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Pilgrims 0-0 Doncaster Rovers

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

United tried hard to derail the Doncaster championship party. But in the end, they just failed to sign off their home campaign in winning style and had to settle for a share of the spoils in what was generally an entertaining goalless draw. The point, however, was good enough to guarantee the visitors - roared on by more than 2,000 travelling fans - the Third Division title. It wasn’t for the lacking of trying, though, as the Pilgrims arguably enjoyed the greater share of pressure point moments and carved out the better of the chances. United’s first opening of note came inside the first five minutes when Danny Thomas broke down the left and delivered a cross from which Graeme Jones fired a shot inches too high. That came as an almost immediate response to Doncaster’s first attacking flurry which ended with Steve Foster drilling a long range drive straight at Paul Bastock. On the 10 minute mark there was another almost identical exchange of similar-style opportunities. For Rovers, Gregg Blundell broke clear and looked a big favourite to put his side ahead. But Bastock got the underside of his right arm to the ball, a deflection good enough to force the ball into the ground and then up and over the bar. Straight away at the other end, the industrious Lee Thompson got clear, but delayed his choice of finish long enough for Andy Warrington to smother well at his feet. Boston, though, maintained a good forward-minded momentum and in the 22nd minute Jones saw a shot cleared off the line by Foster while Thompson’s follow-up headed effort was held by Warrington. And it was the Rovers’ keeper who was called upon against in the 35th minute when going full-length to clutch a swerving 25-yard drive from David Noble, a player who had done much to create many of Boston’s most threatening moments in the opening period while the tireless and energetic running of Thompson in particular kept the Doncaster rearguard on their toes.

The fact that the visitors were restricted to so few clear openings was probably due to Paul Ellender and Mark Greaves forming a resolute defensive barrier. Despite making a bright start to the second period, United had to weather a couple of moments of danger with John Melligan heading well off target from a Michael McIndoe cross and then Blundell breaking clear down the right only to see his low cross-shot deflected wide by Ben Chapman. Boston continued to forage hard to a breakthrough and in the 75th minute, following two partially cleared corners, Simon Rusk saw a low drive held by Warrington. United then had penalty claims waved aside when Jones appeared to be upended by Mark Albrighton in pursuit of a loose ball. Then, on 85 minutes more home pressure culminated in a shooting chance for Steve Melton but his shot was blocked by Albrighton. Next a massive scramble in the Rovers area ended with Greaves somehow scooping the ball over the bar from just two yards. However, a linesman’s flag was already fluttering for an offside infringement. In the dying throes, Rovers exerted more pressure of their own with Blundell and Green both going close. But creditably, United held on securely for their 14th clean sheet of the Third Division season. The match had been preceded by an impeccably-observed minute's silence from all fans as a mark of respect in the aftermath of last Wednesday's road crash tragedy which has so badly affected the life of former United striker Micky Nuttell, among others.

United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Beevers, Ellender, Greaves, Chapman; Rusk (Angel 78), Noble, Melton, Thomas; Thompson (Hurst 78), Jones. Subs (not used): Cropper, Balmer, Croudson (gk).

Match report copyright © Barbara Singleton, 2004. Photograph copyright © Ken Fox 2004.