Boston United 1 County 1 ( Conference North) 31 January 2015
I am unaware of what odds the bookies were quoting for today`s game, but with the rampant Pilgrims having disposed of Lowestoft, Colwyn Bay and the excellent Guiseley, the last 3 visitors to York Street ( I still refuse to call it the Jakeman Stadium),by scores of 5-3, 5-0 and 5-1 respectively, no one outside of SK3 gave County so much as the slenderest of chances of coming out of this clash of play off hopefuls, with anything.
In the event, for a time ...leading by a Jack Ryan goal.....the white shirted blues looked more than likely winners. But.....close to half time, County were caught on the break and punished by a back post finish from Liam Marrs, which was the signal for much pressure from the home side thereafter. Thankfully however, some excellent County defending more than matched it-Lees and O`Halloran again topping the bill in this respect, but with the increasingly impressive Charlie Russell and constantly improving Chris Churchman not far behind. It was however a day to say `well done’ to the whole team, who worked above and beyond- scorer Jack Ryan typifying this element- going off late on to an ovation from the travelling County supporters after defending as wholeheartedly as he attacked throughout!
As early as the second minute, County had work to do at the back, and there was an early lecture for Baker as County were forced to defend a free kick. They did so, and Charlie Russell earned early plaudits, doing just enough to deny Grant Roberts who was threatening at the edge of the box. The home specs didn`t like this much....but I did, and I was not alone.
The underfoot conditions looked likely to play a big part in the way the game panned out, being about as glutinous as it was possible to be, but it was the same for both sides , so I consoled myself with that thought as Lees was penalised forcing County to defend another difficult free kick. Again County did the biz well, indeed O`Halloran did better than `well’ `tying Dayle Southwell in a series of intricate knots as he attempted to dart clear. Baker joined in, hooking clear after the first of many long throws looked to bring the cosh down on County heads.
After this.....the long throws pinged into the County box with regularity- Churchman seeing an effort by ex Hatter Carl Piergianni off, and Hurst making an impressive catch to deal with another.
O`Halloran meanwhile, was already in top form –finding time to embellish a neat bit of defensive work, with a powerful dart up-field, and another excellent bit of work to stop Roberts , whose run ,up to that point, had taken him to the edge of the box.
So far...so good.....Boston had got forward a fair bit, but had not unduly
inconvenienced County in so doing. The 13th minute offered a glimpse of the 5 goal United the home specs were noisily telling us about. It started with good work by Nick Walker who lifted a nicely weighted ball into Southwell`s path inside the box. It was a real chance, and if taken might have severely dented County`s confidence, but it didn`t, as Southwell`s shot whistled just past the post.
This already looked a lively encounter, and went on with Dennis probing for an opening at one end, whilst Southwell did likewise at the other. In between there was of course another long throw for County to deal with, but Hurst excelled himself with a catch of consummate confidence, and this danger passed without either side shipping a goal.
County did work a decent opening down the left next, but Ryan`s dive at the far post just failed to see him reach Glover`s cross, but with almost 20 minutes gone, Boston looked the more likely of the two sides to break the deadlock. In response to this fact, County had to stay on their toes, and O`Halloran did this to perfection in blunting a run by Piergianni, but when another of those infernal throws pinged in, and Piergianni went for it....he went unopposed and I was not alone in being relieved to see his free header fly horribly wide!
On it went with Lees....Churchman....Baker all in there doing good stuff....making decisive interventions. Walker and Massiah McDonald were the disappointed forwards, and the County midfield men had done well to deny them, but there was no one around as McDonald was allowed free rein down the left. It looked decidedly iffy as he made it almost to the by-line, and even more so as he fired a venomous cross the way of Mark Jones a yard out. It could have been the opener ....but it wasn`t as Hurst rose to the situation magnificently – grabbing the ball before Jones could reach it!
Shortly after ....another McDonald run was tended to rather better by County- Jacobs slider ending the number seven`s run nicely, and from the build up that followed
County went one up on the break as Ryan took a pass by Dennis from the by-line, before slamming a fine drive on the turn past Dixon ,the home keeper.
Suitably invigorated, County surged forward next –a fine ball by Churchman teeing Dennis up for a shot that whizzed an inch or so wide of the target, and for a time the pressure was definitely on the Pilgrims – decent play from Duxbury and Russell earning County a corner. Ryan went close from this, and Churchman did well with some alert work that did for a break by Southwell.
O`Halloran ( twice) and Ryan got good blocks in after this , the Boston attacking being abbreviated via a Glover run that earned a corner ,that Dixon gobbled up hungrily.
Amidst all the above activity, Duxbury sustained an injury that necessitated treatment, and it is arguable whether he was fully back 100% when the next action happened and Walker powered a cross over from the right. Southwell went for it......missed it....but Marrs, charging in at the far post, didn`t ...forcing the ball home before being buried in an avalanche of yellow and black shirts!
The rest of the half saw County defending – looking on helplessly as Southwell, who was to waste a prodigious number of chances in the game, lifted the ball into the crowd. County were far from helpless with the last action of the half....hapless would be a more appropriate description as Jacobs` piled unnecessary pressure on us with an unnecessary foul on McDonald in a tasty spot on the edge of the box. The danger was obvious from this, and only abated with the sight of the unfortunate Southwell fluffing his lines when well set close in, when the kick came over.
Honours even then after 45 minutes play...what would the second 45 bring us?
Well...for starters.....Hurst lit up proceedings saving bravely with his legs with Southwell still looking for that elusive goal. For maybe 5 minutes this pattern settled in with County having to defend, and doing so well!
The 51st minute saw a break on for County, and Dennis the man in charge of it, so when he surged into the box and went down under pressure from MacNaMee- I wager that I was not alone in thinking that we might have a penalty. I was wholly mistaken, but not greatly surprised by the refusal!
For much of the time, as I have said, County were defending with determination and skill, but they would also manage to pass possession away, which was almost suicidal on the gelatinous playing surface! It was just fortunate that Southwell pretty much always was the one possession was spilled to ultimately, and he just could not find the target- his effort in the 53rd minute typically flying wide.
Still...we had Lees and O`Halloran and they were rocks offering constant inspiration to the likes of Russell, who again was having a decent game. This need to learn from older/ wiser heads was no better advertised than just after the hour, when a County raid broke down and Duxbury, instead of allowing the ball to drift out of play....lifted it into the keeper`s hands from behind the by-line. This enabled the keeper to take a quick goal kick, but before he could do so Ryan kicked the ball away, to earn an unnecessary booking!
Good work from O`Halloran and Russell, then sent Glover through, but despite a tackle of the rustic variety from Marrs on Glover, that laid him out- nothing came County`s way- and definitely not a penalty. They got back into it though none the less, harrying Boston into error, but at the sharp end the finish was missing , an when Dennis did manage to sneak clear, on 65 minutes, he was flagged offside.
At the other end....Southwell`s travails continued to plumb the depths as he dragged a shot wide a minute later, following that with a lamentable effort 5 minutes on from that, as County`s growing propensity to concede free kicks in unfortunate positions threatened to undo them. He really should have put that last one away, but he didn`t, and he didn`t again in the very next attack after Jones had scooted clear through a cavernous gap in the County defences – his shot thudding into the ad boards.
With 20 minutes left Sharp came on for Ryan, who left to generous and well deserved applause from the County following, as County...with Lees to the fore soaked up the pressure from their hosts. Zac Mills shot wide in this period, and Hurst came to the rescue falling onto the ball in the crowded box with a clutch of yellow/ black shirts striving to force it home.
It had been a decent game and played largely in a good spirit, but I was not impressed to see Felix try his best to get Churchman sent off....lying `dogo` until it was plain only a yellow would be waved, before instantly reviving!
Into the last 10 minutes or so we went, with Sharp warming to his task- winning a corner off MacNaMee, and being inches away from getting to a neat ball by Glover. Somehow Boston survived, but it was County desperately doing so next as the home specs went AS with the sight of a Hurst spill on the line, from a Newsome shot- he recovered quickly and the home side were disappointed again.
Whilst most of the attacking was coming from the Pilgrims, by no means all was, and Sharps fresh legs were causing Boston a problem or two, and as in other games, the way to stop Sharp was to foul him, which was a good source of relief in the closing minutes via the free kicks, one of which saw a shot from Churchman fiz its way just past the post!
On it went with Boston hell bent on that winning goal, but no nearer achieving it- thanks to a Hurst diving save from one of a number of corners, and a clearance from Jacobs that lifted a bit of a siege.
Sharp continued to win free kicks.....Boston kept up the search for `that goal`-coming closest via Mills who saw his shot thud into the underside of the crossbar, with 90 minutes almost up.
Into added time we went....Hurst punching out firmly under pressure, and Russell winning the ball impressively. When the ball reached Sharp he again underlined his value by earning a free kick in a decent position. Glover lifted a disappointing kick over the bar, and County put Boston under pressure pretty much to the final whistle.
Game over then...point won, and a good point too, against a team that had laid waste to the impressive Guiseley amongst others!
Well worth the effort to get there and watch the game.
Tuesday brings Barrow to Edgeley Park, and I for one fancy another upset!
County line up:
Hurst, Jacobs, Lees, O`Halloran, Duxbury( Todd 77), Churchman, Russell, Baker, Glover, Dennis, Ryan( Sharp 71).
Subs not used:
Boston United line up:
Dixon, MacNaMee, Marrs, Roberts, Garner, Piergianni, McDonald( Felix 57), Mills, Southwell( Newsham77), Jones, Walker.
Subs not used:
Hollingsworth, Simmonds, Vince.
Attendance ; 1072