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Futcher heads goalwards

Pilgrims 1-1 Shrewsbury Town

Coca-Cola League

by Pete Brooksbank

Boston United's lack of depth has been exposed worryingly early in the season, a depleted squad only just able to salvage a draw with a particularly average Shrewsbury Town last night. With Daryl Clare still out following his asthma attack at the weekend, the Pilgrims were hit by a multiple case of the runs: the digestive ailments that kept out Julian Joachim (and had Noel Whelen clenching his buttocks on the bench) and the mazy, tricksy and totally unproductive runs of Danny Thomas on the left wing. United did start with Jason Lee up front, no doubt a relief for the Boston midfield following his absence on Saturday. The Pilgrims, who are perfectly capable of playing a neat passing game should they ever feel the urge, spent a good 75 minutes launching the ball to the towering striker for him to flick it on to… well, no one, leaving the crowd to sit in grim silence awaiting the arrival of David Noble and some real football. The legions of vacant season ticket holder seats, complete with peeling labels from last season, made of mockery of the club's claims of record sales, repeated again by John Blackwell in the programme notes. Fans with early bird tickets also found themselves owners of already occupied seats, all of which made for a deflating atmosphere until the final 10 minutes. Boston's lack of firepower up front was evident for most of the game, yet they almost took the lead as early as the fourth minute. Brad Maylett's corner was directed towards Ben Futcher, who was being marked - not that it mattered. Futcher's powerful header was parried by Joe Hart, and Danny Thomas' follow-up shot was blocked. That was about as much action as fans saw in a thoroughly mediocre first 45 minutes. The entertainment on the pitch prompted one small girl, probably only about six years old, to hail the bench: "Bring Stuart Douglas on!", although she must surely have fallen asleep and started having some kind of flashback. The usual smattering of boos hooted from seven or eight fans greeted the half-time whistle and when the players returned Simon Rusk had been replaced by Noel Whelen. Whelen is looking increasingly threatening but is still evidently lacking match fitness at the moment.

Boston managed to press Shrewsbury back, but they were defending deep and well, limiting the home side to barely note worthy half-chances. Shrews left-back Kevin Sharp was doing a solid job in particular, especially as Brad Maylett and Lee Canoville were on top form and showing some real promise on the right. Danny Thomas continued his hustling runs but lacked pacy support, leaving him to try and baffle the visitors all by himself. With just over 20 minutes left, the visitors took the lead when Ben Smith pounced on a loose ball just inside the box. The ball had been wrestled from a Shrewsbury attacker and it fell in SMITH'S path for him to dispatch a good curling finish to Nathan Abbey's right. A little unlucky for the Pilgrims as they had defended adequately enough, with Ben Futcher looking good even if his distribution could do with an upgrade. That United had been so toothless prior to the goal seemed to suggest they were condemned to a defeat. But five minutes later Austin McCann made way for David Noble and Boston finally began to play some football. However Shrewsbury had a great chance to bury the Pilgrims when they counter-attacked with men over. Smith decided to try a long range lob over Abbey rather than use the overlap, but his shot was well over. At League Two level, teams that combine passing football with physical strength eventually prevail. Steve Evans may one day come to believe this as well; perhaps Jason Lee's 84th minute equaliser may speed this process. Lee Canoville was the catalyst, his superb run into the Shrewsbury box was followed by a great cross that didn't achieve orbit and left LEE the easiest of tap ins. It can be that easy if Boston want. More passing followed, plenty of pressure, and the Pilgrims almost snatched an undeserved win when Danny Thomas' overhead kick - from another brilliant Canoville cross - cracked against the left upright. Unlucky perhaps, but another indication that Boston are playing the wrong type of football. Much has been made of Steve Evans' need for a coach. Perhaps he should listen to the posthumous advice of Brian Clough and stop trying to play football where God neglected to plant grass. My Man of the Match: Lee Canoville.

United team: Nathan Abbey, Lee Canoville, Austin McCann (David Noble 78), Ben Futcher, Mark Greaves, Simon Rusk (Noel Whelan 46), Stewart Talbot (Gavin Johnson 88), Chris Holland, Brad Maylett, Jason Lee, Danny Thomas. Sub not used: Alan White, Chris Wright.

Match report copyright © Pete Brooksbank 2005. Photograph copyright © Pat Everitt 2005.