mostly positive pre-season, Boston kicked off their fifth Football League season and, unbelievably, remained true to Evans’ promise of sexy football, pressuring Grimsby with quick, passing football right from the off. Paul Tait, making his debut in place of the suspended Elding, signalled Boston’s intent with an early shot inside sixty seconds that failed to trouble Grimsby keeper Barnes. The home side failed to settle, looking disjointed and ill at ease with this new, glamorous South Lincolnshire outfit. United were enjoying the freedom of Cleethorpes, roaming at will and snaking past defenders with consummate ease. All very bizarre, but most welcome. Three minutes later, Tait saw a header hit the post and roll temptingly across the Grimsby box . minutes later and Greaves had an contentious goal denied by the match officials who didn’t concur with United that the ball had crossed the line. Such was the dominance one suspected that Boston may rue their missed chances, but the Pilgrims finally made the breakthrough on 16 minutes.

A high, looping ball from the excellent Tait caught the Mariners’ back four completely flat-footed. Francis GREEN controlled the ball superbly and expertly placed the ball to the right of Barnes. The anticipated Town fightback didn’t materialise; aside from a scare when Canoville scythed down Reddy, escaping with just a booking, Boston never looked in any serious trouble. Based on last season’s backs-to-the-wall performances the second-half promised to see Boston adopt a rather more cautious approach, but Evans is doubtless determined to regain his reputation as a swashbuckling exponent of attacking football. Grimsby offered nothing, and Boston swept relentlessly forward once more. With Blundell Park becoming ever quieter Grimsby attempted to counter, but their creaking defence was ruthlessly exposed by an old fashioned sucker-punch. Marriott clawed away transfer-listed Reddy’s shot on 54 minutes – both players’ only significant contributions at that point – and from the resulting corner Boston broke forward with blistering speed. When Tait rolled the ball into JOACHIM to spank the ball in from close range, 600 odd disbelieving fans started their victory celebrations. Grimsby, having looked so hopelessly toothless, reacted by dragging off Reddy after 67 minutes and replacing him with teenage debutant Peter BORE, who promptly ran up the pitch and knocked in a goal, totally and utterly unmarked – his first touch as a professional footballer. Buy the lad a half of shandy. With the home fans now awakened, the dawning inevitability of United’s demise was confirmed just five minutes later when RANKIN – man of the match – latched onto a nothing free kick punted forward by Newey while Boston’s elderly defence enjoyed a summer kip in the sea air. He nogged the ball in for Town’s equaliser, and Pilgrims’ hearts sunk. Evans left his seat in the stands to try and rouse his stalling outfit but to no avail – Peter BORE was enjoying his debut so much he fancied bagging the winner, which United graciously permitted him to do by failing to defend a corner. Bore collected a Futcher knockdown and popped the ball past a furious Marriott. Rankin missed a sitter in the last few minutes as Grimsby threatened to rout the crestfallen visitors. It would have been salt in already sore wounds. And so karma was restored, Southport avenged, and Evans left to contemplate the aftermath of a truly awesome defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory performance. Posh are next – or more precisely, Simon Yeo is next.

United team: Marriott, Canoville, T.Ryan, Ellender, Albrighton, Greaves, Galbraith (Farrell 77), Clarke, Joachim, Tait, Green. Subs not used: Holland, Talbot, Kirby, Stevens

Match report copyright © Pete Brooksbank 2006.