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Contemplating some weeding

Oxford United 2-0 Pilgrims

Coca Cola League

by Rooster

A goal in each half by Steve Basham dashed Pilgrims' playoff hopes in the early Spring sunshine at the Kassam Stadium. Boston had chances enough to win the game, and arguably was the better team, but missed the cutting edge of an instinctive finisher in the final analysis. Steve Evans lined up a virtually unchanged side from that which demolished Notts County three days earlier, with Lee Thompson starting instead of injured Chris Holland. Oxford's veteran striker Tommy Mooney came back into the side after being rested from the U's 3-1 win over Mansfield and pacey wingman Chris Hackett, fresh from scoring his first double for Oxford in the same fixture, started on the right wing. Boston began brightly having the better of the possession in the opening exchanges and looked the more likely side to get off the mark. Pilgrims forced several corners in the first half and from one of them, Paul Ellender's goalbound shot was cleared by Leo Roget. David Noble's recent improved form continued and much of Boston's playmaking sparked from his midfield creativity and possession, unhampered by perhaps the best playing surface in League Two. The Oxford defence went unpunished by the referee each time Danny Thomas surged down the wing and was hacked down. Lee Thompson's powerful shot from 30 yards carried wide to the left of the Oxford goal and two minutes later after a foul on Courtney Pitt, Simon Rusk headed wide from a David Noble freekick. On 34 minutes, defensive confusion from Hackett and Basham, was seized on by Noble and his powerful shot from 18 yards beat Chris Tardif but not the post. Oxford rode their luck again when Alan White's free header missed the mark from 8 yards. Oxford countered after a trademark last ditch interception by White went out for a throw. Hackett broke through the Boston defence at speed and attempted to chip Nathan Abbey who saved with ease.

But it was Hackett's constant threat that led to the opening goal 6 minutes before the break. His inswinging corner to the far post was not cut out by the Boston defence and Steve BASHAM crept in on the blind side and headed in from near point blank range. Boston continued to press with some fine play by Simon Rusk on the cusp of half-time. Thomas received Rusk's perfect pass and crossed superbly to an unmarked Alan White whose forceful downward header was saved well by the impressive Tardif. Oxford's lead was almost doubled at the start of the second half; a 25-yard shot was saved by Abbey from Barry Quinn. Soon after, the Irishman thought he had surely scored when Basham set him up from 17 yards, but Nathan Abbey's right arm shot out in Banksesque fashion and will go down as a strong candidate for the save of the season. In the 63rd minute BASHAM got his second after good interplay with Mooney, whose reverse pass put him through on goal before lashing the ball high into the net as Abbey came out. One plus for Boston was the second half debut of Brad Maylett, who signed on month's loan from Swansea earlier in the week, and impressed in right midfield. With 20 minutes remaining, a mazy run took him past two defenders before a third fouled him on the edge of the area. Maylett's only reward, however, was a very dubious yellow card for diving. Tardif continued to impress in the final minutes as Boston sought to get their just desserts from the game. Lee Thompson's drive was the first to be blocked, followed by an excellent fingertip save from substitute Jermaine Easter after a Jason Lee knock down. If it's any scant consolation for Pilgrims' fans, on this day in 1988, Oxford shared the points in an eight goal thriller at their old Manor Ground against a team from West London which currently tops the Premiership. GM Vauxhall Conference side Boston beat Stafford Rangers 4-1 in front of 1128 at York Street.

United team: Nathan Abbey, Dean West (Jermaine Easter 53), Alan White, Austin McCann, Paul Ellender, Simon Rusk, David Noble, Lee Thompson (Brad Maylett 64), Courtney Pitt, Daryl Clare (Jason Lee 53), Danny Thomas. Subs not used: Steve Melton, Luke Forbes.

Match report and photograph copyright © Rooster-Ferret Syndication, 2005.