Pilgrims 1-3 Reading
by Barbara Singleton
Boston United bowed out of the Carling Cup at the first round hurdle. But they gave one of the First Divisions leading lights a huge scare in the process. The Pilgrims turned in a battling performance, particularly in the second half. And with a slice of better fortune they might even have produced a real giant-killing. United trailed to an early goal from prolific marksman Nicky Forster but once Neil Redfearn had drilled home a 68th minute leveller from the penalty spot they had Reading on the rack and a clutch of opportunities went astray before the visitors struck twice inside the final seven minutes, the goal which put them 2-1 ahead possessing a huge element of luck with Steve Sidwells drive wrong-footing Paul Bastock after deflecting off Mark Greaves. For a while it seemed as though the Pilgrims might just have defied the odds. But even in defeat they took immense credit and pride from an entertaining cup-tie. Early on, Reading exerted a degree of pressure and Scott Murray a scorer at York Street last season for Bristol City went close in the fifth minute when firing wide after wriggling into the United danger area. Murray again went close in the ninth minute when firing over after good work by Andy Hughes and Forster. Boston went close in the 10th minute when inspirational midfielder Tom Bennett fed Stuart Douglas whose shot on the run was pushed aside by Marcus Hahnemann. It was in the 16th minute that Reading went ahead. Big money signing Shaun Goater cushioned the ball back for Murray to launch a pass into the path of FORSTER.
Despite being forced wide by Greaves, the visiting marksman held his footing before lashing an acute angled drive past Bastock.. Almost instantly Peter Duffield spotted Hahnemann off his line but sent a 25-yard chip wide of the target. Back at the other end Murray went close twice more with efforts over the top before testing Bastock with a low shot. In the 48th minute United almost equalised when Graham Potter whipped in a fine cross from the left for Duffield to flash a header inches too high. In response, Forster got in behind the home defence, but again Bastock saved well. Boston introduced Graeme Jones into their attack on 57 minutes and immediately he used his power to unsettle the Reading rearguard. Boston had appeals for a penalty waved aside when Adi Williams appeared to handle a cross-shot from Douglas. But with continued forward momentum, they won a spot-kick on 68 minutes when Paul Ellender was tugged back by Sidwell and substitute REDFEARN stepped up to send Hahnemann the wrong way. Boston continued to hold sway with Jones and Douglas both going close before Redfearn saw a 20-yard snap shot superbly tipped away by Hahnemann. Just when their ascendancy looked like paying off, the Pilgrims fell behind on 83 minutes to SIDWELLS deflected effort. United tried to redress the balance and threw on Richard Logan in place of defender Daryl Sutch. And they got caught on the break when Hughes ran clear and shot beyond Bastock. As the ball rolled towards goal, FORSTER slid in to make sure and seal the tie. Even then, Boston almost hit back with Logan and Ellender both seeing efforts just miss the target.
United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Sutch (Logan 85), Greaves, Hocking, Chapman; Rusk, Bennett, Ellender, Potter (Redfearn 67); Duffield (Jones 57), Douglas. Subs (not used): Balmer, Croudson (gk).