More Than A Feeling Of Relief… With A Bostin’ Result!
The Hatters earned three massive points from their final scheduled evening match of the campaign at Edgeley Park, after Matty Warburton’s strike five minutes from time defeated an obdurate Boston United.
It was no less than they deserved, following a match that had seen them dominate in terms of possession and efforts but consistently frustrated by their visitors’ defensive rearguard action and, as time went on, attempts to run the clock down.
County took to the field in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and with a starting line-up that was unaltered from the previous two matches. But, as had been the case at Gainsborough three days previously, the bench did undergo one change: Paul Turnbull, who had not travelled to The Northolme, was named in place of Gary Stopforth, following the departure of ‘G-Stop’ for Colne earlier in the day.
In the course of a stuttering first half that was frequently punctuated by the award of free-kicks – and even by the rarity that is a contested drop-ball (which had to be re-taken!) – the Hatters created the bulk of chances without making them count.
Warburton, with seven minutes played, saw a shot from the edge of the box held by visiting goalkeeper Jon Stewart – just before Jimmy Ball nodded the first of three glancing headers wide of the Railway End goal, and Jason Oswell went close after getting in front of his marker to volley Scott Duxbury’s cross from the left narrowly over.
The visiting ‘Pilgrims’ made little progress in the direction of County’s goal until just before the half-hour mark, when Ashley Hemmings fired a low drive just shy of the left upright. And, 10 minutes ahead of the break, Guiseley loanee Reece Thompson shot beyond the same post after cutting in from the right.
HALF-TIME: County 0, Boston 0.
County began the second half in lively fashion – as another Duxbury cross from the left found Oswell, and the leading scorer’s header was tipped over by Stewart. The Boston ‘keeper proceeded to remain busy – blocking subsequent shots from Adam Thomas and Rhys Turner, and punching away another by Warburton.
Stewart’s opposite Number One Ben Hinchliffe was called into action less frequently – but remained alert twice to deny Thompson when the striker was through on goal. For the most part, however, Boston appeared content to sit back, throw defenders in the face of County forays into their area, and occasionally attack on the break – with such attempts as there were, by the likes of Brad Abbott and Jonathan Wafula, flying well over.
Rather more disingenuously, the visitors – much as they had done while hosting County, and seeking (ultimately unsuccessfully) to defend a lead at York Street back in November – took opportunities to slow the game down.
The Hatters, meanwhile, redoubled their efforts in attack – bringing on Darren Stephenson for Dan Cowan with a quarter of an hour left on the clock. And 10 minutes later, County – as well, one might say, as Karma – finally triumphed. Good work by Stephenson on the left flank led to a cross from Duxbury, an Oswell shot that was blocked and Warburton’s successful conversion on the rebound from 12 yards which gave him his 18th goal of the season in all competitions.
Moreover, of course, the strike proved enough to ensure a second successive victory for the Hatters. And their consequential propulsion back up into the play-off places for the first time since early September has suddenly made the National League North table required reading… rather like, some might say, ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’.
FULL-TIME: County 1 (Warburton, 85), Boston 0.
Team: Hinchliffe, Cowan (Stephenson, 75), Duxbury, Winter (Capt.) (Turnbull, 63), Clarke, Stott, Thomas, Ball, Oswell, Warburton, Turner (O’Halloran, 87).
Unused Subs: Ormson, Minihan.
Man of the Match: Ball.
Attendance: 2,244 (37 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.