Pilgrims 1-0 Southend United
by Barbara Singleton
It's not mathematically sure, but Boston United's prospects of Third Division survival got a whole lot rosier with this battling and hard-fought triumph over mid-table Southend. A late Mark Angel penalty ultimately proved the difference between the sides, the spot-kick being awarded when fellow substitute David Town nipped onto a weak back-header from Damon Searle before being upended by keeper Darryl Flahavan. Angel, who had also earlier emerged from the bench, kept his cool to dispatch the 85th minute spot-kick and trigger wild scenes of delirium at York Street. It now means that the Pilgrims effectively need just one point from their final two matches to totally guarantee safety. It was a dramatic way to end a match which had seen some creative phases of play, but also a lot of high ball tactics in swirling, windy conditions and on a bobbly surface. Fortunes in the opening stages of the first half were generally even although Boston arguably had the better of the clear-cut chances. Midfielder Neil Redfearn was twice out of luck with a brace of shots from distance. At the other end, there were a couple of worrying moments for Boston when towering central defender Leon Cort threatened with powerful headers from corners by Kevin Maher. As the first half continued, both sides scrapped it out for supremacy, but cohesive football was somewhat limited. However, Boston pressed again and on 30 minutes Paul Ellender found himself on the end of good build-up play by Simon Weatherstone, Ben Chapman and Peter Duffield but fired wide. Southend hit back with Neil Jenkins making space for himself.
But a wild finish rattled into the roof of the York Street stand. Back at the other end, Boston almost took the lead right on half-time when Duffield's rasping 25-yard shot beat Flahavan, but skimmed the top of the bar. There was a chance apiece at both ends early in the second half. First for Boston, Stuart Douglas - on the field for the injured Richard Logan - tested Flahavan while in response ex-Pilgrim Mark Rawle headed wide from a Brett Darby cross. Boston introduced Angel on 62 minutes and instantly he whipped in a couple of crosses to test the visitors' defence. Then Douglas cashed in on a slip by Cort, but found Flahavan quick to dash out and save. In reply Jenkins was again a threat, but fired fractionally off target from distance. On 73 minutes Boston threatened again with a Redfearn free-kick finding Ellender at the far post. But his header dropped onto the top of the net. The Pilgrims were desperately unlucky on 79 minutes when Redfearn smacked an acute-angled 20 yard free-kick against the face of the Southend bar. But relief was joyously triggered on 85 minutes when Searle didn't get enough purchase on a header back to Flahavan and Town darted in only to be felled by the keeper, giving ANGEL the chance to fire high into the net to seal a priceless maximum points haul - although there was one late scare for Boston when Mark Beard wriggled through for Southend, but fired into the side-netting, a finish which summed up the visitors' day - no efforts at all on target to trouble Paul Bastock.
United team: (4-3-3) 1. Bastock, 2. Hocking, 3. Balmer, 4. Ellender, 5. Chapman, 6. Rusk, 7. Redfearn, 8. Bennett, 9. Logan (Douglas 42), 10. Duffield (Town 79), 11. Weatherstone (Angel 62). Subs (not used): Costello, Conroy (gk).