Pilgrims 0-0 Bristol Rovers
by Barbara Singleton
Another clean sheet illustrated the fact that Boston United are much tougher to beat than earlier in the campaign. Three goals conceded in the last seven outings is ample evidence of that. Points have also been accumulated on a regular basis since the dark days of eight straight defeats during the late autumn. The only problem is that other sides in the basement area are also harvesting rewards. It is certainly making for a tight tussle in the relegation zone. Victory against fellow strugglers Bristol Rovers would have been welcome. But a one point return was a worthy second prize. And perhaps on the balance of play - particularly in the second half - a three-point would have been merited. The Pilgrims definitely stirred themselves to greater heights after the break following a disappointing first half in which neither side really created much in the way of purposeful opportunities on a clawing and demanding surface. Manager Neil Thompson was philosophical about the outcome, saying: "It would have been nice to have won. But the most important thing was that we didn't lose to a side close to us in the table. It is still very tight at the bottom, but we now just need to kick on from here and start turning our run of draws in victories." The match opened with United and Rovers both adopting a cautious approach in tricky conditions underfoot. It wasn't until the 16th minute that either side managed a genuine effort at goal - this coming when a Wayne Carlisle shot flew too high for Rovers after Boston had only half-cleared a corner.
In reply, Simon Weatherstone fired United's first effort wide of the target and then Ben Chapman ventured forward to blast just over the top after linking well with Richard Logan. Later on, a cross from Rovers' Vitaljis Astafjevs caused panic in the home back line and it took a plunging save by Paul Bastock to deny Paul Tait at the far post. Nearer the interval, Boston hit back and a Mark Greaves header and a Paddy McCarthy shot went close to breaking the deadlock following a Simon Weatherstone corner. Boston looked a far more potent outfit after the break and showed their intentions early on with Stuart Douglas firing wide from a Chapman pass. Then, on 51 minutes Logan forced a good save from Scott Howie with a low close-range stabbed effort from a pass by Lee Thompson. The introduction of substitutes Neil Redfearn and Jamie Gould added extra spark to the United cause and instantly Logan burst through but lofted his shot too high. Boston had what seemed a let-off in the 65th minute when a linesman flagged for an apparent handball offence outside his area by Paul Bastock, despite the ball seeming to strike the custodian's chest. Referee Lee Mason showed creditable common sense and hoisted just a yellow card. Boston returned to the attack and as the half wore on, they went close on several occasions. Headers from Douglas and Redfearn both tested Howie while two late drives by Douglas and another from Logan whistled just off-target. Little was seen of the Rovers' front line, thanks in no small measure to some assured defending by the United back line of McCarthy, Hocking, Balmer and Chapman.
United team: 1. Bastock, 2. Chapman, 3. Hocking, 4. McCarthy, 5. Greaves, 6. Bennett (Redfearn 62), 7. Balmer, 8. L Thompson, 9. S Weatherstone (Gould 60), 10. Logan, 11. Douglas (Town 87). Subs (not used): Higgins, Conroy (gk).
Photo copyright © Ken Fox, 2003.