Boston Town's dramatic UCL Premier title win - 20 years on

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Boston Town’s last United Counties League Premier Division title win, a gripping campaign which wasn’t settled until stoppage time - with league officials even forced to do a U-turn with the trophy. Here’s the story of that day...

They did it! The Poachers celebrate. Photo: Andy Sandall
They did it! The Poachers celebrate. Photo: Andy Sandall

Boston Town needed a point against Buckingham to lift the UCL Premier title, but as the referee’s watch ticked onto 90 minutes it appeared the Poachers would have to settle for the runners-up spot.

Bob-Don-Duncan’s side were trailing 2-1 while title rivals Cogenhoe United were 2-0 up at Kempston.

This convinced the league officials to pack the trophy into the car and head off to congratulate the Cooks.

Defender Dean Elston celebrates. Photo: Andy Sandall

But everything changed deep into stoppage time as hometown hero Ian Shooter broke free and found the back of the net to ensure Boston finished a point ahead of their rivals.

“We got a bit edgy, the game and the title seemed to be slipping away from us,” manager Don-Duncan remembered.

“The league officials thought it was done and dusted, only for us to break down the right hand side, pull it across the face of goal and Ian Shooter - who’d never done anything but stand on his left foot - hit the thing and it went straight into the stanchion. That was the end of it.

“My memory is of everyone going berserk. Obviously, the people on their way to Cogenhoe got the call to turnaround and come back as we’d drawn at our end.”

A joyful Dave Scotney. Photo: Andy Sandall

Heavy rainfall had led to a number of postponements and the league being extended into mid-May.

Buckingham who had been in the title race for much of the campaign had seen their pitch affected by the downpours and the UCL declared the matrch be played at Raunds.

After a goalless first half, Town found themselves playing up the slope.

Ross Don-Duncan put Boston ahead from the penalty spot but two quickfire responses from the hosts turned the match - and the destination of the trophy - on its head.

Graham Neal is all smiles. Photo: Andy Sandall

“When they got their second I stood by the container at the ground where they kept all the field machinery and I swear to God I had tears coming down my cheeks,” chairman Mick Vines confessed.

His mood wasn’t much better into stoppage time, although the referee had indicated an additional seven minutes would be played due to injury.

Then Shooter’s goal changed Vines’ mood.

“I went berserk as he blasted it with all his might and nearly bust the net,” he added.

“I said to him after ‘you could have blasted that miles wide why didn't you place it?’”

It was a dramatic - and perfect - end to the campaign for Town, but did Don-Duncan believe his side would get that leveller?

“You wouldn’t put money on it,” he said. “But football has its way and we just kept at it as we had all season.

“I thought we always had the capability but the way things had been going it looked a long shot.

“It was that type of side that never gave in and was fiercely competitive, so something could always happen.”

Looking back, Don-Duncan believes that squad had the perfect mentality to not give up when the odds were stacked against them.

He recalled: “We’d got such a hard working side. It wasn’t, without being disrespectful, the most talented set of players, but what we did have was a tremendous work ethic.

“We did have talented footballers and goalscorers, but the main backbone of the side was the team spirit and work ethic.

“Buckingham were quite a talented team but we went about it in typical workmanlike fashion.

“I relied on the players and the players trusted me, that’s how it worked.”

Fan Andy Sandall was there to witness Shooter’s historic goal.

What stood out for him was the title was won by local talent.

He said: “When you look at that team it’s 11 Boston lads and the only others (Linny Wright, Dean Elston, Rob Speechley) are only from Spalding and Holbeach, which I think is a big deal as I don’t think we ever had a successful locals team like that.

“Our 70s and 80s heyday was with Sheffield-based players, then the Central Midlands League team was a mix of Lincoln, Skegness and South Lincolnshire players.

“Even the first big success Bob had when he came back saw him add Grimsby-based players to a team made up mainly of Lincoln-based players and a few Boston lads.

“So this was the time that defied the long-held mantra of local football fans that you just couldn’t win with a team made up of Boston-based players.

The game itself was a bit of a shocker, if I remember correctly. “Raunds’ (then) new ground was out on the main road with no cover around it so was windy and blustery and the pitch hadn’t really established itself well so wasn’t great for playing passing football on.

“My memory says it was a real grinder of a game with a lot of hefty tackles and our frustration really coming out about how unfair it all seemed.”

The jubilant Poachers had a long wait to lift the trophy, awaiting the UCL officials to return from what ended up being an unnecessary trip.

But for Vines, it was an excuse to get a quick tipple in.

“There was plenty of drinking that day... and that night,” he added.

“Good memories. Those days are few and far between, there’s always more bad days than good days.

“But we made sure we enjoyed that day on the bus home.”