Rushden & Diamonds 0-0 Pilgrims
by Barbara Singleton
Being a match for the best is always a positive sign. And Boston United can draw huge satisfaction from earning a share of the spoils at the home of the Manchester United of non-league football. Money-bags Rushden and Diamonds, complete with their stunning state-of-the-art stadium, are widely regarded as hot favourites for the Conference title. But the Pilgrims were not over-awed. Urged on by the tremendous vocal backing of more than 1,000 of their fans in a crowd of more than 4,500, Boston were arguably the better side throughout the 90 minutes. Their cause was probably helped by the 57th minute dismissal of Diamonds' leading scorer Duane Darby for elbowing Jim Dick. But United manager Steve Evans didn't really regard that as a telling factor. He said: "Whether it was against 10 or 11, I thought we were superb throughout and barely gave them any sort of sniff at goal. We had several chances ourselves and in all honesty, we could have done better with one or two of them. In fact we are a little disappointed not to have taken all three points. But that's a sign of just how far we have come this season." In the early stages, both sides seemed tentative in their approach work and clear-cut openings were few and far between.
Rushden's prolific strike pair of Darby and Justin Jackson (17 goals between them this term) were superbly nullified by United central defenders Colin Hoyle and Joby Gowshall. At the other end, the Pilgrims front pair of Ken Charlery and Paul Fewings frequently had the home defence at full stretch while good flank play by Andy Stanhope and Paul Raynor was a prominent source of creativity. Boston's best first-half chances saw two Richard Lucas corners being scrambled away from almost on the goal-line and later on a rasping drive by Stanhope being brilliantly pushed away by Billy Turley. Rushden's most notable responses saw Darby and Jackson test Paul Bastock on 21 and 27 minutes respectively while Gary Mills blazed too high on the half-hour after good build-up play by Jon Brady and Jackson. It was a similar tale in the second half with both sides having few genuine openings of note. Best for Rushden were a curling drive from Brady and a Jackson snap-shot, both of which called Bastock into action. At the other end, a 49th minute Paul Wilson free-kick was held by Turley. Then midway through the half, efforts from Stanhope and Charlery flashed inches wide. With time running out another Wilson drive flew too high. And then in the dying seconds Charlery forced the ball across goal for Dick and Stanhope to miss agonisingly with the goal seemingly at their mercies.
United team: 1. Bastock, 2. Wooding, 3. Lucas, 4. Hoyle, 5. Gowshall, 6. Wilson, 7. Stanhope, 8. Charlery, 9. Raynor (French 87), 10. Fewings (Rawle 80), 11. Dick. Subs (not used): Curtis, Minett, Martin.