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Battersby gets a helping hand

Pilgrims 0-1 Leyton Orient

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

Another Jekyll and Hyde performance by Boston United contributed to an unwanted seventh successive competitive defeat. And the despair was compounded by the news, on the final whistle, which confirmed the Pilgrims had been dumped back at the bottom of the Third Division table. A return to the position of looking up on the rest of the Football League was not what United connections had envisaged prior to tackling a Leyton Orient side which had previously won just once in 12 away league and cup encounters this term. But, not for the first time this campaign, United were the catalysts to their own downfall. Poor early defensive work allowed the Londoners to prise out what proved to be the match-winning strike, a goal followed by a first half display shorn of composure, but littered with misplaced passes and a catalogue of offside infringements. It was woeful to say the least. But after half-time Boston were lifted by the introduction of midfielder Tom Bennett and new strike signing Richard Logan and made a much better fist of things. However, despite a gallant fightback attempt, the Pilgrims were left frustrated by some massed Orient defending, a clutch of excellent saves by keeper Scott Barrett and some missed opportunities of their own. What proved to be the decisive moment arrived after just five minutes when Chris TATE fired Orient ahead from 18 yards via a wicked deflection off Matt Hocking after Mark Greaves had failed to fully clear a raking cross from the left by Matt Lockwood. Tate almost made it a quick double when, with a low drive, he brought a good save from Paul Bastock. This, in turn, followed an even earlier free-kick from Lockwood which also needed a Bastock intervention after being diverted off the home defensive wall. Then, Scott Canham's low shot on 12 minutes was well held by Bastock as Orient sought a second. Boston took a while to respond although Justin Miller had to be alert when he was forced to deflect Simon Weatherstone's 20th minute shot wide. Orient generally produced the better passing work while Boston frustratingly gave the ball away too readily.

Weatherstone, though, then had a 20-yard free-kick parried wide by Barrett. The same United player drilled a fierce shot just over the crossbar on 36 minutes as Boston finally clicked into gear. And Peter Costello was unlucky not to equalise just before the break when he saw a fierce shot smack the crossbar. Costello was arguably Boston's brightest performer throughout, and his surge into the box at the start of the second half resulted in a shot which was cleared off the line by Ezomo Iriekpen. Boston then had a penalty appeal turned down on 48 minutes when Iriekpen appeared to handle Mark Angel's attempted pass, although referee Mark Warren waved play on. The Pilgrims really upped the tempo and had several good chances to equalise. Angel's 55th minute cross found substitute Logan who had a shot parried by Barrett and the subsequent Weatherstone follow-up was blocked by Miller. Costello's 60th minute left-foot drive went marginally wide of Barrett's post as the Boston midfielder had cut in from the right. Next, Angel dragged 20-yard shot wide after Costello's infield pass, while Weatherstone's looping effort dropped over the bar after Logan had flicked on another Costello pass. Barrett produced a magnificent save on 72 minutes when he parried a fierce drive from Ben Chapman wide after the United full-back had cracked a shot goalwards following Tom Bennett's short free-kick. Costello's determination then created an opening and Barrett brilliantly parried from close range before the Pilgrims' wing-back drilled the rebound marginally wide. Boston continued to press and Logan's shot went a whisker wide after he had connected with Angel's corner, sending his shot across goal past Barrett's far post. Further untaken chances fell to Tom Bennett, who fired wide after intercepting a long ball clear from the Orient defence and Mark Angel, who saw a shot tipped round the post by Barrett as Boston battled in vain for what would have been a deserved equaliser.

United team: (3-5-2) 1. Bastock, 2. McCarthy (Bennett 46), 3. Hocking, 4. Greaves, 5. Costello, 6. L Thompson, 7. Higgins, 8. Angel, 9. Chapman, 10. Battersby (Logan 46), 11. S Weatherstone. Subs (not used): R Weatherstone, Cook, Conroy (gk).

Photo copyright © Ken Fox, 2002.