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Cambridge United 0-1 Pilgrims

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

An early goal from Stuart Balmer coupled with an all-round team display full of character and determination fired Boston United to three important Third Division points. The win also avenged an early season home loss against Cambridge and went some way towards starting to redress the Pilgrims’ poor away record. The fact that Cambridge had - and still have - the worst home record in the division should not detract from the performance of Steve Evans’ team. And on a night when several other strugglers in the table also pocketed useful returns, the victory gave Boston a degree of breathing space in the on-going battle to secure their Football League status. On a night when United were down to their last 15 fit and available players (plus coach Paul Raynor), the Pilgrims started in up-tempo fashion and easily enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges. Early on Graeme Jones was only just off target with a header from a Tom Bennett cross. The visitors were rewarded on six minutes when BALMER scored with a sweetly stuck low shot after a Mark Angel corner had dropped invitingly eight yards from goal. Moments later a sweeping move involving Jones, Lee Thompson and Stuart Douglas led to a shooting chance for Angel but he fired wide. Then Douglas was put clear by Balmer but fluffed his chance when one-on-one with keeper Shaun Marshall. Cambridge's first real response came on 15 minutes when Ashley Nicholls broke clear, but his effort was headed away from close to goal by Lee Beevers. Then a free-kick from Shane Tudor was met by Adam Tann, but his header went wide. Boston hit back with Jones and Douglas linking well to set Thompson free, but he was denied by a good save from Marshall.

Cambridge seldom attacked with any composure but they managed a reply when a shot from Fred Murray flew wide. Right on the stroke of half-time Boston almost doubled their lead when Jones found space to feed Thompson. He was partially tackled and the ball broke to Bennett whose fierce shot was pushed aside by Marshall. Cambridge almost drew level on 52 minutes when Luke Guttridge broke and fed Jermaine Easter who slid the ball across to Tudor but the latter’s shot flashed past a post. Next, Tudor took a 61st minute free-kick but his 25-yard shot beat the Pilgrims’ defensive wall and flew too high. Boston hit back with a moment of danger of their own from a 68th minute free-kick chipped into the home area by Bennett. Mark Greaves tried to win aerial possession but was beaten to the ball as Marshall powered out to punch clear - flattening the Boston player in the process. Boston continued to hold a good defensive line even allowing for Balmer making way through injury for Matt Hocking with the likes of Beevers, Greaves and Chapman all doing well in the rearguard. As the second half wore on, Boston managed to find a way forward again in the 77th minute when Jones’ shot from the edge of the box was blocked by Duncan. Then on 84 minutes Thompson crossed from the right and Douglas headed over. Right at the death, Cambridge came close to a leveller when a ball crossed in from the right led to confusion in the Boston defence. But with bodies all over the place in a moment of panic, home substitute John Turner raced in only to blaze over from 18 yards and the Pilgrims gleefully saw out time for a valuable victory.

United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Beevers, Balmer (Hocking 58), Greaves, Chapman; Thompson, Bennett, Ellender, Angel (Clarke 90); Douglas (Brown 89), Jones. Subs (not used): Croudson (gk), Raynor.

Match report copyright © Barbara Singleton, 2004.