DALE v PILGRIMS: FA Cup magic as non-league Boston United hold League One Rochdale to a stalemate

Rochdale 0 Boston United 0

Andi Thanoj. Photo: @russelldossett
Andi Thanoj. Photo: @russelldossett

Boston United will be in the hat for the FA Cup's third round draw after they held League One Rochdale to a stalemate at Spotland.

It may have been goalless, but they'll be talking about it for years to come.

In what will go down in club history as one of those memorable cup clashes, the Pilgrims - the only National League North and Lincolnshire side left in the tournament - held their own against a full-time side three divisions higher up the ladder.

Often daring, sometimes desperate, Boston did enough to ensure York Street will host one final FA Cup clash. At least.

The hosts were desperate not to be an FA Cup punchline, making just one change from the side which was beaten 3-0 at Spotland by Portsmouth last weekend. Seven of the side had taken Manchester United to penalties in the League Cup earlier this season.

The Pilgrims' teamsheet told a different story as Craig Elliott, who gave his fringe players their chance in the FA Trophy loss at Atherton Collieries, made eight amendments.

Karl Byrne - who signed dual registration papers with Grantham Town - was a shock name amongst the substitutes as he returned to the squad for the first time since October 5's victory at Sutton Coldfield.

Urged on by a sea of amber in the Willbutts Lane Stand, Boston made the early headway, Andi Thanoj and Alex Whittle seeing efforts charged down as quick feet and expansive play served the Pilgrims well.

While United favoured taking the game to their opponents, Dale were happy to play possession football, their keep-ball bringing jeers from the away fans. And cheers when stray passes sent the ball into touch.

Dale began to boss the game in the final 15 minutes of the first half, Aaron Wilbraham's strike deflected wide by Tom Platt before the biggest let-off of the opening 45.

Callum Camps' bobbling 20 yarder beat Peter Crook and rebounded back into play off the post where Ian Henderson slotted home, only for his strike to be adjudged offside.

Andi Thanoj's weak 20 yarder was held by Sanchez as the second half kicked off, the Rochdale keeper forced into using his chest to deny Jordan Thewlis after his quick feet took him into the box.

And when Thewlis teed up Thanoj he went for precision over power with just the keeper to beat, Sanchez again saving well.

A combination of amber shirts somehow blocked Oliver Rathbone's goalbound strike as Dale again began to turn the screw.

A series of injuries, including Thanoj being replaced by Jonathan Wafula after picking up a groin niggle, slowed the home side's momentum.

But Crook was still called upon to tip Rathbone's 35 yarder over his bar.

The hosts pushed on at the death but couldn't find that decisive goal, Crook saving from Rathbone and Henderson somehow heading the follow-up over from a yard out.

The two sides will do it all again a week Tuesday. Bring it on.

DALE: Sanchez, Norrington-Davies, O'Connell, Williams, Camps, Pyke (Tavares 78), Done, Morley (Wilbraham 32), Bradley (Rathbone 58), Henderson, Metheson; Subs (not used): Lynch, Keohane, Gillam, Hopper.

UNITED: Crook, Duhaney, Whittle, Platt, Bird, Shiels, Thanoj (Wafula 75), Abbott, Knowles (Wright 79), Thewlis (Tuton 90), Rollins; Subs (not used): Jackson, Willis, Ainge, Byrne.

REF: Dean Whitestone.

ATT: 2,583 (926).