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Boston Blues

Oxford United 0-0 Pilgrims

Coca-Cola League

by Pete Brooksbank

Dull, bland, insipid, dreary: all perfectly adequate adjectives one can use when trying to describe Oxford United’s three sided Kassam Stadium or, if you’re an Oxford Fan, yesterday’s 0-0 draw against little Boston United. Or maybe Boston United themselves. Forget the result itself for a moment and listen to those chants; those tinny ‘Boring boring Boston!’ shouts from a faraway huddle of Oxford fans sat in their half empty Oxford Mail East Stand. Listen to those same fans texting BBC Radio Oxfordshire after the game: ‘Thank God I’m not a Boston fan’, ‘What’s the point in being a professional football team if you don’t try and win matches?’ It’s becoming a regular pattern, post-match message boards clogged with the usual ‘worst side to visit xxxx this season!’ But Boston fans are developing thick skins these days. Let’s not try and pretend the match was anything other than a woeful 0-0 because it wasn’t. And let’s also paper over a couple of cracks. Lee Canoville doesn’t look like a defensive player and continues to look like a great left winger forced to play a pace-free, limited left-back role. But who cares, since once he has the ball is one of the Boston players blessed with vision, craft and a few nice ideas. Ben Futcher looks more and more like Peter Crouch every game, his dodgy distribution foiling numerous chances to counter-attack. But who cares, since Boston can press teams like Oxford, forcing them to play the lofted ball straight onto Futcher’s towering head. Yesterday’s game was further proof that Steve Evans’ men have finally moulded into the outfit they should have been by August 8th. It’s taken time, and too many points have already been lost, but this is a team that now know how to win at home and make it hard for the opposition when playing away. True, the game at Notts County and parts of yesterday’s game showed they are prepared to make enemies along the way, but in context of the short League history of Boston United this is the norm. However dull, this was a performance with more structure and discipline than the Meadow Lane fiasco a fortnight ago. At no time were the Pilgrims seriously threatened by Oxford and Steve Evans might feel aggrieved to leave the Kassam with only a point, having seen his team outplay the home side for most of the game.

Boston started with an unchanged line-up from the mid-week LDV victory over Huddersfield on Wednesday. Oxford started with three central defenders in a 3-4-3. The early exchanges were diabolical, one of the worst ten minutes of football the universe has ever witnessed at any level, both teams content to ping the ball off each other’s head as if the senile Sepp Blatter had declared allowing the ball to touch the turf was an automatic red card offence. Eventually the match settled and so too did Boston and it soon became clear that Oxford were going to struggle against a very industrious visiting side. Oxford’s lack of width in defence was something the Pilgrims should have done more to exploit and Lee Canoville did attempt the odd defence splitting through ball, but often they were either over-hit or marshalled out for a goal kick. Genuine chances were few and far between, but it was Boston who pressed forward. Chris Holland tested Oxford keeper Billy Turley just before half-time, his long range shot forcing Turley into a smart save. Oxford offered absolutely nothing all half, and hardly made much more of an impact once the second half was underway, although having changed to a more conventional 4-4-2 made life a little tougher for Boston. Just after the hour mark Craig Davies fired a low cross across the Boston United penalty area that Eric Sabin failed to connect with. Ten minutes later Abbey made what was quite possibly his only notable contribution of the afternoon when he made an easy save from Davies’ tame effort. It wasn’t long before Boston started playing for the point and what little attacking zeal they had evaporated. Frustrated, Oxford continued banging long balls but had no joy against Ben Futcher. On 85 minutes, Futcher almost won the game for the Pilgrims after he found a goal-bound header cleared off the line from Ian Ross’ corner. Boston forced a succession of corners as the game petered out and Ross, the corner taker, found himself the fall guy for previous time wasting from Abbey, earning a booking as he ambled over to the corner flag. My Man of the Match: Ian Ross.

United team: Nathan Abbey, Lee Canoville, Ben Futcher, Alan White, Mark Greaves, Chris Holland, Brad Maylett (Simon Rusk 90), Ian Ross (Austin McCann 90), Stewart Talbot, Julian Joachim, Lawrie Dudfield (Jason Lee 82). Subs not used: Paul Ellender, Danny Thomas.

Match report copyright © Pete Brooksbank 2005. Photograph copyright © Pat Everitt 2005.