St. Albans City 2-1 Pilgrims
FA "Umbro" Trophy
Match Report by Chris Donkin
Boston United tumbled out of the FA Trophy at St Albans with the home side recording a 2-1 victory. The match culminated in a personal tragedy for Martin Hardy. The Boston stalwart was responsible for some careless defending in the final minutes and presented the Saints with an invitation to score a late winning goal. The match kicked off in bright sunshine with the Pilgrims playing in green and attacking the goal at the end where their massive travelling support was congregated. For the biggest game of the season Evans had chosen to select a 4-4-2 formation. Injury doubts had surrounded the Pilgrims camp, but the faithful were relieved to see both Stringfellow and Carmichael taking their places in the starting line up. With Rawle and Childs cup-tied, Costello and Watts were given their chance to write a chapter in the Boston United history book. This was a chance that the high voltage Watts was not going to miss. Strong running and aggression characterised Paul WATTS' early involvement. His powerful contribution in the 23rd minute saw him head in Mason's cross at the near post. At this stage Boston were well on top with Mason, Charles, Gowshall and Stanhope all prominent. However, St Albans equalised against the run of play in the 34th minute when VICKERS headed powerfully past the exposed Bastock. The last ten minutes of the half were scrappy with some strong challenges being essayed by both teams. Stanhope and Charles were a bit too enthusiastic and were booked by the fussy Paul Danson. On the stroke of half time the clearly unfit Carmichael hobbled out of the action to be replaced by Neil Featherstone. Bastock had not had to make a real save in the first half. Although the second period continued to be rather messy, both custodians were to see much more active service. In the 51st minute Watts missed with a header after a cross from the busy Stanhope. Two minutes later, the Pilgrims fans caught a glimpse of young Featherstone's potential.
He worked the ball onto his left foot and fired in a fierce drive from the edge of the box which forced a save from the home keeper. After 65 minutes Charles went close to restoring United's lead when he shot wide after good work from Watts and Featherstone. The action then swung to the other end and now it was City's turn to rue their bad luck. First The Great Bald One saved brilliantly from St Albans' McDougall then Hardy cleared off the line as the Saints went looking for a winner. Following this brief spell of home pressure the Pilgrims reasserted themselves and enjoyed a period of domination. In the 75th minute a Stanhope header flashed over the bar and some five minutes later Mason tested the keeper with a shot from 20 yards. Just when it seemed as if both sides were settling for a York Street replay, St Albans scored. Martin Hardy dithered on the edge of his own penalty box and was caught in posession. The Boston fans looked on in horror as Hardy's mugger sent over an inch perfect cross for MEREDITH to head home. In a last throw of the dice Evans sent on Kelly for Costello but the Pilgrims were out of time and out of luck.
In truth the match was a bitter disappointment in every sense. The result was cruel and unfair, Boston United are definitely a better football team than St Albans. The real disappointment is that the Pilgrims did not perform on the day. The Evans Men have rarely played as badly as they did in this tie. The effort was there but for unexplainable reasons the passing football was just not happening. The saddest site of the afternoon was the spectre of a distraught Martin Hardy unconsolable and in tears after the final whistle.
United team: 1. Paul Bastock, 2. Joby Gowshall, 3. Len Curtis, 4. Ian Stringfellow, 5. Martin Hardy, 6. Steve Charles, 7. Andrew Stanhope, 8. Peter Costello, 9. Matt Carmichael, 10. Paul Watts, 11. Richard Mason, 12. Mark Melson, 14. Darren Clyde, 15. Neil Featherstone, 16. Keiron Kelly, 17. Nick Maddison.