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Hocking tackles

Pilgrims 3-1 Rochdale

Nationwide League

by Barbara Singleton

It was a day when strike power came up trumps to good effect for Boston United. Front line players Simon Weatherstone, Tony Battersby and Stuart Douglas all hit the target as the Pilgrims maintained their welcome upturn in fortunes at the expense of Rochdale, the Lancashire side now having lost four games in a row. United turned in a powerful and competitive all-round display highlighted by some forceful defensive work, tenacity in midfield, clinical finishing prowess - and, it should not be forgotten, three or four excellent and timely saves by keeper Paul Bastock. It all added up an afternoon of success which brought Boston their fourth straight triumph adding to Third Division wins over Torquay and Darlington plus an LDV Vans Trophy win over Yeovil. And it drew satisfaction from manager Neil Thompson. He said: "It was a good performance. We passed the ball well and it was great to see all our strikers on the scoresheet. There is a lot of confidence in the camp at the moment and we created plenty of chances. It would have been nice to have kept a clean sheet, but that perhaps would have been a bit greedy." Boston opened proceedings in bright fashion and forced three corners in the first five minutes to instantly put the Dale rearguard under pressure. And keeper Neil Edwards had to make a brave blocking save to prevent Simon Weatherstone breaking the deadlock in the initial exchanges. Rochdale, though, weathered the initial thrust of United ascendancy and came back into the picture - particularly with experienced midfielders Ian Bishop and Paul Simpson doing much to see their team briefly hold sway in the midfield department. And there were a couple of close calls with Paul Connor drilling into the side netting and then Kevin Townson firing across goal and wide after cutting in from the left. But in the 20th minute Boston went ahead with Simon WEATHERSTONE netting his seventh league and cup goal of the season. He crashed a low left-foot shot beyond Edwards after a raking pass from Matt Hocking had found Battersby wide on the right and he in turn spotted his strike colleague sprinting clear towards goal. Instantly, Rochdale tried to hit back with Simpson forcing Bastock into a good save with a shot from distance and then the home custodian leapt to save in spectacular fashion when a rising drive from Lee Duffy looked destined for the top corner.

Boston hit back and were desperately unlucky not to have doubled their lead through the hugely impressive Mark Angel in the 38th minute. He cut in from the left and whipped a right-footed shot goalwards. Edwards sprawled to his right and blocked the effort. The ball dropped back to Angel, but again the excellent Edwards responded with a superb follow-up save. The second half was in its infancy when Bishop's free-kick from the edge of the area was well held on the line by Bastock. But Boston hit back and increased their lead on 64 minutes when BATTERSBY fired home a rebound effort after Simon Weatherstone had seen his shot beaten away by Edwards' legs. Rochdale responded by throwing on Northern Ireland under-21 internationals Lee McEvilly and Patrick McCourt. The double change almost had the desired effect on 66 minutes when Connor somehow managed to head over from close-range following Simpson's cross. In reply, Angel almost made it 3-0 on 73 minutes but curled a shot just past the post from 18 yards, after cutting in to evade a challenge by Duffy. A minute later, Simon Weatherstone's low drive was parried by Edwards and subsequently cleared by a relieved Gareth Griffiths. Rochdale pulled a goal back on 81 minutes when FLITCROFT drilled low into the net from 18 yards follwing a pass from the left by Simpson, giving Bastock no chance. Great play between Battersby and then Simon Weatherstone resulted in the latter seeing a header clawed off the line by a back-peddling Edwards. The subsequent corner saw Thompson's shot blocked by veteran defender Richard Jobson. In the final minute of normal time, Rochdale had the chance to draw level but saw McEvilly stab the ball wide from close range. DOUGLAS made the game safe in the first minute of stoppage time when he rounded Edwards to steer the ball home. Even then, further chances fell to Simon Weatherstone and substitute Jamie Cook, both of whom saw Edwards thwart their efforts.

United team: (4-4-2) 1. Bastock, 2. Clifford, 3. Chapman (R Weatherstone 84), 4. Warburton, 5. Hocking, 6. Bennett, 7. Higgins, 8. Angel, 9. L Thompson (Cook 90), 10. Battersby (Douglas 89), 11. S Weatherstone. Subs not used: Redfearn, Conroy (gk).

Photo copyright © Ken Fox, 2002.