BOSTON UNITED 2 NORTH FERRIBY UNITED 0: Advantage Pilgrims as Mills smashes home last-gasp volley
The Pilgrims will take a 2-0 lead into the National League North play-offs’ second leg on Sunday courtesy of Grant Roberts’ first-half finish and a stoppage-time dream finish from Zak Mills.
On reflection, United may be wondering how they don’t have an even more comfortable cushion after creating the better chances in tonight’s contest at the Jakemans Stadium.
But any advantage at this stage of the season is something to cling on to, especially as Boston have never led at half time in a two-legger in this division’s play-offs.
With more than 2,500 home fans - complete with inflatables and camera phone lights - York Street was rocking from kick off until after the final whistle.
And that atmosphere certainly added to a memorable night, where United played with freedom, passion and desire, a contest emulated by Carl Piergianni, Scott Garner and Nat Brown all spilling blood for the cause, and Ferriby’s Tom Denton doing likewise.
With just three minutes on the clock Ferriby keeper Adam Nicklin pulled off a solid early save, getting both hands behind Dayle Southwell’s volley to palm away the danger.
And it was the Pilgrims who enjoyed the better of the opening 20 minutes, Nicklin getting his frame in the way of Piergianni’s left footed drive, standing rooted as Southwell flashed one wide of goal and minutes later scooping up at the second attempt after Brown’s deflected effort looped up onto the post.
But with 23 minutes on the clock United drew first blood through a slick, clever team goal.
From the right wing Jay Rollins found Southwell on the edge of the box, the striker collecting the ball and feeding it on to Roberts who took a touch and slotted calmly into the side netting from close range.
The Boston onslaught continued with Piergianni - his head bandaged following an earlier collision with Denton - nodding one onto the bar while Southwell bent an effort the wrong side of the woodwork.
Throughout the first half Ferriby looked dangerous on the counter, but had little more than a couple of blocked strikes to show for their efforts.
But into time added on a long ball asked questions of the United defence, Brown’s headed clearance skimming into the path of Danny Hone who, at full stretch, could only stab wide.
A half-time dressing down saw the Villagers a hungrier outfit after the break, with Fabian Spiess being tested by Liam King’s 20 yarder, which the stopper comfortably held.
The United keeper was a busy man after the interval, forced to claim a number of deep crosses into his box.
As the tension mounted Denton was lucky to just see yellow when a flailing arm caught Roberts in the face, while United’s Southwell and Garner were both booked.
Boston again mounted a bseries of attacks as Kaine Felix saw a 20-yader fizz inches wide and Southwell, cutting in from the flank, couldn’t get the power on his shot to beat Nicklin low at his near post.
A mid-air collision between Garner and Piergianni ended the defender’s evening with 13 minutes to go, Joe Burgess replacing him as Garner dropped into the back four.
With 10 minutes to go, Ferriby’s Liam King missed a golden chance to level as he volleyed well over at the back post.
And while he was still questioning how that opportunity went begging, Rollins broke down the other end and smashed an effort against the foot of Nicklin’s post.
Into the five minutes of time added on Spiess did well to hold on to King’s free kick to maintain that lead remained intact.
But the best was yet to come. Five minutes into added time, Felix’s effort looped high and well wide of the mark, only for the incoming Mills to smash home a 14-yard volley beyond Nicklin at his near post.
It was one for the scrapbook and with perfect timing.
Now to Church Road on Sunday. It’s not over yet.
UNITED: Spiess, Mills, Brown, Piergianni (Burgess 77), McEvoy, Garner, Roberts, Hilliard, Felix, Southwell, Rollins; Subs: Marrs, M. Jones, Lavelle-Moore, Johnson.
FERRIBY: Nicklin, Middleton, Hone, Palmer, Wilde, Hotte (Brooksby 51), Fry, Clarke, King, Bateson, Denton; Subs: Bolder, Gray, Topliss, Kendall.
Ref: Simon Barrow.
Att: 2,592 (75).