Pilgrims 3-1 Grantham Town
Dr Martens League
by Barbara Singleton
Derby day emotions could hardly have been more contrasting. Boston United were cock-a-hoop after confirming their status as Dr Martens League champions. But it was grim for Grantham, who dropped back into relegation trouble. And while there were tears of delight in the Pilgrims' camp with the club clinching their first major honour for 22 years, Gingerbreads' connections know that plenty of nail-biting lies ahead if they are to preserve their Premier Division status. After today's bank holiday encounters, both outfits now have just two games left on their agendas. While Boston can afford to relax after shouldering eight months of pressure and expectation, it's a different story for their county rivals. The clubs' respective positions were brought fully into perspective during this hugely important encounter seen by more than 4,000 supporters in a highly-charged York Street atmosphere. Such was the importance of the clash, that the gate of 4,137 bettered all but four of the day's Third Division attendance's - eclipsing Lincoln City's into the bargain. Not since the 1977-78 Northern Premier League title win have Boston followers been able to cherish a championship success. But they made up for lost time in fine style. But credit, too, to the 400-plus Grantham fans who cheered their heroes to the rafters throughout the match - especially after getting the bonus of a first minute lead. And even though things didn't work out for Grantham, there was much to admire about the dignified way that manager John Wilkinson and his team re-emerged from the dressing room to applaud Boston from the pitch. Steve Evans' side had to overcome the jolt of falling behind to a goal inside the first minute. Grantham attacked from the first whistle and when Andy Gray's trickery took him past three defenders, he was finally halted by a ruthless chop-down by Colin Hoyle. Full-back Jim NEIL promptly stepped up to whack a fine 20-yard left-foot free-kick over the defensive wall and beyond the reach of goalkeeper Paul Bastock.
And if Grantham had been able to show better finishing qualities, their lead might have been doubled. After 20 minutes, a Neil corner was only partially cleared by Mickey Nuttell and Andy Gray whipped a curling shot inches wide. Boston had a couple of notable chances of their own. First leading scorer Mark Rawle saw a cross-cum-shot bounce away off the bar and then Gary Childs fizzed a 40-yarder just wide of the mark. But as the Pilgrims stepped up the pressure Peter Costello and Paul Raynor started to orchestrate the midfield movement and United carried more threat - emphasised when RAWLE levelled the scored on 27 minutes. The Boston front man flicked home a header after Raynor had returned an Andrew Stanhope corner into the danger area. Grantham almost regained the lead on the stroke of half-time when Gray fired wide after running on to a blocked shot from Mark Harbottle. But in the second half, it was largely a tale of Boston domination. On 51 minutes, Raynor crossed deep to the far post but Stanhope shot wide. And then a mazy run by Stanhope saw him beat four defenders before crashing a drive against the post. But in the 66th minute the Pilgrims went ahead when RAWLE took his season's tally to 20 after pouncing on a loose ball. And in the dying throes, Rawle almost completed a treble with a rising shot which flashed too high. However, by that stage Boston had opened up a 3-1 lead with CHILDS sliding in to score after the ball dropped invitingly following a double aerial challenge by Nuttell and Rawle had seemingly made Ziccardi spill possession but referee Brian Curson allowed the goal. Cue long-lasting scenes of championship celebration, the like of which York Street has not seen since 1978.
United team: 1. Paul Bastock, 2. Joby Gowshall, 3. Len Curtis, 4. Colin Hoyle, 5. Peter Costello, 6. David Rennie, 7. Andrew Stanhope, 8. Gary Childs, 9. Mick Nuttell, 10. Mark Rawle, 11. Paul Raynor, 12. Paul Watts, 14. Craig Allardyce, 15. Paul Wilson.
Click here for photos of the post match celebrations.
This report originally appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo.