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Hartlepool United 2-0 Pilgrims

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

There is a degree of difficulty in weighing up the outcome of Boston United's second match of the new Third Division campaign. In the cold light of day their two-goal reverse on the north east coast looks a clear-cut beating. And on the balance of play, few observers would argue against the margin. On the debit side, Pilgrims' connections will feel dejected there was a lack of creativity and cutting edge to at least give their travelling band of 100-plus fans something to cheer. However, the quality of the opposition should not be under-stated. Hartlepool have been play-off bridesmaids for the past three seasons and manager Chris Turner feels the squad who missed out on promotion last term are good enough to complete the job this time around. He hasn't laid out a bean on any transfers during the summer - preferring to stick with the policy of 'if it isn't broken, don't mend it.' On the basis of their first two results, Hartlepool will be up there with a chance of securing automatic promotion. So, as the campaign unfolds, Boston's result at Victoria Park might not be an isolated setback. What is not in doubt, though, is the Pilgrims appear in need of extra strike power - a fact acknowledged, by acting boss Neil Thompson. Oh, then, for a front line presence like Gordon Watson who last night used his experience, quality and no little talent to put Boston to the sword. He was a devastating difference between the sides and thoroughly merited his two-goal haul before being substituted to rapturous home applause. The Pilgrims have nothing to reproach themselves about. The application and commitment was there. Sadly and collectively they were not up to matching a very good side. Again goalkeeper Paul Bastock did nothing wrong. In fact, as on the opening day against Bournemouth, he produced a solidly consistent display with at least four marvellous saves. Defenders Matt Hocking and Ray Warburton were the ones most put to the test. But a back line can hold out only so long if the forward gears don't click into operation too regularly. Again, the likes of Tom Bennett, Simon Weatherstone and in particular James Gould all grafted away with the latter perhaps the best source of attacking ideas. In attack, Daryl Clare was a largely isolated character, having to feed off scraps and with no clear openings coming his way. Spirits need to stay high in the camp. The opening month of fixtures is by no means the easiest Boston could have faced. Matches against three newly relegated clubs - Bournemouth, Wrexham and Bury - and a forthcoming Lincoln derby and it's simple to see that rewards will be hard to come by.

Results like last night need to be taken in context and lessons learned put to use - as well as the experience gained in playing sides of the quality offered by the likes of Hartlepool. At Victoria Park, Boston certainly found the going tough, even though they managed to preserve equality until the break. But the lack of a cutting edge prevented them from responding in the same sort of fightback fashion as on Saturday. The Watson factor was decisive. He fired his team ahead from a corner 10 minutes after the break, nailed a second from the spot 22 minutes later and might easily have trebled his dividend in the dying stages. But Boston offered a brief threat early on with a long range drive by Weatherstone go wide after good work by Ben Chapman. But Hartlepool answered when a cross by Darrell Clarke just evaded the in-rushing Watson. Moments later Clarke fed Micky Barron, but his effort flew too high. A notable chance then fell to Boston, but Paul Ellender smacked a six-yard header over the bar from a Weatherstone corner. Back came the home side and it took a brilliant diving save from Bastock to keep the scores level to deny Eifion Williams on 20 minutes. Bastock saved well again moments later, clutching a Ritchie Humphreys drive. The Pilgrims settled to the task again, and on 37 minutes Jamie Cook passed inside to Tom Bennett whose shot fizzed over the bar. The home side raised the tempo at the start of the second half and Watson's goalbound drive took a deflection off Warburton before hitting the side netting. Mark Tinkler then blasted in a shot which Warburton again blocked as more pressure came in. The Pilgrims fell behind on 55 minutes when WATSON stabbed in at close range from a Humphreys corner, after a Paul Arnison shot had been pushed round a post by Bastock. Boston tried to hit back with Gould forcing Anthony Williams into a good save (his only one of the match) with a low, curling drive. On 77 minutes, Boston went two down when WATSON netted from the spot after Peter Costello had inexplicably fouled Mark Tinkler. Fired by their double strike, the home side renewed their attacking authority with Clarke and Watson both going close while Bastock produced another excellent save to defy Eifion Williams on 82 minutes. There were brief late flurries from Boston with efforts from Gould and Weatherstone, but not enough to suggest a route to potential recovery.

United team: 1. Bastock, 2. Chapman, 3. Hocking, 4. Ellender (Costello 57), 5. Rodwell, 6. Bennett, 7. Warburton, 8. Weatherstone, 9. Clare, 10. Cook, 11. Gould. Subs not used: Conroy, Monington, Angel, Town.

This report originally appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo.