Andy Kirk's brilliance, Adam Boyd's revenge and the goal that never was! Former Pilgrims skipper Paul Ellender remembers the last time Boston United booked their place in the FA Cup's third round

As Boston United prepare to face Rochdale in the FA Cup, we catch up with a player who was part of the last Pilgrims team to win a round two contest...
Paul Ellender in action against Hartlepool.Paul Ellender in action against Hartlepool.
Paul Ellender in action against Hartlepool.

"I remember watching the draw, hoping we'd get a big team," Paul Ellender reflected.

Back in late 2004 the Pilgrims captain was part of the Boston United side which had just beaten Hereford United 3-2 at Edgar Street to book the club's place in the FA Cup's third round for the fourth time in their history.

Like his Boston teammates, he was desperate for an away day at a Premier League giant, the chance to sample the lifestyle the game's superstars enjoy week in, week-out.

David Noble on the ball.David Noble on the ball.
David Noble on the ball.

As the balls were drawn out, Ellender had visions of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal.

"We got Hartlepool United," he added.

"I think it was the worst draw we could have had. Away from home against a side one division higher than us.

"They were on a really good run at the time as well."

Greg Strong in possession.Greg Strong in possession.
Greg Strong in possession.

Before Hartlepool, Boston's FA Cup journey had begun at a much more familiar venue. Against a familiar foe.

As a League Two side, the Pilgrims didn't enter the draw until the first round where they were set to face Conference South highfliers Hornchurch.

The contest had extra spice as the Urchins were managed by Garry Hill, whose Dagenham and Redbridge side were pipped to the Conference title by United on goal difference in 2002.

During that run-in Steve Evans - now back in the United dug-out following his suspended sentence for contract irregularities and subsequent 20-month ban from football - and Hill had become bitter enemies.

Ellender lunges.Ellender lunges.
Ellender lunges.

Fireworks were expected in the dug-out and on the pitch, especially as Hornchurch had assembled a quality squad, including midfielder Simon Weatherstone, the man who scored the goal at Hayes that ensured the title went to Boston.

But days before kick off the club had suffered financial difficulties and the entire squad was released.

A team made up mainly of youngsters and new signings headed north up the A1 to Boston, before the club folded later that season.

By full time on that November afternoon, United were unsurprisingly 5-2 winners.

Ellender in action.Ellender in action.
Ellender in action.

"It's funny how things come around in football," said Ellender, whos scored Boston's fifth goal in that game, an 89th minute header.

"We were expecting a difficult game but it was quite comfortable in the end."

Steve Castle's free kick gave the visitors the lead but from then on there was to be only one winner as Tam McManus' brace and Lee Thompson's finish put Boston 3-1 up.

Terry Everett reduced the arrears but David Noble and Ellender stifled any nerves.

Off the pitch, Evans and Hill kept their distance, although when the Hornchurch boss was cheekily asked to sign a programme by a Boston fan he insisted on scrawling his name across the page saved for his opposite number's column.

That victory saw United drawn away at Conference side Hereford.

Andy Kirk is thwarted.Andy Kirk is thwarted.
Andy Kirk is thwarted.

The raucous atmosphere at Edgar Street only got louder when Tamika Mkandiwire put the Bulls ahead early on.

But, like the previous round, Boston fought back.

Jason Lee headed the Pilgrims level before Andy Kirk - rushed back from injury due to Daryl Clare being cup tied- netted twice, his first a clever back heel and his second a wonderful individual effort.

Craig Stanley made the contest more competitive in the 88th minute, but Boston held on to earn their place in that coveted third-round draw.

"Kirky was a great striker, you need players like that if you want to be a successful," Ellender told The Standard.

"He just knew where the goal was and he won us so many matches just by instinctively knowing where to be.

"Boydy was the same, a quality striker. He was great to play with."

Boydy, of course, was Adam Boyd, the former Boston attacker who had been doing the business at Hartlepool United when the two sides met at Victoria Park on January 8, 2015.

He had scored four times during a 14-game spell with the Pilgrims the previous season while on loan from Pools.

So impressive had Boyd been that a deal to sign him had been struck, only for an eventual disagreement over the transfer fee to see the move halted.

Instead, Boyd remained with Hartlepool and found a rich vein of scoring form, netting 18 times for his home-town club that season prior to the cup clash.

With the scores goalless in stoppage time the hosts were handed a perfect opportunity to win it when Andrew Appleby was adjudged to have been fouled in the box by a combination of Ellender and Lee Beevers.

Boyd placed the ball, took his run up and - with Nathan Abbey guessing to his right - the striker blasted his effort down the middle.

And over the bar.

"I remember thinking that was it," Ellender said on conceding the penalty.

"I thought we were out and it was a horrible way to lose. But Boydy put it over and we somehow got the replay."

The two sides met again 11 days later, to this day the last third round FA Cup match played at York Street.

It was a contest Boston - spurred on by a noisy crowd - dominated. But Boyd had his moment at the second time of asking, adding to his tally of goals at York Street, his 25-yarder aided by a deflection off Ellender.

York Street went wild when, in the dying seconds, Thompson burst into the Pools box and put the ball into the net.

But goal was correctly ruled out for handball and United's cup run came to an end.

"I thought we'd equalised but it wasn't given," added Ellender.

"I remember we played really well that day and going out like that was harsh on us. The fans really got behind us."

Ellender never got the chance to face a Premier League side in the FA Cup with Boston, but Craig Elliott's current crop are just one win away from hosting Newcastle United in round three next month.

The bad news is that League One Rochdale stand in their way this Monday (KO 7.30pm).

"It's a great draw for Boston," added Ellender, a member of the last United side to win a round two fixture.

"I hope they do it. It'll be great for everyone at the club."