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Costello concentration

Pilgrims 2-1 Macclesfield Town

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

The future's bright. It's amber and black! Boston United connections can now truly relax and savour the club's continued membership of the Third Division. Victory over Macclesfield cemented beyond doubt the Pilgrims' survival in their debut season as a Football League club. A first half penalty from Peter Duffield and a second half header from Matt Hocking proved enough to eclipse a reply from Macclesfield's Colin Little. The three points harvested took United's tally for the season to 51 and hoisted them to an all-time high of 17th position in the table. Victory over the Silkmen gave Boston revenge for a 2-0 reverse in Cheshire against Macclesfield and helped United to their 11th home league win of the season. Boston had opened proceedings in bright fashion and they went close to establishing an early lead three times in the opening 15 minutes. First Simon Weatherstone saw a low drive well held by keeper Steve Wilson and later on efforts from distance by Duffield and Richard Logan flew inches too high. Boston, though, grabbed the lead on 20 minutes when DUFFIELD netted from the spot after Wilson had pulled back Logan who had beaten the keeper in a tussle for possession at the edge of the area following a forceful forward pass by Ben Chapman. Macclesfield looked to respond and went close when a curling free-kick from Chris Priest just missed the head of Kyle Lightbourne. But Boston hit back in lively fashion and crosses from Weatherstone and Simon Rusk had the visiting rearguard desperately scrambling to clear. Meanwhile, little was seen of the Macclesfield attack, their only other opportunity of note seeing Michael Welch blaze wildly off-target from a quickly-taken free-kick 30 yards out.

After the break, Boston were again quick onto the offensive with Logan lobbing just over on 47 minutes. But the home lead was doubled in the 51st minute. Logan accepted a short free-kick from Tom Bennett near the left corner flag and crossed into the danger area. Paul Ellender got a crucial flick to divert the ball beyond visiting defenders but importantly straight onto the head of the lunging HOCKING who joyously dived in to head his first goal of the season. Macclesfield answered with their most positive phase of play in the game. In the 57th minute, substitute Matthew Tipton saw a shot pushed round a post by home keeper Paul Bastock. But four minutes later the United custodian was beaten despite making a good parrying save from an angled drive by John Miles. The ball broke free for substitute LITTLE to drill into an unguarded net. Boston responded with more useful attacking play, notably with Ellender and Bennett pulling the strings in centre field while Peter Costello - restored to right-back - provided some powerful surging runs into enemy territory. Then, in the 76th minute, Logan found space on the edge of the box only for Wilson to push away his fierce shot on the turn. Meanwhile, substitute Stuart Douglas twice saw efforts blocked when he got into threatening positions. In rearguard areas, Boston continued to be well-served by Stuart Balmer and Hocking in particular. But there was one final let-off for United nine minutes from time when Welch crossed from the left and Little directed a header onto and over Bastock's bar. It was another warning for Boston not to assume victory was a foregone conclusion. But a few minutes later, Pilgrims' connections were fully able to celebrate the joy of victory and savour the moment that Third Division safety was secured beyond all doubt.

United team: (4-4-2) 1. Bastock, 2. Hocking, 3. Balmer, 4. Ellender, 5. Chapman, 6. Rusk (Angel 63), 7. Costello, 8. Bennett, 9. Logan (Town 84), 10. Duffield (Douglas 71), 11. Weatherstone. Subs (not used): Beevers, Price (gk).

Photo copyright © Ken Fox, 2003.