Pilgrims 3-4 Hereford United
by Barbara Singleton
The two sides with the best defensive records in the Conference had their miserly statistics shredded. And on a night when the whole nation was watching via Sky Sports' satellite network, it was title-chasing Boston United who suffered the biggest hurt. The Pilgrims - for the umpteenth time in their history - failed to come up with the goods on what was, for them, a match of huge profile on home soil. The added significance last night was that vital rewards in the quest for a promotion slot up to the Football League also went by the wayside as Hereford avenged an early-season home loss against Boston and threw a spanner into the title race. Steve Evans' side needed only a draw to regain pole position from Dagenham and Redbridge. But despite racing into a 2-0 lead after just 12 minutes, his team were unable to press home their advantage. In the end, he was left to bemoan defensive frailties who proved costly and enabled Hereford to hoist themselves into the top half of the table. Evans said: "You just don't expect to score three goals at home and then lose. All of their goals came from individual mistakes by our players. It wasn't typical of the way we have defended this season. But you simply cannot afford to give away goals like that." He cited, in turn, Daryl Clare, Paul Bastock, debutant Jim Rodwell and Mark Monington for the lapses which contributed to the York Street downfall. It was little consolation that the pundits on Sky Sports rated the match highly and voted it an excellent advertisement for Conference football. From a Boston perspective, everything was going swimmingly in the opening stages. Leading scorer CLARE gave them a dream start with a sweet strike in the sixth minute when rounding off good build-up play down the left by Steven McGarry and the impressive Mark Angel.
In front of York Street's biggest crowd of the season, the Pilgrims doubled their delight six minutes later when CLARE seized possession after Neil Tarrant had flicked on a Bastock goal-kick and whacked a 30-yarder past Matt Baker. However, United were unable to consolidate as Hereford bounced back with what was effectively their first concerted attack in the 17th minute. Full-back Matthew Clarke found space on the right and fired in a cross which got Clare and Mark Clifford in a tangle, allowing Phil ROBINSON to blast a drive in off the keeper. Six minutes later the scores were level when Scott Leading scorer Clare gave them a dream start with a sweet strike in the sixth minute when rounding off good build-up play down the left by Steven McGarry and the impressive Mark Angel. GOODWIN pounced to slot in after Bastock had failed to hold a swerving free-kick from Paul Parry. With 10 minutes of the half to go, the visitors completed a stunning transformation as they prised out the lead for themselves - Parry finding scope down the right and from his cross an unmarked ROBINSON dived to head home. Boston battled hard to get back into the match and went close to equalising when Clare tested Baker and then Simon Weatherstone fired too high. The lively tempo didn't abate after the break with Boston pouring forward in search of an equaliser. Tarrant almost achieved it on 53 minutes, but saw a header bounce away off the bar. However, in the 58th minute TARRANT did the business when swooping to head in after fine creative work down the left by James Gould and Angel. Boston continued to push for an additional breakthrough with further pressure, but without a cutting edge. Hereford held on and then responded in decisive fashion when Ian Rogerson crossed from the right for unmarked substitute Rob ELMES to head in. After that, Boston made late substitutions in a bid to salvage a point. But Hereford held firm for their surprise success.
Boston team: 1. Bastock, 2. Clifford, 3. Gould, 4. Beesley, 5. Monington (Rusk 85), 6. Rodwell, 7. McGarry (Elding 78), 8. Tarrant, 9. Clare, 10. S Weatherstone, 11. Angel. Subs (not used): K Evans, Lodge, Conroy (gk).
This report originally appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo.