The late sixties and most of the seventies were glory years for Boston United, both in terms of winning league titles and great FA Cup runs. The 1970/71 season was no exception. United's FA Cup run began in September with a 4-0 victory over Holbeach United in the First Qualifying Round. Victories over Lincoln United, Boston FC and Frickley Colliery brought the Pilgrims through to the First Round Proper where they were drawn away against Southport, who were then a Football League side challenging for Fourth Division honours. Boston's player-manager Jim Smith relished the prospect of playing against three of his former team mates from his time at Halifax Town who were now plying their trade with Southport. A convincing 2-0 win resulted and the second round draw paired the Pilgrims with another Fourth Division opponent; York City, this time at home.
Early indications were that York's speed might trouble the home defence. Henderson mishit an early chance when the home defence were spreadeagled. But as time went on Keith Jobling snuffed out the threat of £20,000 rated Phil Boyer and Alex Gibson became the master of 100 goal ace Paul Aimson. Boston took the lead on 16 minutes. John Froggatt was put clear by a pinpoint pass from Eric Weaver and he sent in a cross which Brian BATES headed past Ron Hillyard in the York goal. Hillyard had to make a good save to stop Bates increasing the Boston lead just before half time. In the second half John Flannagan began to get past John Mackin and Bob MacKay was having a running feud with Ian Davidson. It wasn't long before Hillyard had to make another good save from a Bates header. At the other end, Phil Burrows saw a header bounce off the post. In the 80th minute York City equalised. A centre came in and was cleared off the line by John Lakin, but DAVIDSON followed up to score from close range. Then with five minutes left Malcolm White in the Boston goal cleared a corner but was challenged by Brian Swallow. Boston defender Billy Howells, playing his 297th game for Boston, objected to the challenge and kicked Swallow. Howells was then sent off and York awarded a penalty. John MACKIN had no trouble scoring from the spot. Keith Jobling just missed with a header right at the end.
York City went on to beat Bolton Wanderers in the third round but failed at the next hurdle when they were knocked out by Southampton in a replay after the first match had ended in a 3-3 draw.
Boston's league title ambitions suffered a setback following a string of bad results when they went six games without scoring. They eventually finished in fourth place behind Wigan Athletic, Stafford Rangers and Scarborough. They also had a good run in the FA Trophy, reaching the second round proper before being narrowly beaten by Wigan.
After being banned for a number of games, Billy Howells came back into the Boston side as an emergency striker. After scoring in his first game back he soon resumed his normal role in defence. He went on to break Boston's appearances record with over 500 games to his credit.
United team: 1. Malcolm White, 2. Billy Howells, 3. John Lakin, 4. Jim Smith, 5. Alex Gibson, 6. Keith Jobling, 7. Eric Weaver, 8. Brian Bates, 9. John Froggatt, 10. Bob MacKay, 11. John Flannagan, Sub. Billy Cobb.
Tom Johnston (York City Manager) "It was tough on Boston. We didn't play very well, but I thought we looked like saving the game towards the end. Boston I knew were a good side and I expected a tough game. But the important thing is that we won."
Jim Smith "It was absolutely thrown away. One goal from a footballing error, the other from a human error. It was diabolical. Without doubt we were the better side. They had no heart for the game in midfield or up front. Their defenders kept going, and their keeper brought off two saves to keep them in the game. We all feel very sad about it. I feel very sorry for the supporters. They were let down. It would have been different if we had been well beaten by a better side."
Billy Howells "It was the most stupid thing I have done in my life. I can't explain why I did it, but the referee was right. He had no option but to give the penalty. But their player had gone straight into Malcolm White and fouled him several times. I feel sick. It looked worse than it really was."
Brian Swallow "It was a stupid thing to do. Their player just kicked me in the back, but the ball had been cleared and there was no need to do it. It was just stupid. The danger had been cleared."
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