How the underdog spirit has brought the good times back to Boston United

Christian James enjoys the resurgence of a bare bones Pilgrims

Boston defied league standing once again to dump another full-time, higher ranked outfit out of the play-offs on their own ground, with yet another remarkable away performance on Sunday afternoon.

United’s teamsheet gave the impression of a side limping towards the end of the season, with players dropping left, right and centre as the whole affair is mercilessly dragged on in to mid-May.

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And yet the Boston we have seen this past fortnight has shown the gritted determination and winning mentality it has threatened to deliver all season.

The signs have been there – just take a look at the away form since the start of March – but the Pilgrims are a different prospect to that which conceded late against Gloucester just two weeks ago.

The last six games have brought injuries to Tom Platt, Joe Leesley, Brad Nicholson, Scott Duxbury alongside knocking the fitness of Jake Wright jnr.

The XI at Fylde featured just six who started against the Coasters in Boston three weekends ago.

Add to that longer term absentees Matt Tootle, Jordan Burrow and Jay Rollins plus the unavailability of James Hanson and Jake Wright snr on Sunday, and those out of action threaten to outnumber the men available to Paul Cox.

Boston United fans and players have enjoyed a special connection this month. Photo: Oliver Atkin

Factor in the quick turnaround, compared to the hosts’ week off; with no recognised left backs or wingers available and only 20 minutes in Wright jnr, Paul Cox set a line up with four centre

midfielders, right back Ferguson at left back, and recently-returned-from-loan Conor Dimaio thrown back in to start.

Ntumba Massanka was charged with filling the vacant spot alongside Danny Elliott, as the team adjusted from a back five to a four.

In the regular season you’d have been delighted with a point given the makeup of the team.

Especially at Fylde. But no, this unshackled, resurgent Boston side went and won. Against a team who did the double over them on a way to a points tally of 80, compared to United’s 63.

My comments on Thursday noted pessimistic expectations but having come through the Aggborough game, you wondered if this would be a step too far.

Again the talk was of pressure on the hosts and the freedom of being underdogs.

The first half did not offer much to chance those pre-match assertions.

Fylde, with Nick Haughton buzzing around the edge of the box, dominated the ball without creating a raft of chances.

Marcus Dewhurst was sent scrambling by a free-kick from 25 yards, but that- like the rest- landed off target.

At the interval you felt the Pilgrims had done well to reach halfway with the clean sheet it tact, albeit having faced territorial pressure as opposed to regular attempts on

goal.

After the break it was a different story. If the statistics are available please do point me in the direction but it felt that the ball was in the Coasters’ half for at least two thirds of the second half.

The midfield duo of Paul Green and Shane Byrne, as they had in midweek, won more than their fair share of second balls in the middle of the park. United took control of both flanks- Keenan Ferguson, often ably assisted by Conor Dimaio, regularly provided crosses from the left while Femi Seriki (man of the match for me) stamped his authority down that side on his lonesome.

Brad Abbott’s role in behind Elliott and Ntumba Massanka, latterly Wright, links the midfield and the front line up perfectly.

Massanka filled the gap up top well, keeping busy and harrying the back line for his hour or so, while Wright – who conceded he was only fit for a substitute’s role- had the desired impact coming on.

His link up play with Elliott is coming on nicely, the two exchanged some delightful flicks and tricks having been re-united up top, and yet again Jake won a penalty to hand his strike partner the chance to wrap things up.

And Danny, having scored his first in a similar fashion to his efforts in the last two games, had the confidence to produce one of his stuttering penalties and stroke down the middle. While in league games throughout the season those stunted run ups have sent a pang of fear through the United crowd you sensed there was no doubt whatsoever.

This team, and the supporters that follow, are beginning to believe.

And that was job done. On to York.

Even if, and I hate getting the silver linings in early, things don’t pan out as we all hope, this fortnight caps a positive season for the club.

In a year that has seen United throw open the doors to the JCS (doesn’t that feel longer than nine months ago?) things on the pitch have threatened to lag the progress off field, both commercially and in terms of the remarkable home attendances drawn all season.

And while Cox had spoken of gradually imposing a new ethos, a new attitude, a new belief in his squad in the regular season, that process must surely have bene supercharged by the last three results.

I just hope that if the job is done on Saturday the players don’t need telling to come and celebrate properly, as they have been at Farsley and Fylde.

Let the countdown begin.

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