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Pilgrims 1-0 Oxford United

Coca Cola League

For the first time since they joined the League, Boston United started their campaign with a win. They rode their luck in the first half, including an excellent penalty save by new goalkeeper Nathan Abbey, who is rapidly gaining cult status. Paul Bastock will have trouble regaining his place if Abbey keeps up his current good form. Confidence grew as the game progressed and a late goal by substitute Lee Thompson decided the match and gave the Pilgrims maximum points. Boston began with five newcomers in the side over that which turned out for them last season. Six if you include Greg Strong, who was signed near the end of last season, but managed to pick up an injury in training that prevented him playing any part in the remaining matches. There were two significant absentees. Firstly, last season's "Player of the Year" Paul Ellender was out serving the first of a three match suspension for penalty points picked up last season. Secondly, Boston's sensational summer signing - Paul Gascoigne - was still not well enough to turn out following a severe case of food poisoning last week. The first few minutes of the game were fairly even as each side tested the other for weaknesses. The first real chance fell to Oxford. Nathan Abbey made a pig's ear of dealing with a ball just outside the area. Hesitation allowed incoming striker Tommy Mooney to divert the ball away from the keeper. After Mooney rushed to retrieve the ball from the byline and slide it back to Lee Bradbury in the middle, Abbey made amends for his initial error by making a superb reflex save. On 23 minutes Abbey made another miraculous save that would make a big contribution towards his subsequent "Man of the Match" award. After a superb overlapping run down the left wing by Oxford's Matt Robinson, that split open the Boston defence, Greg Strong had to handle the ball to break up the attack.

The referee booked Strong and pointed to the spot. Lee Bradbury fired the penalty kick towards the bottom right hand corner, but Abbey anticipated well and was able to push the effort round the post for a corner. Boston pressure resulted in a number of corners and free kicks, but they were unable to capitalise. Their best effort was probably a curling David Noble free kick from the edge of the area that required a good save from Chris Tardif in the Oxford goal. Just before half time Lee Beevers set Martin Carruthers free with a perfectly timed pass. Carruthers picked out on-loan signing from Peterborough Gareth Jelleyman, whose shot curled inches wide of the right post. Boston started the second half well. It wasn't long before another Noble free kick was flying high over the crossbar. A longe range effort by Tom Bennett was then tipped over the bar. With twenty minutes left Boston's latest summer signing, Courtney Pitt came on for Carruthers and was soon in the action. Picking up the ball on the edge of the area, Pitt turned and fired in a shot that needed a good save from Tardif. On 75 minutes Lee Thompson joined the fray, coming on for the wobbly Jelleyman. It was an inspired substitution that soon led to the decisive goal. Full of energy, Thompson chased a through ball down the middle. Oxford defender Jon Ashton seem to have everything covered, but a lucky bounce gifted the ball to the harrying THOMPSON, who with a clear sight of goal took full advantage with a well struck shot. As the minutes ticked away, Boston looked the side more likely to score. In particular Pitt came very close, but his shot was deflected wide.

United team: Nathan Abbey, Lee Beevers, Austin McCann, Greg Strong, Mark Greaves, Gareth Jelleyman (Lee Thompson 75), Tom Bennett, David Noble, Steve Melton, Martin Carruthers (Courtney Pitt 68), Jason Lee. Subs not used: Paul Bastock, Simon Rusk, Chris Holland.

Match report copyright © Ken Fox, 2004.