Stalybridge Celtic 2-1 Pilgrims
Suspensions ruled out top scorer Daryl Clare and defender Mark Clifford, and Mark Monington wasn't fully recovered from an injury he picked up last week, so he started from the subs' bench. On-loan signing Steve McGarry took Clare's place up front and Simon Rusk was drafted into the defence to take over Clifford's role. With recent newcomer Darren Beesley also starting, it wasn't too surprising that the game began with very few chances at either end. Stalybridge looked like a side struggling near the bottom of the Conference, and the makeshift Boston side looked like a team who were still getting to know each other. The game burst into life seven minutes before half-time when a poor pass by Ross Weatherstone was intercepted, allowing Sammy AYORINDE to break clear and drill home past Paul Bastock. A few minutes later, good work by Steve McGarry set up Anthony Elding, who somehow managed to shoot wide with the goal at his mercy. At half time Elding was replaced by Neil Tarrant. The second half started with Boston piling on the pressure. Celtic striker Steve Pickford soon found his name going into the referee's book for scything down Rusk as he flew down the right wing. A few minutes later the same player was dismissed for a second bookable offence, this time a late tackle on Angel on the left wing.
So with Stalybridge down to ten men it would surely now be only a matter of time before top-of-the-table Boston slotted in the goals that would maintain their position at the top. And indeed, from the resulting free kick Paul ELLENDER headed home. However, someone forgot to tell the Stalybridge players the script. Another poor pass by Ross Weatherstone let in Ayorinde again, who this time squared to Ged COURTNEY who powered the ball into the net with a well placed shot. Boston now raised the tempo, and wave after wave of Boston attacks headed towards the Stalybridge goal. Both Simon Weatherstone and Steve McGarry saw shots hit the post and a low, hard Mark Angel cross came close to forcing an own-goal, but the intercept crept just wide of the post. With time running out Boston thought they had equalised when a shot appeared to have crossed the line before being hooked out, but both the referee and the linesman thought otherwise. Three stong claims for penalties also went unheeded. So Stalybridge held on to get all three points in a result that lifted them off the bottom of the table.
United team: 1. Bastock, 2. Rusk, 3. Lodge (Gould 76), 4. R Weatherstone, 5. Scott, 6. Ellender, 7. Beesley (Brown 67), 8. Elding (Tarrant 46), 9. McGarry, 10. S Weatherstone, 11. Angel. Subs (not used): Monington, Conroy (gk).
Match report and photo by Ken Fox.