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Morecambe 0-0 Pilgrims

Nationwide Conference

by Barbara Singleton

Goalkeeper Paul Bastock was the hero of the hour as Boston United managed to ensure the Conference championship chase stayed on a knife-edge right through to the final day of the campaign. Now, after eight months of gruelling action and roller-coaster fortunes, the whole season boils down to 90 potentially high-anxiety minutes of football on Sunday. The fact that the Pilgrims are still in command of their own destiny, though, is down in no small measure to the abilities of Bastock who pulled off half-a-dozen excellent saves to frustrate Morecambe and keep his 13th clean sheet of the season. Arguably his best work came late in each half when he twice denied home striker Danny Carlton who threatened to dismantle all of United's cherished dreams. But the Bastock factor worked in the Pilgrims' favour. And allied to some steely determination in other areas of the park, the evidence was always there that Boston - despite not replicating their best form - were always in the market for a potentially priceless share of the spoils. As an attacking force, Boston were arguably not quite up to their customary free-scoring selves and never really looked like coming up with the goods to match their two-goals-per-game statistical average. However, there was no shortage of tenacity with Simon Weatherstone and Simon Rusk trying hard to trigger some creativity in the centre of the park, while fellow midfielder Peter Costello was the man who came closest to snatching a breakthrough when a late first half drive was deflected away off a post. But in general, the Pilgrims looked a shade edgy and finished up satisfied with the one point which keeps their Football League dream alive. Both sides had a chance apiece inside the opening few moments. First for Boston, Mark Angel made ground down the left and fed a pass into Pilgrims' leading scorer Daryl Clare, but he saw a half-hit shot bobble through to keeper Craig Mawson. Then at the other end, Ian Arnold latched onto a pass from Dave Perkins but saw his scuffed effort bounce away off the foot of a United post and Mark Clifford cleared. Boston had another let-off in the 10th minute when Carlton found himself unmarked with a clear sight of goal. But from a deep cross from the right, he succeeded only in heading off target. Boston tried hard to get to grips with proceedings after something of a nervous start, and twice Clare looked like wriggling into space, but each time the home rearguard held firm.

Meanwhile Rusk and Weatherstone grafted hard in midfield to try and create a clear-cut opening for the Pilgrims, but without success. At the other end, meanwhile, the 28th minute brought another good opening for Morecambe and Arnold got into a shooting position but fired straight at Bastock. Moments earlier, the home side had gone close when a swerving cross-cum-shot from Carlton drifted across Bastock’s goal and wide of the far post. Boston hit back and in the 40th minute they came close to breaking through. Clare retained possession, cut inside and managed to squeeze the ball out to Costello on the edge of the box. But his firm drive took an awkward deflection and spun agonisingly away from danger off a post. Almost immediately Morecambe broke clear and the dangerous Arnold surged through only to be denied by Bastock. The ball bobbled free and Carlton scrambled it into the net only for a raised offside flag to rule out the effort. Then just before the break, more home pressure yielded another opportunity. But again, Bastock performed heroics to thwart Carlton. Early in the second half, the Pilgrims made a bright start, but were soon back on their heels with Andy Gouck shooting wide and then Stewart Drummond blasting over from distance. Boston responded with more good work down the flank by Angel, but his threaded pass to Elding was met by a weak side-foot effort at Mawson. Moments later Clare saw a shot clutched by the home custodian. But then Morecambe upped the tempo and came close to denting United's dreams on three occasions. First, on 74 minutes Gouck burst through and fired too high and five minutes later Bastock superbly pushed away an Arnold shot. But in between came arguably the miss of the match when Drummond somehow headed over from a Gouck cross with the goal at his mercy. Boston battled gamely to try and grab a late winner with both Paul Ellender and Weatherstone going close. But the final say again went to Bastock with another excellent point-preserving save, bravely diving at the feet of striker Carlton as the Morecambe man burst free. The point earned by Boston in front of nearly 400 of their travelling fans on the long-haul trek ensured they retain the upper hand in the race to secure a place in the Third Division. They have edged up to the 81 point mark, the same as Dagenham and Redbridge. But a significantly superior goal difference sees them ahead - a statistic which could also have a telling say in the final count-up come Sunday evening.

Boston team: 1. Bastock, 2. Clifford, 3. Gould, 4. Ellender, 5. Costello, 6. Rodwell, 7. Rusk, 8. Elding (Tarrant 65), 9. Clare (Cook 90), 10. S Weatherstone, 11. Angel. Subs (not used): Lodge, Beesley, Conroy (gk).

This report originally appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo.