Pilgrims 1-1 Northwich Victoria
With top scorer Mark Rawle having departed to Southend United and four new signings making their home league debuts, it was always going to be interesting to see how this new Boston United side would perform. All four of the recently signed newcomers made the starting line-up. Striker Jamie Cook, signed on Thursday from Oxford United, took over Rawle's No. 10 shirt. The other two new signings from Oxford - Simon Weatherstone and his younger brother Ross, started in midfield and defence respectively. Frenchman Farid Diaf plugged the gap in the centre of midfield caused by injuries to Paul Wilson, Jason Minett and Andrew Stanhope and the suspension of Jim Dick. The game took quite a while to get going. Very few chances were being created at either end. Both sets of defences were untroubled and the forwards lacked penetration. Boston's first real chance came after 18 minutes. Mick Nuttell glanced a header forward into the path of Paul Raynor who set off on a run down the left wing. He crossed deep into the Northwich area where Peter Costello fired his shot high. A few minutes later the "Vics" came close to opening the scoring. A corner was won, and from the resulting kick the ball fell to a Mark Bailey who drilled the ball with force into the Town End. In injury time at the end of the half, Northwich took the lead. A Boston attack broke down and a quick clearance found former Lincoln City striker Graham Lewis alongside Lee Howarth. A burst of acceleration by LEWIS left Howarth trailing in his wake and with just Bastock to beat he cooly placed his shot between the keeper and the right upright.
Northwich began the second half looking to increase their lead. A free kick on the left wing drifted across the Boston area before arriving at the feet of a Northwich attacker who forced a good save from Bastock, who could only deflect his shot for a corner. Action soon switched to the other end. Mark Clifford ran down the right wing, beat his marker and sent a teasing cross into the box. The ball was headed out to Simon Weatherstone who instantly knocked the ball goalwards. Only a full length fingertip save by Lance Key in the Northwich goal prevented Boston equalising. The end-to-end action continued. Bastock now found his name go into the referee's book as he had to run out of his area and make a reckless tackle to prevent Northwich forward Adie Mike from breaching the Boston defensive line. Boston got their equaliser on 63 minutes. A quick break allowed Jamie Cook to beat the offside trap and set off on a run into the Northwich box. After wriggling past two challenges he laid the ball to Farid DIAF to slot home. A goalmouth melee followed a challenge on the Vic's keeper by Paul Raynor, the result of which was the keeper being booked. A collision between Northwich defender Dean Walling and Ross Weatherstone, following a Boston corner, left Weatherstone unconscious for several minutes and with a large gash across his forehead. He was stretchered off to be replaced by Joby Gowshall. Gowshall nearly snatched a dramatic last minute winner when his header from a corner hit the crossbar.
United team: 1. Bastock, 2. Clifford, 3. Lucas, 4. R Weatherstone (Gowshall), 5. Howarth, 6. Diaf (Charlery), 7. S Weatherstone, 8. Costello, 9. Nuttell, 10. Cook, 11. Raynor. Subs not used: Lodge, Elding, Conroy.
Match report and photos by Ken Fox.