Rushden & Diamonds 1-0 Pilgrims
by Barbara Singleton
By a quirk of fate, Boston United somehow managed to lose a match they dominated for long spells. The Pilgrims saw a mini-sequence of success come to an end at the hands of promotion-fancies Rushden and Diamonds. But if United can replicate the performance level shown at Nene Park in future matches, they will almost certainly put themselves in with every chance of a steady climb up the Third Division table. And that was a fact not lost on winger Mark Angel who turned in yet another excellent display for the Pilgrims. He said: “Once we got going, we just took them apart. But it was one of those nights when nothing went right in front of goal. However, the team is still full of confidence. If we can keep playing like that we should have nothing to fear.” It was in the opening throes that Boston looked at their most apprehensive. And during this period home striker ONANDI LOWE grabbed what turned out to be the game’s decisive goal. His breakthrough effort came on 10 minutes — effectively the first serious strike in the match when, from fully 20 yards he powered a shot past Paul Bastock. Seven minutes later, the same home played rattled the United bar with another fierce effort from a 35-yard free-kick which, ironically, came hot on the heels of Angel going close to levelling the scores with a shot just wide of the target. Boston gradually recovered their composure -- despite losing Mark Clifford to injury just before the half-hour (replaced by Ross Weatherstone) -- and put the home rearguard under spells of pressure with an Angel corner leading to a chance for Tom Bennett to see a 33rd minute low snap-shot easily held by Billy Turley and then Lee Thompson flashing a drive a couple of yards wide after a pass by Simon Weatherstone.
Rushden also carried some crisp attacking threats with Lowe and Duane Darby always looking capable of cashing in on creative work, notably from Paul Hall and Stuart Wardley in particular. Just before the break Simon Weatherstone fired a rising drive which Turley parried well as Boston hit back. The Pilgrims raised the tempo at the start of the second half and, backed by 979 vociferous travelling fans, had the Rushden defence hard-pressed to clear a flurry of early corners. On 52 minutes Simon Weatherstone went close with a header following good build-up work by Ben Chapman and Angel. Boston retained the ascendancy and in the 61st minute Simon Weatherstone burst into the home area, but saw Turley push his shot away when an equaliser seemed inevitable. Then Turley had to excel to tip away a looping header from Tony Battersby who subsequently headed over from another Angel flag-kick. Rushden's responses were more limited, although Lowe saw a 64th minute effort deflected wide and then had another drive well saved by Bastock who also did well to smother a header from Wardley moments later. United returned to the attack and long range efforts from Battersby and Simon Weatherstone posed more threats to Turley's goal inside the final 10 minutes -- although neither really had the required direction. And then, just six minutes from time substitute Stuart Douglas somehow bundled another effort wide from close range after more great work by Angel. Rushden responded with Darby seeing Bastock save well from an attempted lob. Then back at the other end Matt Hocking, and Simon Weatherstone (twice more) almost levelled the scores.
United team: (4-4-2) 1. Bastock, 2. Clifford (R Weatherstone 28), 3. Chapman (R Weatherstone 84), 4. Warburton, 5. Hocking, 6. Bennett, 7. Higgins, 8. Angel, 9. L Thompson (Douglas 77), 10. Battersby, 11. S Weatherstone. Subs not used: Redfearn, Cook, Conroy (gk).