The race for the Northern Premier League Title in 1977/8 was close all the way to the end. Boston United, Wigan Athletic, Northwich Victoria, Bangor City, Scarborough and Stafford Rangers all vied for the title. By mid October only three points separated Boston in sixth place from leaders Northwich. By mid January a sequence of eight wins in their last ten league games saw Boston topping the table, ahead of Scarborough, Northwich and Wigan, but both Scarborough and Wigan had games in hand over the leader. Boston finished off their home schedule with an encounter against second placed Wigan Athletic. It resulted in the most exciting game seen at York Street all season. Boston had already beaten Wigan three times during the season - twice in the Northern Premier League Cup and in the away League fixture.
Boston dominated the early play, but it was Wigan who went into a two goal lead midway through the first half. For the opening fifteen minutes it was Boston with their calm and cultured approach who looked the stronger side. Twice Wigan's keeper Phil Critchley had to make full length saves, first to a shot from Neil Callery then one from Bobby Brown. However, Wigan had shown that they could be dangerous when, on the quarter hour, a quick break down the left wing by Frank Corrigan ended with a cross to Micky Worswick who blazed the ball high over the bar from 18 yards out. A few minutes later Dave Adamson had to make a good challenge to block a shot by Peter Houghton.
|Wigan took the lead in the 24th minute when centre-half Noel WARD rose above Dave Poplar and Steve Thompson to head home a free kick from the right at the near post. A minute later Boston went further behind when a shot from Worswick could only be parried out by Stewart to HOUGHTON who scored from close range. Boston were in more trouble in the 33rd minute, when Adamson again had to make a goal-line clearance after Houghton had been set free down the right following a penetrating pass from Frank Corrigan, rounded the keeper and shot goalwards. Boston pulled a goal back in the 37th minute when POPLAR headed a good goal from a free kick hit high into the penalty area by Adamson. Forty-six seconds into the second half Jim KABIA scored from close range to bring the scores level. Player-coach Brian BATES gave Boston the lead in the 65th minute as they began to dominate the match. Four minutes later POPLAR got his second goal to clinch the win for United.||
The win ended Wigan's title hopes, but it didn't quite confirm Boston as champions. Bangor City still had five games left and if they won all five and Boston lost their two remaining games then Bangor would sneak the title. As it happened, Boston won their subsequent game at Mossley by 2-1 and were thus crowned Northern Premier League champions for the fourth time in six seasons. They finished six points clear of runners-up Wigan.
Both Boston and Wigan were keen to join the Football League, but unlike today where there is automatic promotion from the Conference, back in 1978 clubs had to apply for membership with places decided by voting at the Annual General Meeting of the Football League. Boston had been applying for membership since 1956, but the previous season their plans for election were scuppered when the Football League ground inspection team deemed that their York Street ground was not up to the required standard. This season club chairman Ernest Malkinson had stated that: "The revenue available to the Boston United Directors is not sufficient to run the club; there is no margin left to enable them to embark on expensive ground improvements (even if it could be guaranteed that such improvements would satisfy the Football League's standards) and certainly there is no financial sense in burdening the future of the club with huge borrowings based on a speculative future. The Directors are convinced that with reasonable good luck the district could just about support a Football League club, always provided that the club was not initially burdened with heavy debts, and the only way the ground could be brought up to the required standard is by spending a sum of money which is not at this time available." This gave runners-up Wigan the chance to apply as the top team in the Northern Premier League with a compliant ground. Wigan had previously made thirty-four unsuccessful attempts to join the League and in desperation had even applied to join the Scottish Second Division in 1972. This time however their luck changed and Wigan got the votes required to replace Southport in the Fourth Division.
Boston United: 1. Gerry Stewart, 2. Albert Phelan, 3. Fred Taylor, 4. Dave Poplar, 5. Dave Adamson, 6. Steve Thompson, 7. Neil Callery, 8. Brian Bates, 9. Bobby Brown, 10. Jim Kabia, 11. Bob Hosker, Sub. John Moyes.
Wigan Athletic: 1. Phil Critchley, 2. Joe Hinnigan, 3. Steve Prescott, 4. Tom Gore, 5. Noel Ward, 6. Ian Gillibrand, 7. Frank Corrigan, 8. Micky Worswick, 9. Peter Houghton, 10. John Wilkie, 11. Jeff Wright, Sub. Billy Styles.
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