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Tight marking

Pilgrims 2-0 Rochdale

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

Goals from Paul Ellender and Graeme Jones fired Boston United to three vital and welcome Third Division points. The rewards harvested from a tidy win over fellow strugglers Rochdale helped edge the Pilgrims seven point clear of the dreaded relegation places. And the success gave comeback manager Steve Evans his first triumph in charge of a team at Football League level. The match had got off to a bright start with both sides having a clutch of chances inside the first 15 minutes. Early on Mark Angel whipped an 18-yard free-kick wide of a post and later on Lee Thompson blasted a 20-yard drive inches too high. In between Rochdale responded in purposeful fashion with a low shot from former Sheffield Wednesday front man Grant Holt which keeper Paul Bastock did well to hold. Then Holt headed wide from a telling cross from the right by Gary Jones. And later on, the ever-threatening Leo Bertos fizzed a low cross-shot past Bastock’s far post. But Boston hit back in the best possible fashion with a goal of exquisite quality. Stuart Balmer’s 19th minute free-kick was bravely headed across goal by the outstanding Graeme Jones and ELLENDER swivelled well to hook a spectacular shot over Neil Edwards and into the roof of the net. Boston again threatened and impressive midfielder David Noble got round the visitors’ rearguard only to see his attempted cross drop onto the roof of the net.

For a while, the match petered out into a tussle for midfield ascendancy. But in the 40th minute Boston went close again when Tom Bennett headed wide from a Noble chip-through. After the break Rochdale went close to an equaliser when, following a Sean McClare free-kick, Bertos saw a forceful volley blocked by a gaggle of United bodies on the six-yard line. Back at the other end, the home lead was nearly doubled on the hour when full-back Lee Beevers embarked on a surging run and, after linking well with Jones, was denied only by a brave smothering save by Edwards. A few minutes later, a biting tackle to win possession by Jones set up Bennett to feed a pass through for the pacy Eric Sabin but he hurriedly fired wide with only the keeper to beat. Rochdale threw on leading scorer Kevin Townson in a bid to spark a way back into the game and on 73 minutes an opening fell to Paul Connor. But he shot wide. The incident which effectively wrapped up the points for Boston came in the 76th minute when Jones set Sabin clear and his charge on goal was ended only by a trip from Danny Livesey whose misdemeanour cost him a red card. JONES instantly grabbed the ball and fired past Edwards from the spot. Boston might have had a third late on when Sabin again snatched wildly at a chance created by Angel. And then with time running out home keeper Bastock protected his clean sheet with an excellent tip-around save to deny Townson.

United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Beevers, Balmer, Ellender, Chapman; Thompson, Bennett, Noble (Brown 71), Angel (Douglas 90); Jones (Duffield 88), Sabin. Subs (not used): Croudson (gk), Clarke.

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