COLUMN: Craig Elliott deserves the plaudits as his brave Boston United gamble paid off

Managers have to enjoy the smooth as they take their fair share of rough...

Craig Elliott celebrates beating York. Photo: Eric Brown

You can’t blame Craig Elliott for affording himself a smile as he prepared for his post-match interview on Saturday.

His Boston United side had just pulled to within seven points of leaders King’s Lynn after coming from behind to beat second-place York City 3-1.

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The Pilgrims also did it in the way that Elliott has always enjoyed seeing his sides play; brave, uncompromising and physically robust to the point of testing the referee’s nerve.

The Pilgrims salute the fans. Photo: Eric Brown

But what made Saturday extra sweet for Elliott was that his gamble paid off.

Jaws dropped across the ground at news that leading scorer Jordan Thewlis and Jay Rollins had been benched as the manager went all-in with a 3-5-2 formation which, it later transpired, the squad had spent just one hour working on in training.

When Kurt Willoughby put York ahead with an inch-perfect lob with just seven minutes played you couldn’t help but wonder how long the manager would leave it before chucking on his attacking flair players.

But Elliott stubbornly stuck to his guns and goals from Frank Mulhern, Brad Abbott and Andi Thanoj - two of them absolute worldies or complete flukes, depending on how you saw it - moved the Pilgrims to within six points of the side they’d just beaten, with two games in hand.

Happy faces at full time. Photo: Eric Brown

They say fortune favours the brave, and it was ballsy for Elliott to tinker with a team that was on a four-game winning run.

But that winning streak is now five and the manager - and his squad - deserve every bit of praise which came their way at full time.

After all, Elliott gets more than his fair share of flak when things don’t work out.

You only have to go as far back as far as New Year’s Day to remember the accusations aimed at the manager online after the 3-0 home defeat to King’s Lynn.

The fans were happy the gamble paid off. Photo: Eric Brown

‘Out-thought’, ‘clueless’ and ‘hiding’ were just three.

But since that day Boston have bounced back with six wins and a draw, ahead of Saturday’s visit to rivals Brackley.

January 1: you’re clueless. February 8: you’re a hero.

But isn’t that just the life of a football manager?

Jay Rollins and Alex Penny enjoyed that. Photo: Eric Brown

Win well, the players are heroes. Lose badly, you’re to blame.

Indeed, for that reason Elliott should be allowed to savour the weekend’s victory, not just because things change very quickly in football, but also because it was well-earned.

This weekend the Pilgrims discovered a new way of winning, displayed a new, quite impressive, nastiness.

Just look at those early, full-blooded challenges from Simon Ainge and Luke Shiels.

Both within the rules but both about letting the opposition know what they were in for as much as winning the ball.

It was obvious from the opening few seconds that the new formation had brought a new gameplan.

Brad Abbott is all smiles. Photo: Eric Brown

Elliott has previously spoken about his need for a plan B to win matches.

Up until now it hasn’t always been evident.

But up until now have Boston had the right personnel to carry out what was being asked of them?