Southend United 0-2 Pilgrims
by Barbara Singleton
Arguably Boston Uniteds best performance of the season produced a vital three-point haul at the expense of opponents now left firmly in the basement zone. Victory at Southend - Bostons first on their travels this term - fired the Pilgrims up to 17th place and helped to maintain what is now a useful mini-run of five unbeaten matches. And full credit has to go to Neil Thompson and the players who turned in a whole-hearted display built on the solid platform of a terrific defensive unit and enhanced by no shortage of craft and invention further up the park. Throw in the welcome clean sheet for keeper Paul Bastock plus a brace of well-executed goals and everyone had cause to celebrate. Okay Southend were no world beaters, but the fact that they never really produced any serious threat merely reflects the excellent and efficient display turned in by the Pilgrims. It boiled down to a great team performance one which started brightly and steadily got better the longer the game went on. There was nearly a breakthrough in the fourth minute when Paul Ellender saw a cross-shot cleared off the home line by Leon Cort following good link-up play with Lee Beevers. Southend hit back and Jay Smith went close with a rising 18-yard drive which flew over Paul Bastocks bar. The Pilgrims again went close when Tom Bennett shot too high after good work by Graeme Jones and Stuart Douglas had created the opening. A good chance fell to Southend on 20 minutes when Drewe Broughton headed wide from a Mark Gower cross when seemingly well placed to have done better. In reply, Jones went close to scoring against his former club with a speculative 30-yard drive in the 30th minute which fizzed wide of the mark.
Four minutes later Simon Weatherstone accepted a short free-kick from Bennett but saw his 20-yarder deflected wide off the home wall. Back at the other end, former Barnet man Gower gave the Boston back line an anxious moment when shooting fractionally off-target in the 42nd minute. Boston began the second period on the attack and early pressure almost forced Leon Cort into conceding an own goal while moments later Douglas drilled a drive off-target. Further pressure from the visitors then culminated in a blocked cross-shot from Thompson and then a too-high finish from Weatherstone. Southends first telling effort of the second half fell to Gower on 55 minutes, but again his shooting lacked direction. Boston, though, grabbed the lead in the 59th minute when substitute Bayo Akinfenwa and Jones linked well and set up a chance for THOMPSON to fire an angled drive past Flahavan via a deflection off Jamie Stuart. On 67 minutes Jones almost doubled the lead when cashing in on slack work by Cort. But he hooked a shot wide. But Southend answered with a period of pressure which yielded a clutch of corners and almost produced an equaliser on 69 minutes when Corts header from a Gower cross was well held by Bastock. But Boston gave themselves welcome breathing space in the 76th minute when WEATHERSTONE neatly flicked the ball over Flahavan after beating the home offside trap when latching onto a hoisted forward pass from Paul Ellender. After that Southend never really looked like getting back into the argument while at the other end it was Boston who almost added to the scoreline with substitute Peter Duffield testing Flahavan with a low drive on 87 minutes.
United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Hogg, Balmer, Greaves, Beevers; L Thompson, Bennett, Ellender, Weatherstone; Douglas (Akinfenwa 56), Jones (Duffield 79). Subs (not used): Redfearn, Clarke, Croudson (gk).