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Pilgrims 1-2 Mansfield Town

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

Two goals conceded in the space of 10 minutes early in the second half undermined Boston United’s hopes of maintaining an improved results sequence. And despite a valiant fightback over the final 25 minutes, the Pilgrims were unable to prevent promotion-chasing Mansfield from pocketing maximum spoils. In the process, United also missed out on the chance to claim 10th spot in the table. And over the balance of the piece, it was a tough disappointing that they were unable to at least grab a share of the spoils. Certainly in the first half, Boston had most of the play - assisted in no small measure by some fine creative work in the middle of the park by Tom Bennett and David Noble. Their inventiveness helped to create an early opening for Kevan Hurst, but his snap-shot was well saved by keeper Kevin Pilkington. Apart from one tame off-target effort by Thomas Curtis, little was seen of the Mansfield attack in the initial exchanges. And back at the other end a Bennett 20-yarder had Pilkington at full stretch to save. Then midway through the half more Boston pressure against had the Stags uneasy at the back and Hurst cashed in on a mix-up between Rhys Day and Pilkington only to see Alex-John Baptiste clear the United forward’s shot from close to his own line. Mansfield replied and Colin Larkin tested Paul Bastock with a crisp shot after a free-kick had only been partially cleared to his feet. The match then drifted into a phase on non-descript play until the 45th minute when another Larkin drive again kept Bastock on his toes.

The second half was only five minutes old when the Stags broke the deadlock. Neil MacKenzie’s quickly taken free-kick from the right hand side caught the home defence unawares and LARKIN nipped in to fire past Bastock from an acute angle. Boston hit back with a free-kick opportunity of their own, but the normally precise Noble ballooned his 25-yard effort at goal way over the target. This miss was compounded in the 59th minute when Mansfield doubled their lead. Larkin burst down the left and saw a low drive well parried by Bastock. But in the ensuing melee Paul ELLENDER diverted the ball into his own net as Stags’ leading scorer Liam Lawrence pressured the Boston skipper. Ten minutes later, though, United halved the deficit with a goal of immaculate quality. Lee Beevers burst forward from left-back and squared a pass across the edge of the box where Stuart BALMER had ventured forward to deliver an exquisite swerving half-volley into the top corner. From this point Boston poured forward in search of an equaliser. First Graeme Jones saw a shot on the turn pushed away by Pilkington and then substitutes Dene Cropper and Lee Thompson linked well before the latter saw a fierce 35-yarder somehow flipped away by the Stags’ keeper. With United throwing men forward, Mansfield had a few dangerous moments on the break, notably with close calls for Lawrence and Laurent D’Jaffo. But it was at the other end where the biggest let-off occurred. It came on 85 minutes when, following a goalmouth scramble, Danny Thomas saw a close range rising shot crash away off the bar - and with it went Boston’s hopes of gaining any rewards.

United team (4-4-2): Bastock; Greaves, Ellender, Balmer (Angel 84), Beevers; Melton, Noble, Bennett, Thomas; Hurst (Thompson 72), Jones (Cropper 72). Subs (not used): Hocking, Croudson (gk).

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