Pilgrims 1-0 Darlington
by Barbara Singleton
Mark GREAVES' first goal for Boston United proved a decisive contribution as the Pilgrims clambered back up the Third Division table after spending 24 hours holding the unwanted bottom spot. The tall defender was on target as early as the fifth minute with a powerful header into the top corner of the net from a Neil Redfearn corner. But United's win also owed much to the tremendous form of goalkeeper Paul Bastock who produced a string of brilliant saves to keep his team in front. He frustrated the Darlington front line on several occasions with the overall result throwing the relegation fight wide open once again - notably with this win propelling the Pilgrims up to 20th spot. Boston started off in a high tempo mode with both Simon Weatherstone and Paul Ellender going close before Greaves bagged his breakthrough effort. Hopes that United might press on from that goal proved unfounded as Darlington hit back purposefully, initially with an Ashley Nicholls shot going wide and then twice in rapid succession around the 17 minute mark when first Matthew Clarke and then Danny Mellanby broke clear of the home rearguard only to see Bastock produce stunning saves when equalising strikes seemed almost certain. And the United custodian was at it again two minutes later when pushing aside a low drive from Jimmy Corbet after the Darlington man had scythed through the home defence. It came as some relief to home fans when Boston gradually forced their way back into the reckoning, even though few clear chances came their way. But at least centre backs Stuart Balmer and Matt Hocking were able to draw breath from the somewhat sustained Darlington barrage which focused much on the aerial presence and hold-up power of gangling striker Barry Conlon.
When United attacked again, Simon Weatherstone snatched at one effort while crosses from Mark Angel and Richard Logan failed to ruffle visiting keeper Andrew Collett. Back at the other end Craig Liddle got a flicked header onto a Gary Pearson free-kick, but the ball dropped wide. Then on 41 minutes, Conlon fed the ball into Clarke Keltie, but his shot was easily held by Bastock. In similar vein to the first half, Boston began the second period in lively fashion with Angel seeing a shot blocked by Collett and then Weatherstone squirting an angle drive across goal and wide after breaking clear of the visiting defence. However, once again, Darlington hit back with Conlon heading wide from a corner by Nicholls and then Corbet cutting inside to bring Bastock into action on 56 minutes with another smart stop. Boston were hanging on, although to be fair their defensive ranks - with Ben Chapman and Greaves both putting in useful shifts alongside Balmer and Hocking - looked reasonably solid as they proudly protected a valuable clean sheet, even with thickening fog descending in threatening fashion around York Street. Thankfully it held off sufficiently for the match to be finished, but not without one or two further close calls at both ends. Darlington nearly broke through on 65 minutes when Mellanby wriggled clear of two markers but lashed his acute angled drive across goal and wide. Then at the other end on 72 minutes Neil Redfearn saw a free-kick blocked while United also forced two corners which came to nothing. In response, Darlington kept plugging away for an equaliser, again with the towering frame of Conlon a focal point for some spells of pressure. But Boston creditably held on to hoist themselves clear of the two relegation slots.
United team: (4-4-2) 1. Bastock, 2. Greaves, 3. Balmer, 4. Hocking, 5. Chapman, 6. Rusk (Costello 85), 7. Redfearn, 8. Ellender, 9. Angel, 10. Weatherstone (Duffield 74), 11. Logan. Subs (not used): Gould, George, Price (gk).