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The defence is all over the place

Pilgrims 3-1 Cheltenham Town

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

Three more welcome points were added to Boston Unitedís coffers with a fine fightback success. By virtue of collecting a maximum haul, the Pilgrims edged up a couple more places in the Third Division table and got themselves to within touching distance of the mid-table area. And on the basis of the overall 90 minutesí action, it was a merited outcome - even allowing for the fact that the visitors player for the final 26 minutes without a recognised keeper after Steve Book had been red-carded for a lunging out-of-the-box foul on Simon Weatherstone. By that time, the match had been virtually sealed anyway with Boston already 3-1 to the good. And while the final stages yielded little in the way of cut-and-thrust excitement, the platform had already been laid for a crucial victory. United began in positive fashion and went close to taking the lead three times in the opening exchanges with Tom Bennett and Mark Angel both firing wide when space opened up for shots and then Graeme Jones seeing an effort flash wide from a Lee Thompson cross. Little had been seen of the visiting attack until the 18th minute when Graham Fyfe saw a low shot defelected wide by impressive home debutant Chris Hogg. But then, on 22 minute Paul Ellender was adjudged to have impeded Mark Yates and from 25 yards out the influential Grant MCCANN curled a shot over the home defensive wall and beyond a stranded Paul Bastock. Fuelled by the breakthrough, Cheltenham attacked again with Bob Taylor and Paul Brayson both seeing shots fly inches wide. But Boston regrouped and took regained the initiative with two goals in a six minute spell.

First, on 28 minutes Angel and Jones linked well down the left with the latter crossing well for Tom BENNETT to head home his first goal in Boston colours. In the 33rd minute the tables were fully turned when Angel delivered a fine corner form the right and Stuart BALMER rose well to break his scoring duck for the Pilgrims. Back came Cheltenham and in the 38th minute the home goal led something of a charmed life as the visitors threatened to scramble an equaliser. In response, a firm drive from Jones on 43 minutes forced Book into a good save. After the break, the lively tempo was maintained with Cheltenham pressing hard for a route back into the reckoning and Brayson and McCann both shot wide. But Boston replied to good effect against in the 57th minute with Bennett looping a pass wide left for ANGEL to get the better of Kevin Amankwaah and drill beyond the flailing Book. Drama then erupted in the 64th minute when Weatherstone chased a long ball and after seemingly edging away from Amankwaah he was flattened by Book as the keeper dashed out of his area to try and effect a blocking challenge. Referee Lee Mason instantly hoisted the red card, and with no replacement goalie on the bench the Robins were forced to utilise striker Damian Spencer between the sticks. And apart from one mazy run by Cheltenham’s McGann, the remaining 20-plus minutes brought little in the way of excitement with the Pilgrims obviously content to take no risks in ensuring the points were pocketed. The only blot on their copybook was an 88th minute sending off for earlier goal hero Bennett who inexplicably took a swing at Town substitute Ben Cleverley, giving the match official little alternative but to raise another red card.

United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Hogg, Balmer, Hocking, Beevers; L Thompson, Bennett, Ellender, Angel; Weatherstone, Jones (White 90). Subs (not used): Croudson (gk), Duffield, Clarke, Freeman.

Match report copyright © Barbara Singleton, 2003.