Wrexham 1-1 Pilgrims
by Barbara Singleton
The seeds of confidence and self-belief should have been substantially nourished by a hugely impressive performance from Boston United against highly-rated opposition. One point harvested from pastures in north Wales was the minimum reward the Pilgrims deserved to extract from the third match of their debut campaign in the Football League. Again it was prised from an encounter against highly-fancied opponents and followed on from demanding clashes against Bournemouth and Hartlepool. In those matches, Boston had turned in chequered performances of good and indifferent 45-minute periods. This time, and most notably, United showed greater verve and confidence in their own abilities. And although not totally convincing all the way through, at least their overall display represented an improvement and offered the hint that a steady climb up the Third Division table could materialise once the millstone of their four-point deduction is fully erased. A share of the spoils at Wrexham "hoisted" Boston up to the minus two mark and suggested that greater rewards should be only just around the corner. The basis of this belief is centred on some really positive phases of play when Neil Thompson's men showed great attacking invention and frequently had the home defence stretching to cope. And this was particularly the case for spells of the second half when - as in the previous Saturday's clash with Bournemouth - more words of half-time wisdom from Thompson seemed to have the desired effect. And the acting manager has to take credit for two impressively positive substitutions by introducing the skills and trickery of Mark Angel and then Jamie Cook in a bold attempt to even prise out maximum spoils. By that stage United had shown commendable fortitude to fight back from conceding a 27th minute goal to Lee Trundle, a striker who had previously netted twice against Boston in his formative career days with Chorley when the sides met in UniBond League and FA Trophy matches. Admittedly there were times when Wrexham threatened to add to their tally. But that was to be expected of a side packing substantial experience and three Trinidad internationals in the guise of Carlos Edwards (a constant danger down the right), the towering defensive presence of 6ft 7in skipper Dennis Lawrence and forceful substitute Hector Sam. But Boston refused to capitulate, the highlight of their afternoon being Simon Rusk's exquisite 63rd minute equaliser, bursting through to meet veteran keeper Andy Dibble head-to-head and levelling the scores with a neat clip over the advancing custodian. One point was no less than Boston deserved from their lengthy cross-country trek and their showing should provide renewed inspiration for tomorrow night's Worthington Cup trip to Bristol Rovers and next weekend's high-profile derby clash with Lincoln City. They certainly made a good fist of making a game of it in the first half and arguably - up to Wrexham prising themselves in to the lead - the Pilgrims were the more compact and confident outfit. An example of this was some tidy midfield work by the experienced Tom Bennett who grafted hard to make the United engine room tick into some creative action in tandem with Simon Weatherstone and wide players Rusk and James Gould respectively.
In defence, the Pilgrims' rearguard also enjoyed a competent first 25 minutes, the likes of Jim Rodwell and Ray Warburton in particular, doing well to keep home thrusts in check. One threat which frequently posed problems for the Boston back line was right flank man Carlos Edwards whose darting runs were a regular source of danger - and an 11th minute cross booted away by Bennett highlighted what threatening potential lie in prospect. This trickery from wide out was generally combated by some tenacious cover by Gould and Ben Chapman. Unfortunately from a Pilgrims' perspective the Edwards factor unlocked the Boston door on 27 minutes when TRUNDLE controlled a neat through pass and rifled right-footed over keeper Paul Bastock. For a spell after that breakthrough, Wrexham drew confidence from their ascendancy and had moments of pressure which kept Boston on the back foot. And this might even have yielded further dividends, notably through efforts by Trundle and Paul Barrett. But either side of falling adrift, Boston carved out positive chances of their own. One source of danger were huge clearances by Bastock which repeatedly found debutant Steve Burton. And on three occasions, the foraging Ipswich loanee only just missed out on delivering a telling contact. Then towards the break a brace of unconverted corners by Weatherstone and a cross-shot by Rusk kept the experienced Andy Dibble on his toes. In addition, last season's leading scorer Daryl Clare might have netted from six yards. But, in struggling to gain his balance, he succeeded only in forcing the ball wide. From a Boston perspective, the hope is that the former Grimsby man can soon rediscover his goal-grabbing prowess which, in turn, would hugely assist his team's quest for additional upward momentum. And immediately after the break it was Dibble's goal which came under the greater pressure, notably through a brace of efforts by Weatherstone - the first shot which flashed inches too high and then a rasping effort from a Burton lay-back which tested the reflexes of the home custodian. Mark Angel's introduction into the fray then added extra spark to an already re-invigorated second half display by the Pilgrims, notably with the substitute crossing well for Burton to have a header clutched on the line by Dibble. But within seconds came United's deserved equaliser with RUSK delivering the telling touch. And after that the Pilgrims swept forward in waves, but without being able to conjure up another strike with Clare, Weatherstone (twice) and Chapman all going close. Towards the end Wrexham, naturally, threw extra men forward in search of victory and might have profited with a bit more control in attacking areas. Trundle, Andy Morrell and Sam were notable thorns in the United defence, but crucially all lacked cohesion when in positions to have done better. And even when the ball was forced through the Boston ranks, the heroic figure of Rusk was there to boot off the line. But that mattered not a jot to the Pilgrims who can be hugely satisfied with a job well done.
United team: 1. Bastock, 2. Chapman (Morley 90), 3. Hocking, 4. Rodwell, 5. Gould (Angel 60), 6. Bennett, 7. Warburton, 8. Weatherstone, 9. Clare, 10. Burton (Cook 77), 11. Rusk. Subs not used: Conroy, Monington.
This report originally appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo.