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Jason attracts attention

Rushden & Diamonds 4-2 Pilgrims

Coca Cola League

With captain Paul Ellender out suspended, Steve Evans was forced into some imaginative shuffling of his threadbare squad. He ended up deploying Jason Lee in the centre of defence and having Daryl Clare and Courtney Pitt as his strikeforce. Seventeen year old Tom Hurst was also brought in from the youth team to make his first team debut on the substitutes bench instead of veteran Paul Raynor. Boston began very well against their relegation threatened opponents. They took the lead from the penalty spot on 12 minutes after Brad Maylett was adjudged to have been fouled by Rob Gier. Daryl CLARE scored a rare League goal as he sent the keeper the wrong way with his spot kick. Boston kept applying pressure and Maylett came close when he headed a cross from Danny Thomas just wide. Rushden equalised after 27 minutes after seeing their first shot on target - a drive by Sheffield United loanee Billy Sharp - deflect off Alan White. The subsequent corner ended with a shot by Stuart Gray that Nathan Abbey could only parry, letting Drewe BROUGHTON tap the ball across the line from two yards out. David Noble almost scored with a 40 yard drive that Rushden keeper Scott Shearer managed to palm wide. Boston regained the lead in the 34th minute when MAYLETT headed home Courtney Pitt's cross from the right. Rushden almost equalised just before half-time, but Abbey was able to push a free-kick by Neil McCafferty onto the crossbar and Danny Thomas then made a goal-line clearance to deny Gray. Boston should have gone 3-1 up soon after the start of the second half.

A one-two between Pitt and David Noble gave Pitt the chance of scoring from six yards out, but he somehow managed to hit the ball wide when a goal looked certain. The miss turned the game in Rushden's favour. They drew level for the second time when Gray passed the ball into the box where it found Billy SHARP who turned and drilled his shot past Abbey. Rushden then had a good penalty appeal turned down after Maylett bundled Andy Burgess to the ground. The Diamonds went in front for the first time in the 65th minute when SHARP got his second goal after outpacing the sluggish Austin McCann as he latched on to a long-ball downfield. Boston then decided to change formation, bringing on Tom Hurst for Courtney Pitt, allowing Jason Lee to resume striker's duties. Fortune seemed to be shifting towards the Pilgrims when Rob Gier was sent off after picking up a second booking with ten minutes remaining. However, it was Rushden who completed the scoring when SHARP got his hat-trick in the 82nd minute as he turned McCann and fired home. Boston picked up four more bookings in the match to confirm their position as the dirtiest team in the Football League. After the game manager Steve Evans commented: "We've been individually very, very bad defensively. We've got to learn from that for next season."

United team: Nathan Abbey, Alan White, Jason Lee, Austin McCann, Brad Maylett, Simon Rusk, David Noble, Chris Holland, Danny Thomas, Daryl Clare (Lee Thompson 66), Courtney Pitt (Tom Hurst 78). Subs not used: Dean West, Jermaine Easter, Stephen O'Donnell.

Match report copyright © Ken Fox, 2005. Photograph copyright © Pat Everitt, 2005.