Pilgrims 3-1 Salisbury City
Dr Martens League
Match Report by Chris Donkin
Resign. That was the word that was screaming out from this morning's tabloid headlines. Pilgrims' fans weren't too bothered as to whether the President of the United States was set to call it a day - they were more interested in the resignation of Boston United's manager Greg Fee. Greg's parting had taken place a week ago and caretaker boss Cook was desperately trying to find the right recipe. The United faithful were unconcerned about the salacious revelations of life in the Oval Office - the questions on their mind were (a) would their lip-smacking anticipation of the clash with Salisbury end with the expected climax? (b) would Chris give a couple of youngsters their head and (c) could he select strikers who would be able to gobble up any chances that were created.
In the event Chris Cook decided to implement a few subtle but significant changes. Richard Mason was selected to play as left wing back with Gowshall, Hardy, Clyde and Curtis making up a solid back line. This allowed Chris Withe to move into the midfield to join Appleby and Charles - a trio with a combined age of well over 100! I must confess that the thought of an ageing Withe as a midfielder never occurred to me but the veteran had a fine match and fully justified this innovative selection. Up front the Caretaker Manager chose Watts and Stanhope. The choice of Stanhope in preference to Munton raised a few eyebrows but few of the regulars would complain about his contribution. In Cook's short Caretaker reign Stanhope has become a key figure and of course he had scored against Halesowen earlier in the week.
STANHOPE took only two minutes to repay Chris Cook's faith in him. He netted in fine style with a clever close range volley after Mason had sent in a teasing low cross from the left. Indeed the Pilgrims dominated the first period and it was a surprise that they only led by the odd goal in three at the interval. Appleby and Charles (twice) had troubled the keeper with well controlled shots from the edge of the box before the strange events of the 38th minute. To everyone's surprise (the United players had turned round and started running back towards the half way line) the referee awarded a corner to the Pilgrims after Stanhope had headed over the Salisbury bar for what was clearly a goal kick. Stan the Man took the kick himself and almost apologetically drove it straight at a Salisbury defender. The ball bounced back to him and he repeated his trick - hitting the first defender once more. When the ball bounced back at his feet again this time enough was enough. Stanhope sent over a wicked curling cross which was glanced into the far corner of the net by the alert CHARLES.
Against the run of play Salisbury snatched a goal back in first half stoppage time. The visitors sprung the United offside trap and Adrian RANDALL gave on-loan keeper Matt Dickins no chance.
The Salisbury goal had changed the complexion of the game somewhat and the southerners resumed the contest in spirited fashion. Dickins proved himself worthy of standing in for The Great Bald One in making a superb reflex save in the 53rd minute. After weathering this 10 minute storm the Pilgrims then started to assert themsleves again. Stanhope, Charles and Watts all went close. Paul Watts in particular will rue his specific opportunity. He headed over from close range in the 62nd minute when it looked easier to score. A few minutes later he was replaced by Munton in a move that seemed to be designed to protect the youngster's fragile confidence.
The killer goal finally arrived in the 78th minute when a visting defender obliged with a timely own goal. Stanhope (yes, him again!) had concluded a fine passing move with a low and hard cross from the right. In an effort to stop the ball reaching the incoming Munton the unfortunate LOVELL succeeded in turning the ball past his own keeper. Melson replaced an unusually quiet Appleby as Boston ran down the clock to record their first home win of the season. Hard earned, but well deserved.
So two questions remain. This time next week (1) Will Bill Clinton still be President? and (2) Will Chris Cook still be in charge at York Street? As for the first question - I don't give a damn. As for the second - I hope so. During the summer I had the pleasure of working with Chris in recruiting the new intake for the Boston College / Boston United Football for Life Scheme. It is hard to envisage the club being able to attract any individual with a (a) a better knowledge of the non-league scene or (b) a better way with people - whether they be Boston United footballers, local collaborators or football-daft youngsters. Certainly his performance today must encourage the directors to consider giving Cookie the job on a permanent basis. He gets my vote .. and I have a sneaking suspicion that he gets Andrew Stanhope's vote too!
United team: 1. Matt Dickins, 2. Joby Gowshall, 3. Len Curtis, 4. Chris Withe, 5. Martin Hardy, 6. Steve Charles, 7. Andrew Stanhope, 8. Steve Appleby, 9. Paul Watts, 10. Darren Clyde, 11. Richard Mason, 12. Darren Munton, 14. Brian Horseman, 15. Mark Melson