Pilgrims 1-1 Rushden & Diamonds
by Barbara Singleton
Another tenacious performance contributed another hard-earned point for Boston United's Third Division basement zone escape bid. The Pilgrims matched high-riding Rushden and Diamonds for long spells in a well-contested encounter. And in the end, both camps reflected positively on the outcome. United manager Neil Thompson said: "I thought we did really well for the first half-hour and then got a good goal in the second half. It was always going to be difficult for us to hang on to that lead because they have some good quality in their attack. What we have to do now is stay strong and brave for the challenges ahead." Diamonds manager Brian Talbot said: "The pitch was a bit lively and made it difficult for us to pass the ball around. But it was a good point for us because Boston are fighting for their lives. I think it was a fair result for all concerned." The match itself got off to something of an uneventful start with neither side really creating any sort of serious threat inside the opening minutes. Best moments from a Boston perspective saw Neil Redfearn and Mark Angel both fire shots off target. And then on 15 minutes United came desperately close to taking the lead when Simon Weatherstone found space down the right and drilled a low shot goalwards only for keeper Bill Turley to pull of an important block with his outstretched legs. Rushden gradually got into the argument and became a more positive force for a spell. Their first real chance came in the 25th minute and saw David Bell slide a pass through for Duane Darby but he scooped the ball over from 12 yards with only Paul Bastock to beat. A few moments later Onandi Lowe burst into the home area but saw a shot blocked by Stuart Balmer. And Lowe was again a threatening presence when rising to meet a Bell free-kick only for Bastock to tip his header over the top.
Boston hit back with a 41st minute drive from Neil Redfearn which drifted just past a post and the same fate then befell a similar effort from Weatherstone. There was a chance apiece inside the first few moments of the second half with a hoisted chip-shot-cum-cross by Richard Logan almost catching out Turley. But the Rushden goalie back-pedalled to clutch just under his bar. Immediately at the other end, Weatherstone conceded possession inside his own half and Lowe dashed through before firing just wide. Rushden pressed again and on 56 minutes Darby raced on to a pass from Stuart Wardley but he fired wide. Then Lowe burst through and once again failed to find the target. Boston hit back when Logan was shoved to the floor by Barry Hunter. Redfearn stepped up to take the free-kick 20-yards out but saw his low effort blocked by the Rushden wall. But, on 67 minutes Boston broke the deadlock with a goal of superb quality. An attacking move led to the ball finding Angel on the left. His low cross to towards the edge of the box was met on the volley by new signing Graeme JONES - brought on only nine minutes earlier for the injured Simon Rusk. And his sweetly-struck left-foot curler swept into the bottom corner past a flailing Turvey. From then on, though, it was Rushden in the ascendancy. And the visitors created a clutch of chances in their quest to keep their promotion aspirations alive. First, Hall rifled an angled drive wide of the far post after being fed by Wardley's pass and minute later, Lowe somehow managed to scoop an overhead kick wide of the post following a goalmouth scramble. But Rushden equalised on 79 minutes when DARBY fired low into the net following Lowe's fine nodded down assist after Bignot's throw-in had been fired into the area by Andy Sambrook. After that the visitors kept pressing, but Boston held firm to claim a vital share of the spoils.
United team: (4-4-2) 1. Bastock, 2. Greaves, 3. Hocking, 4. Balmer, 5. Chapman, 6. Rusk (Jones 58), 7. Ellender, 8. Redfearn, 9. Angel, 10. Logan, 11. Weatherstone. Subs (not used): Duffield, Douglas, Gould, Price (gk).