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Lee Thompson leaves the Darlington defence trailing in his wake

Darlington 2-3 Pilgrims

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

Life a couple more steps up the football ladder is starting to look refreshingly rosy for Boston United. The Pilgrims hoisted themselves up to the previously uncharted dizzy heights of 21st in the Third Division table thanks to a hugely impressive, yet tremendously dramatic, away victory at Darlington. A hat-trick from tenacious midfielder Lee Thompson was the undoubted highlight of a clash which, for 85 minutes, seemed plain sailing for the Pilgrims as they chased maximum points to follow up their victory over Torquay the previous weekend. However, two late replies from Darlington gave the match a tortuous finish from a Boston perspective, as did six added minutes of stoppage time when an equaliser threatened to appear. But the Pilgrims’ courageously held on to break their away win duck and climb up two more places to look down on Exeter, Swansea and Carlisle. Boston who had the better of the early proceedings as Jamie Cook was set free down the left by Angel, only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle from Ryan Valentine. Darlington hit back with Ian Clark firing at Paul Bastock and then Barry Conlon headed just wide from six yards after a cross from Neil Wainwright. Boston responded and enjoyed a period in the ascendancy with Alex Higgins’ 23rd minute shot well held by Collett. But the Pilgrims went ahead on 25 minutes when THOMPSON rifled home a shot from the edge of the box, giving Collett no chance, as the ball whistled into the top corner. In reply, home midfielder Neil Maddison curled a free-kick over the bar from 20 yards as the hosts sought a quick response.

And then on 40 minutes, Stuart Whitehead dragged a shot wide with the goal at his mercy following Valentine’s left-wing free-kick. Then in stoppage time Ford raced down the left before squaring the ball which an unmarked Conlon completely missed. The first real chance of the second half fell to Darlington in the 55th minute when Clark fired wide from just inside the box, under pressure from Chapman. Moments later, Bastock did well to save Conlon’s header on the line from Maddison’s free-kick. But Boston hit back and extended their lead on 67 minutes when THOMPSON drilled low into the net after Cook beat the offside trap and squared the ball back to the midfielder. Boston then went further ahead on 80 minutes when THOMPSON completed his hat-trick, slotting home unmarked after Angel had crossed from Cook’s knock-back. Mark Clifford then saw a rising drive smartly parried by Collett after Higgins had played him in. But Boston’s three-goal lead was reduced on 84 minutes when CLARK bundled home after Bastock had parried substitute Danny Mellanby’s shot. The Darlington revival gathered more momentum when CONLON further reduced Boston’s lead on 87 minutes when he magnificently curled a shot over Bastock from the edge of the box. Cook almost put the game beyond doubt when he rifled a shot marginally wide from Angel’s cross. However, Darlington refused to lie down and almost grabbed an equaliser when Mellanby headed wide from a Rundle centre. But Boston held on gratefully to seal maximum spoils.

United team: (4-4-2) 1. Bastock, 2. Clifford, 3. Chapman, 4. Hocking, 5. Greaves, 6. Bennett, 7. Higgins, 8. Angel, 9. L Thompson (R Weatherstone 89), 10. S Weatherstone (Douglas 38), 11. Cook. Subs not used: Redfearn, Warburton, Conroy.

Photo copyright © Ken Fox, 2002.