Boston United have enjoyed many encounters with Macclesfield Town over the years. The first time the two clubs faced each other was an auspicious occasion. In 1968 a new competition for the top non-league sides in the North began. It was called the Northern Premier League and the pick of its opening day fixtures was undoubtedly at York Street where Cheshire League Champions Macclesfield Town were the visitors.
Don Donovan was in charge of Boston United. The former Eire international had brought Boston United unprecedented success, winning League titles in each of his three seasons with the club. For the new season he had decided that it was time to hang up his boots and concentrate on management. His plans were scuppered when it was realised that first choice centre-half Billy Howells would be suspended for the first match. Donovan, who had made his League debut for Everton against Sheffield Wednesday back in 1951, therefore decided to postpone his plan of standing down and took to the pitch. The team contained eight players who had been part of the squad that had won the West Midlands League and Cup double the previous season and had taken Third Division Orient to a replay in the second round proper of the FA Cup.
After a hot bath to ease the bruises and a cigarette to soothe the nerves, Don Donovan delivered his verdict on the game to the Lincolnshire Standard. He said: "In all my years experience I have never seen anything like it." By the end of the game the team from Cheshire had been given the nickname "Macclesfield Maulers". United's new signing Billy Cobb was in hospital. Paddy Roche was sent off in a foul littered game. Ray Lancaster was able to display an ugly red mark high on his chest caused by a kick. It was a physical game, the like of which Boston had not encountered in the previous three seasons. Boston's approach to the game had been to play attractive attacking football. Macclesfield's philosophy was to tackle to get the ball or failing that stop the man.
The first chance of the game fell to Macclesfield after quarter of an hour. Don Donovan had to make a goal line clearance to stop a shot from Frank Beaumont after Boston keeper Ken Simpkins had failed to gather the ball. In their next attack Boston took the lead. Jimmy Fell was fouled on the left wing, but he kept his balance and the referee let him play the advantage so he fired a fierce drive towards the goal. Billy COBB then deflected the ball past Wilf Hall in the Macclesfield goal. The goalscorer's delight soon turned to agony when a minute later he tried to nip between two Macclesfield defenders and ended up with one of them on top of him. He was badly injured and had to be stretchered off and taken to hospital. Brian Kerry came on in his place. On 23 minutes Boston increased their lead. Wilf Hall took his eyes off a bouncing back pass allowing Ray LANCASTER to nip in and steer the ball home. Just before half time Simpkins made a good save to deny former England international Derek Kevan. At the start of the second half Boston almost went three up. Jimmy Fell picked out Peter Thompson with a low pass and the centre forward shot just wide. Lancaster then was unlucky not to score when he saw his shot ricochet off a defender, hit the post, rebound off another defender and go behind for a corner. Fourteen minutes into the half Macclesfield got a goal back. A corner from the right picked out unmarked Derek KEVAN, who made no mistake with his shot. Near the end Boston winger Paddy Roche was sent off for an innocuous foul that was nowhere near as bad as many of the offences perpetrated by other players earlier in the game.
Despite winning the battle Boston failed to win the war. Macclesfield went on to win the first ever Northern Premier League title, twelve points clear of Wigan Athletic, and Boston eventually finished in fourteenth place.
United team: 1. Ken Simpkins, 2. John Lakin, 3. Geoff Barrowcliffe, 4. Ray Lancaster, 5. Don Donovan, 6. Brian Clifton, 7. David Robinson, 8. Billy Cobb (Brian Kerry), 9. Peter Thompson, 10. Paddy Roche, 11. Jimmy Fell.
Macclesfield Town team: 1. Wilf Hall, 2. George Forrester, 3. George Sievwright, 4. Frank Beaumont, 5. John Collins, 6. Dave Berry, 7. Merrick Corfield, 8. Dick Young, 9. Derek Kevan, 10. Dave Roberts, 11. Denis Fidler.
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