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Darlington 3-0 Pilgrims

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

Another dismal away performance left Boston United still hovering in the Third Division basement area. The Pilgrims were swept aside in 14 second half minutes by a Darlington side who duly gained ample revenge for their 3-2 home beating by Boston last season. In a season where United have found goals difficult to muster from day one, this match merely served to emphasise their limitations in the final third of the pitch - only once this season have they scored more than one goal in a match. Admittedly there were a couple of moments of bad luck with efforts from Peter Duffield and Mark Greaves bounding away off the home bar. But in the end, there was little argument with the final outcome as one more unwanted notch was added to Boston’s woeful away record. For a while, though, with the scores remaining blank, there was always a possibility that United might have extracted some sort of reward from the fixture. Early on former Pilgrims’ keeper Michael Price was tested by Duffield and Stuart Douglas. Then Darlington posed a threat when Matt Clarke’s run down the right resulted in him cutting inside before seeing Matt Hocking and Ellender deflect his shot wide of the target. In reply, Simon Weatherstone saw an effort blocked by Liddle while Douglas’ follow-up attempt was deflected over by Joey Hutchinson. Then Price was forced to scramble across his line in the 23rd minute to gather Douglas’ deflected shot after Potter had swung in an excellent left-wing centre. And two minutes later Boston almost snatched the lead when Duffield swivelled and fired in a shot which hit the bar and bounced to safety before being hacked clear by Liddle. The subsequent corner saw Price spill Potter’s flag-kick and Liddle was again on hand to scramble clear. Darlington went close on 35 minutes when Conlon turned and smacked a 20-yarder against one of Bastock’s uprights.

Darlington were denied when Ellender blocked a Matt Clarke effort before Hutchinson drilled a 20-yarder marginally over Bastock’s bar. At the start of the second half, Douglas connected with Weatherstone’s free-kick but could only direct it over from close-range. Then, Rusk’s great run down the right saw him out-muscle Valentine to get in a cross. But McGurk bundled the ball behind as Douglas looked odds-on to score. Rusk was booked in the 55th minute for halting Matt Clarke’s run towards goal. Next, Conlon’s header was deflected over by Ellender after Rusk had given away another free-kick after fouling Ian Clark. This time Rusk got involved in another altercation - a heated exchange with team-mate Weatherstone, remarkably the second bust-up between United players after Matt Hocking and Tom Bennett squared up to each other in the first half. Darlington then enjoyed a period of ascendancy, triggered by Conlon firing a shot too high and then followed up when the home side took a 65th minute lead when LIDDLE fired home the rebound after a Conlon free-kick had been charged down by the United defensive wall. The scores were almost levelled in the 71st minute when Greaves saw a header from Potter’s corner come back off the bar. Douglas was presented with a golden opportunity nearly on the line, but Liddle scrambled the ball away. From the resultant breakaway Darlington extended their lead when Matt CLARKE fired home at the back post following a long crossfield pass from Hutchinson. Boston made a treble substitution when Ryan Clarke, Lee Thompson and Andy White replaced Chapman, Greaves and Douglas. But it was to no avail as Darlington made it 3-0 on 78 minutes when Ian CLARK waltzed through a depleted Boston backline to slot home past Bastock. And from that point there was no way back for a dispirited Boston side.

United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Rusk, Hocking, Ellender, Chapman (R Clarke 73); Weatherstone, Bennett, Greaves (L Thompson 73), Potter; Duffield, Douglas (White 73). Subs (not used): Balmer, Croudson (gk).

Match report copyright © Barbara Singleton, 2003.