Forest Green Rovers 0-3 Pilgrims
by Barbara Singleton
Adaptability proved to be the decisive quality which carried Boston United into the top 10 of the Nationwide Conference. The Pilgrims chalked up an emphatic 3-0 victory at the expense of Forest Green Rovers to take United's current run to just one defeat in their last eight league outings. But it was the circumstances of the match which dominated many thoughts before, during and after the 90 minutes' action. On a day when a large percentage of fixtures nationwide were wiped out due to wintry conditions, this clash in deepest Gloucestershire somehow dodged postponement. However, many observers - Boston boss Steve Evans included - wondered just how referee Richard James had reached his decision to give play the okay. The surface at Rovers' Lawn Stadium ground was decked with a layer of snow which covered a pitch made hard in places by frosty conditions. Even after making the 170-plus mile trip, Evans still felt the game should have been called off - a view he stuck to despite seeing his side triumph. But the Pilgrims defied the underfoot conditions as, to a man, they rose to the task in hand. They showed commendable composure in an awkwardly testing first half, shaded territorial possession and chance-creativity in the opening 45 minutes and then went on to lace their second half domination with three exquisite goals. All strikes came from the midfield department where Paul Raynor set the ball rolling and then loanee David Norris weighed in with a brace inside three minutes in the dying phases. The scoreline was a genuine reflection of Boston's overall performance and hoisted United into the top half of the table. Early clearcut chances were few and far between. But the match opened with a second-minute shot from Raynor drifting wide of the home goal and then at the other end a drive by Rob Cousins finding the safe clutches of keeper Paul Bastock. Generally, though, the first quarter-of-an-hour saw both sides get to grips with a surface which made flowing play almost impossible, the ball holding up in the deepest swathes of snow. Boston then went close on a couple of occasions.
First Ken Charlery flicked on a long free-kick by Bastock for Norris to race through, only to be foiled by home custodian Steve Perrin. Then another Charlery flick-on, this time to a Paul Wilson free-kick, set up a chance for Colin Hoyle. But he headed wide. Later a low cross from Mark Rawle was hacked clear by Leon Cort and a 26th-minute Raynor drive whizzed inches past a post. In reply, a good move involving Cort, Dave Norton and Stuart Slater almost yielded a home breakthrough, but Bastock managed to scramble a save at the second attempt. Comical moments followed as Rovers threatened again, with billows of snow being hacked up as both Adie Foster and Nathan Lightbody separately lost control at crucial times in home raids. But Boston finished the half on top with Perrin saving well in a one-on-one with Rawle, Norris just missing a cross from Raynor and Rawle again firing just over after being set free by Wilson. The second half was a much more one-sided affair with Boston stamping a tremendous authority on proceedings. Twice in quick succession, good work by Rawle set up untaken half chances for Charlery and Jim Dick. And then in the 54th minute Charlery saw a downward header from a Dick cross blocked on the home line by Cort. It seemed only a question of time before a goal came. And it duly arrived on 59 minutes. Another centre from Rawle was partially cleared by Cort. But RAYNOR seized possession on the edge of the box and lashed home a low drive. Further headers from Raynor and Charlery plus a Rawle shot almost doubled the lead before Rovers had a rare chance when Bastock saved expertly to blunt a shot on the run from ex-England international Tony Daley. In response, the Pilgrims put the issue beyond doubt. First, in the 78th minute NORRIS headed in at the far post from a Raynor cross. Then three minutes later Dick cleverly played the ball into space for NORRIS to sprint through down the right, evade Perrin and execute a superb scoring lob. Rovers came close to a consolation when Billy Clark headed wide, but the last word almost went to Norris whose 87th minute effort drifted just off-target as a potential hat-trick beckoned.
United team: 1. Bastock, 2. Gowshall (Mills 68), 3. Lodge, 4. Hoyle, 5. Howarth, 6. Wilson, 7. Norris, 8. Charlery (Fewings 83), 9. Raynor, 10. Rawle (Nuttell 83), 11. Dick. Subs (not used): Costello, Conroy.
This report originally appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo.