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Notts County 2-1 Pilgrims

Coca Cola League

by Pete Brooksbank

Boston United’s search for a first away win is set to continue for a little longer after they were beaten 2-1 by a resilient, if unspectacular, Notts County side on Saturday. The home side survived prolonged spells of Boston pressure in the second half to secure all three points and condemn Boston to their fourth away defeat this season. In typical fashion, the game was dominated by controversial decisions from the match officials. Steve Evans was furious that referee Paul Melin did not dismiss County defender Rob Ullathorne for a professional foul on Andy Kirk, but he must be equally angered by Boston’s continued inability to win away from York Street. In the mist and drizzle that cloaked grey Meadow Lane it was, predictably, the home side that began brightest. The lively Tony Scully caused major problems on the right as County tested on-loan keeper Luke McCormick with several early crosses, bombarding the Boston goal. The Pilgrims struggled to find any kind of rhythm and seemed unsettled by how quickly the Magpies were breaking from defence. With Boston looking toothless in attack, County continued to press, Julien Baudet and Glynn Hurst both having opportunities to open the scoring but failing to hit the target. But County’s persistence was rewarded on 17 minutes when County, having played the aerial ball for the opening period, suddenly unlocked the Boston defence with a wonderful passing move, Gavin Gordon exchanging passes with Glynn Hurst. Hurst played a neat through ball allowing GORDON to race past the static Boston defence and place the ball to McCormick’s right, just inside the post. Reeling from the setback, Boston pushed forward but were almost rocked by a second County goal, Gavin Gordon’s effort ruled out for offside. The Pilgrims didn’t heed the warning signs and moments later were caught by another Notts counter-attack when Paul Bolland broke clear and faced down the hesitant McCormick. Fortunately for Boston, Bolland chose to ignore better placed team-mates.

His well struck shot eased past the stricken Boston keeper, but rolled inches past the post. With 30 minutes played, however, Notts County enjoyed their own slice of good fortune when Rob Ullathorne escaped a straight red card after hacking down Andy Kirk when he appeared to be clean through on goal. Kirk’s pace was too much for Ullathorne and when he bundled the Boston hitman over, County braced themselves for a battle with 10 men. But referee Melin opted to only caution the defender, possibly sensing that Kirk’s first touch had sent the ball too far towards Saul Deeney. Notts County began the second half as they started the first, piling on the pressure with Gavin Gordon forcing a smart stop from McCormick. On 50 minutes, Chris PALMER blazed a shot wide after creating space for himself on the edge of the area and then – just a minute later – he dealt Boston a crushing blow when he doubled County’s advantage. He jinked through the Boston back line and unleashed a powerful low shot to McCormick’s left. The second goal finally stirred the Pilgrims into life and they started to play with more urgency. Within two minutes, Boston hauled themselves back into the contest. Shortly after Courtney Pitt was booked for diving, Kirk snatched the ball from the grasp of Deeney and passed for Pitt to swirl in a cross that Paul ELLENDER nodded home. Buoyed by the goal, Boston now took command and, after surviving another disallowed goal, showed their potential quality in midfield. But with the excellent Kelvin Wilson effectively marking a subdued Pitt out of the game, the Pilgrims struggled to create clear-cut opportunities, opting to heave the ball towards Jason Lee. And although Lee Beevers forced a save from Deeney with a hooked shot over his shoulder late on, there was to be no repeat of the great escape at Sincil Bank last month. Notts County were not to be denied their victory and held on for their deserved three points.

United team: Luke McCormick, Lee Beevers, Austin McCann, Dean West (Danny Thomas 88), Paul Ellender, Mark Greaves (Simon Rusk 75), David Noble, Matt O'Halloran (Lee Thompson 69), Andy Kirk, Jason Lee, Courtney Pitt. Subs not used: Tom Bennett, Rob Norris.

Match report copyright © Pete Brooksbank, 2004.