Pilgrims 0-0 Forest Green Rovers
by Barbara Singleton
It wasn't quite the result manager Steve Evans had been hoping for. A goalless outcome on Boston United's return to non-League's top flight arguably illustrated the heightened quality of organised opposition which now lies in prospect on a regular basis in the Nationwide Conference. But had it not been for the intervention of one particular seasoned campaigner, then the Pilgrims would surely have been left to celebrate a three-point haul. The man in question was veteran ex-Aston Villa goalkeeper Nigel Spink who pulled off two outstanding second-half saves to frustrate the Pilgrims - and go a long way towards earning his side a point. First in the 53rd minute he plunged expertly to his right to block a low drive from Micky Nuttell after the Boston striker had been put clear by neat build-up play from Jason Minett and Mark Rawle. Spink's second act of defiance came in 74th minute when making a miraculous reaction save at his near post to prevent Richard Lucas from sweeping the ball home. And the custodian's heroics were not lost on United boss Evans. He said: "I don't think anyone would disagree that we were the better side. To be fair, Forest Green often got 11 men back behind the ball, played on the break and looked well organised defensively. But if it hadn't been for two international-class saves by Spink, then I am sure we would have won."
Those Spink saves were notable highlights in a match which, despite yielding no goals, still produced a fair degree of entertainment. There were two early untaken half-chances for the visitors when headers by Billy Clark and Wayne Hatswell floated off target. And midway through the half, a flashing effort by David Norton drifted beyond Paul Bastock's goal. In response for the Pilgrims, there was one particular moment of misfortune when, in the sixth minute, left wing-back Lucas got on the end of a Rawle cross but saw his powerful far-post header bounce away off an upright. Later on, an 18-yard drive from Rawle and a fizzing long-range effort by Peter Costello both flew fractionally wide of the mark. The second-half highlights were Spink's two saves. But elsewhere, there were other opportunities. For Boston, Costello drilled a low effort at the Rovers' keeper while Rawle and late substitute Miguel De Souza both came close to connecting with crosses into the danger area. In reply, Rovers occasionally looked threatening on the counter attack with ex-England winger Tony Daley frequently at the heart of their creativity. The best they had to show for their efforts was a powerful Chris Burns header from a Daley corner and a shot-on-the-turn by Alex Meechan which both flashed inches away from the target.
United team: 1. Bastock, 2. Wooding, 3. Lucas, 4. Hoyle, 5. Howarth, 6. Rennie, 7. Minett (Livett 71), 8. Costello (Fewings 86), 9. Nuttell (De Souza 79), 10. Rawle, 11. Raynor. Subs (not used): Stanhope, Martin (gk).