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Hartlepool United 0-0 Pilgrims

FA Cup

With strikers Daryl Clare and David Staff cup-tied, manager Steve Evans had very few choices when selecting his starting line-up for this third round FA Cup tie at Hartlepool. One welcome return to the threadbare squad was David Noble who had recovered from his virus infection and now took up a place on the substitutes' bench. There was a very familiar face in the Hartlepool line-up. Adam Boyd, who last season had a loan-period with the Pilgrims and came close to signing for them, was playing up-front after his spectacular return to form since rejoining his home town club that has seen him become top scorer with 18 goals so far this season. It was a bitterly cold afternoon, but the gales that had been blowing all morning - causing lots of travel problems for the visiting Boston fans - had died down by the time the match kicked off. Hartlepool came very close to scoring in the opening minutes. A break down the left wing resulted in a penetrating cross across the face of the goal from Eifion Williams that ended with a shot by Antony Sweeney that was somehow deflected over the bar by a desperate goal line lunge by Kevin James. Boston soon had a couple of chances of their own. James saw a long range effort go just over the bar, then Danny Thomas had a run at goal that saw him beat three defenders, but his final shot was weak and went wide of the left post. For virtually the remainder of the half Hartlepool dominated. Williams found himself in space on the right wing but his final shot went straight into the arms of Abbey. Abbey then had to make a spectacular save when Joel Porter turned Paul Ellender inside out before firing goalwards.

A few minutes later Porter showed a turn of speed to outpace Austin McCann, but he finished his run with a shot straight at the keeper. On the half hour Hartlepool won a free kick on the edge of the Boston area after Ellender upended Boyd, but they wasted their chance when Hugh Robertson fired the kick into the Boston wall. Just before half-time Boston produced their best effort of the half when Simon Rusk broke up a Hartlepool attack and quickly passed the ball downfield to Kirk who ran down the right wing before cutting inside and shooting just over. The second half was much more even than the first, with both sides creating openings from midfield before being let down by poor final passes or weak finishing. Five minutes into the half Kirk came close to opening the scoring after shooting over the bar at the end of a sweeping Boston move involving Danny Thomas, Chris Holland and Jason Lee. Right at the death it looked like Boston would be going home to concentrate on the League when Hartlepool were awarded a penalty after Lee Beevers and Paul Ellender combined to bring down Hartlepool substitute Andrew Appleby. Adam Boyd ensured that Boston would be in the hat for Monday's fourth round draw when he blasted the resulting spot kick high and wide. After the match Steve Evans commented: "I think a lot of people in Boston will be absolutely gobsmacked when they see the result because they didn't think we were capable of getting it."

United team: Nathan Abbey, Lee Beevers, Austin McCann, Simon Rusk (David Noble 78), Paul Ellender, Mark Greaves, Kevin James, Chris Holland, Jason Lee, Andy Kirk (Lee Thompson 88), Danny Thomas. Subs not used: Courtney Pitt, Steve Melton, Dean West.

Match report copyright © Ken Fox, 2005.