When the draw was made for the third qualifying round of the FA Cup in October 1970 it threw together the two teams from Boston. Boston FC were a relatively new side, having been formed just six years earlier in July 1964. The club came into existence following a dispute between Boston United and its supporters' club. In June 1964, Boston United had announced at its AGM that it had debts just short of £5000. It hoped to get a substantial sum of money from Sportsfund Ltd, a company set up by the supporters' club to raise funds for the club, primarily via a weekly pool competition. Sportsfund however declared that it would only guarantee United £2000 and would hold the rest back for the supporters' club. This left Boston United effectively insolvent, so club chairman Ernest Malkinson withdrew the club from the Midland League and announced he would wind up Boston United. On hearing of this, the supporters' club decided that they would use their funds to start up a new club in Boston. They signed up Boston United's manager Paul Todd to take charge of the team and applied to join the Lincolnshire League. They also sought permission to play their games on United's York Street ground, which was owned by Mr Malkinson. At this point, Mr Malkinson changed his mind about winding up United. With former managers Ray Middleton and Fred Tunstall on his new board, he announced he would keep United going and they also applied to join the Lincolnshire League. Boston FC were now left searching for a ground. Pressure was put on Mr Malkinson to let FC use York Street and an attempt was made to get Boston Council to purchase the ground on FC's behalf. United's application to join the Lincolnshire League was turned down, so the only alternative they now had available was to join the Boston & District League. Mr Malkinson stubbornly refused to give way over the use of York Street so Boston FC ended up playing at the Mayflower Sports Ground on the edge of town while they waited for a new stadium to be built for them at Tattershall Road. They went on to win the Lincolnshire League after Paul Todd signed up many of the players who had turned out for him for United the previous season. Boston United struggled in the Boston & District League, as Fred Tunstall put out a scratch team of local amateurs just to keep the club name alive. Amazingly, United forgot to withdraw their entry for the FA Cup and became the first club in the history of the Boston & District League to compete in the competition. Not surprisingly, United suffered their record defeat when they were thrashed 14-0 by Spalding United in the first qualifying round. They also went down 14-0 at home to British Railways in the Boston & District League.
At the end of the season former Eire international Don Donovan was brought in from Grimsby Town by Mr Malkinson and given the task of rebuilding United as player-manager as the club switched to the United Counties League. By the time the two clubs were drawn together in the FA Cup in 1970, Donovan had taken United to three league titles as they rose to the summit of the non-league ladder, via the West Midlands League into the newly formed Northern Premier League. Jim Smith had taken over as manager in 1969 following a disappointing first season in the new competition. Boston FC had also seen some success. They had followed up their Lincolnshire League title by moving to the Central Alliance and winning there also. Switches to the Eastern Counties League and then the Midland League hadn't proved to be quite as profitable, but mid table respectability was being achieved.
To reach the third qualifying round, United had beaten Holbeach United 4-0 in the first qualifying round with goals from Jim Smith, Keith Jobling, John Froggatt and Bob Mackay, and Lincoln United 1-0, with Jim Smith getting the goal. FC had won 1-0 at Louth United in the first qualifying round and had overcome Spalding United 3-0 at home in a replay in the second qualifying round after the first game had ended in a 2-2 draw.
Given the history between the two clubs, United's player-manager Jim Smith knew the match meant a lot to his chairman Mr Malkinson. He therefore made meticulous preparations, having FC watched twice. He also negotiated a bonus deal with Mr Malkinson to encourage the team to score as many goals as possible. Each player would be paid a £20 win bonus and a further £20 for each goal scored.
Before the match, Boston FC chairman Bill Stanwell revealed that he had always hoped to be drawn at home against United in the Cup as it would give the people of the town the opportunity of seeing how far FC had progressed since their formation. He also predicted a close match, with four goals to be scored and a replay to be required.
United had a selection problem when a training injury ruled out right winger Eric Weaver. Jim Smith made a bold decision by bringing Grimsby student John Croy into the side as his replacement. FC had problems in defence as full back Roger Bowler had not recovered from a knee injury that had kept him out of the side for a few weeks. They therefore decided to give utility player Phil Robinson the difficult task of man marking United danger man John Flannagan.
For the first half, FC had the benefit of the wind behind them. United were playing the better football, but FC weren't entirely without chances. John Powell soon set up Steve Foster, who put his effort just wide. Then at the other end John Brier had to make a goal-line clearance from his former Halifax team mate Jim Smith and Flannagan's follow-up shot was well held by FC keeper John Whiteley. FC won a free kick after Ady Howard was brought down by Billy Cobb. Powell quickly took the kick before the United defence had organised itself, and a back peddling Malcolm White was relieved to see the rasping shot hit the side netting. Five minutes before the interval Graham Wooler saw a fine effort go just wide. At half time the match remained goal less. United took the lead sixty seconds into the second half when Brian BATES headed home Flannagan's centre. Two minutes later United booked their place in the next round when John Brier handled in the area and Jim SMITH made no mistake from the spot kick. In the 63rd minute John FROGGATT latched on to a pass from Billy Cobb, rounded Brier and fired past Whiteley to put United three up. Four minutes later John CROY scored the goal of the game when he almost burst the FC net with a spectacular rising shot from the right. With the result beyond doubt and much to the relief of Mr Malkinson who was getting worried about the amount he might have to pay out in bonus payments, United relaxed and the match drifted to its conclusion. Towards the end Brian Bates limped off with an injury to be replaced by George McLean.
The attendance for the match was a somewhat disappointing 2700, after most people were predicting a gate in the region of 5000. It does however remain as FC's biggest ever home gate.
United went on to reach the second round proper in the Cup after first disposing of Frickley Colliery then a League scalp in the form of Southport. A narrow defeat at home to York City ended their Cup run for the season.
FC team: 1. John Whiteley, 2. Steve Foster, 3. John Brooks, 4. Graham Wooler, 5. John Brier, 6. Brian Clifton, 7. Phil Robinson, 8. Ady Howard, 9. Norman Hill, 10. John Powell, 11. Geoff Welham. Sub: Brian Stone.
United team: 1. Malcolm White, 2. Billy Howells, 3. John Lakin, 4. Jim Smith, 5. Alex Gibson, 6. Keith Jobling, 7. John Croy, 8. Brian Bates, 9. John Froggatt, 10. Billy Cobb, 11. John Flannagan. Sub: George McLean.
Jim Smith "The chairman was happy to fork out the cash even if he did confess later that he appealed for offside every time we went forward after we got to four."
George Wheatman in the Lincolnshire Standard There was no doubt United were the better team but, in the first half especially, FC raised their game to a new level. Jim Smith must have been surprised at the quality of FCs early soccer. The pity for FC was that their best players were also their oldest, who ran out of steam in the second-half. Perhaps the biggest achievement, in fact, was FCs off-the-field performance. Led by chairman Bill Stanwell they welcomed their local rivals sincerely and the hospitality they offered must have gone a long way towards burying the hatchet brandished for so long over old disputes.
Jim Smith "Boston FC played better than in the two matches I had seen them, but our win was really a very comfortable one and could easily have been by a much bigger margin. It left no doubt about which is the better side in Boston."
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