AFC Telford 1 Boston United 3 - Report and pictures
A lack of consistency was the key in a defeat of home soil for the Bucks; manager Gavin Cowan was left to reflect on not only his side’s propensity to take two steps forward and one back, but also on a lack of officiating consistency from official Andy Sykes.
The man in the middle made himself the centre of attention, when really that should have been reserved for Boston’s Jordan Thewlis, who bagged a hat-trick in ten second-half minutes to wrest the advantage decisively from the Bucks.
Telford were unchanged from the side that demolished Guiseley 4-1 in their last match two weeks previously, and with Cowan looking for his side to kick on from that and a draw with league leaders York City the signs looked good early on.
Matt Stenson went close, unable to divert a Billy Sass-Davies header in from within the six-yard box, and Darryl Knights flashed a shot from 20 yards just over visiting keeper Peter Crook’s crossbar. The Pilgrims carried a threat too, however, and they had the ball in the net on 18 minutes; Thewlis gave warning of what was to come with an effort driven low towards the six-yard box, strike partner Dominic Knowles turning the ball in from an offside position.
The tide was turning in the Pilgrims favour, and Brad Abbott lashed a rising angled shot over Matt Yates’ crossbar before Andi Thanoj went closer still, clipping the top of the crossbar with a free-kick from 20 yards. The Bucks began to look very open, and Boston cut through them too easily. A slice of fortune fell the Bucks way when a free-kick hit defender Theo Streete and came back off Yates’ left post, Thewlis spurning the rebound. Streete then made a more deliberate intervention, hurling himself in the way of Knowles shot when Yates was left exposed by some quick, incisive passing and a backheel from Thewlis that gave Knowles the avenue to shoot.
If a goal was coming, it looked certain to be Boston’s, but football makes fools of knaves and kings alike, and on 33 minutes the Bucks took the lead against the run of play when Adam Walker, one of Telford’s more notable performers, joined a quick counter-attack and saw his chance to beat Crook low to his right from 20 yards out.
Boston responded with more of the same, and at times it resembled the last five minutes of a cup tie, with the home side almost at panic stations to preserve a lead they took into the half-time interval.
If the Bucks thought they’d weathered the storm, they were quickly proven wrong. On 52 minutes, and with defender Zak Lilly down injured, the Bucks missed a chance to neutralise the situation when Yates kept the ball in play rather than finding touch, and Boston capitalised. Switching the ball swiftly left to right, Brendon Daniels, already booked, couldn’t halt Thewlis as he cut into the penalty area from the right channel and scored low past Yates, just inside his near post.
If there was a sense of natural justice about that goal, that couldn’t be said of Boston’s second. Thewlis almost scored a carbon copy goal, Yates diverting his effort out for a corner, and when the ball was delivered into the box, Mr Sykes amazed most in the ground by awarding a penalty for a foul by Sass-Davies on visiting captain Luke Shiels. Boston hadn’t appealed for the penalty, but they didn’t turn it down either; Sass-Davies was booked, and Thewlis blasted home from 12 yards.
Boston strangled the life out of the game on 62 minutes when, from a corner won by Alex Whittle’s surge into the penalty area, Thewlis claimed the match ball when he timed a near post run to flick a header over Yates and in, the Bucks far too lax in their marking.
Cowan rang the changes with a double substitution, and the Bucks tried to drag themselves back into matters, but when Matt Stenson’s effort came down off the crossbar with Aaron Williams unable to convert the loose ball there was more than a feeling it was Boston’s day. Stenson, played in on the right, blazed wide across the face of goal when most expected him to score, and the Bucks finally applied some exerted pressure on the visitors. Mr Sykes saw no reason to try and balance matters out when despite protestations he denied claims for a Bucks penalty, Streete barged over in an incident that looked more clear-cut than the Sass-Davies’s earlier offence.
Some Boston gamesmanship didn’t help the mood, and a total of eight players booked between the two sides in a far from bad-tempered match indicated the over-fussy officiating wasn’t entirely one way. Stenson saw a late free-kick diverted away from goal, whilst Crook robbed Walker of a second goal when he thrust out a hand to divert his low drive from 18 yards around the post. In a last vain attempt to get some reward, Bucks substitute Chris Lait went to ground in the box but was booked for simulation.
The Pilgrims had found their promised land, whilst the Bucks had been blown off course once more.
AFC Telford United: Yates, Lilly (White 66), Daniels (Dinanga 66), Deeney (c), Sass-Davies, Streete, Birch, Walker, Stenson, Williams, Knights (Lait 90).
Unused Substitutes: McQuilkin, Royle.
Goal: Walker (33).
Cautions: Daniels, Lilly, Sass-Davies, Walker, Lait.
Boston United: Crook, Duhaney (Penny 90), Whittle (Tuton 69), Platt, Ainge, Shiels (c), Thanoj, Abbott, Knowles, Thewlis, Woolford.
Unused Substitutes: Walker, Willis, Jackson.
Scorers: Thewlis (52, 58 (p), 62).
Cautions: Platt, Abbott, Duhaney.
Referee: Andy Sykes.
Assistants: Niall Smith, Andrew Ellis.