The Bucks ultimately paid the price for lapses in concentration in a three-minute window either side of the half-time interval, but they also showed a commendable thirst for battle with Craig Elliott’s side, heavily-tipped for promotion after falling just short in last season’s play-offs.
Boston made the quicker start in this encounter; Russ Griffiths in the Bucks goal had to turn away an early effort from Jordan Thewlis and Tom Platt fired the ball over the crossbar as the Pilgrims sought to find their range. Cowan’s side responded positively to the challenge, and after 18 minutes they took the lead; Aaron Williams, scorer of last week’s winner against Gateshead, collected a throw-in from the left and turned before running diagonally towards the box and arrowing an unstoppable shot across Ross Fitzsimons and into the far top corner, rain being dislodged by the shuddering of the goalframe.
The Bucks would have wanted to consolidate that advantage but were pegged back only two minutes later. Paul Green’s pass into the right-hand side of the box set Jordan Thewlis into space and his fiercely-struck shot across Russ Griffiths might have taken a deflection as it nestled into the far side of the net.
Like a child falling from his bike, the Bucks had to get back on and started pedalling again, and they did so; on 27 minutes, Williams strike partner Jason Oswell directed a fine header back across Fitzsimons from a Lee Vaughan cross, only to see it bounce back off the foot of the keeper’s right-hand post. Barely two minutes later, James Hardy tested the home custodian again, tricking his way into the penalty area and firing a shot towards the nearside top corner that Fitzsimons pushed onto the angle of post and crossbar and out for a corner kick.
As the rain got heavier, the Bucks continued to rain down on Fitzsimons’ goal, and when they cut Boston open down the left Adam Walker’s run took him beyond the defence; with his angle narrowing, Walker tried to square the ball rather than shoot and claimed home defender Scott Garner handled in cutting out his intended pass, but referee Ben Wyatt was unmoved and the chance dissolved in the downpour.
The Bucks were looking assertive but as the game approached half-time they let their guard drop, and it was a costly error. The influential Andi Thanoj set up Thewlis to cross from the left and goal-poacher Jordan Burrow arrived unmarked at the far post to steer the ball home.
From being a goal up the Bucks must have wondered how they came to be trailing at the interval, and if they were still wondering as the second half began there was soon to be a need for a fresh inquest; a sluggish start saw Boston go two goals ahead on 47 minutes when the Bucks stood off Terry Hawkridge and allowed him to cross deep to the far post. Cowan and his side claimed Scott Garner was in an offside position when the cross came in but with no flag raised the central defender powered a header past Griffiths from close range.
The next goal would either finish the contest of set the game up for a tense finish; Oswell went looking for it, testing Fitzsimons with a low shot before then being booked for simulation after a clash with Garner. The game started to become tetchy, with little niggles apparent but the game never truly boiling over; booking started to accumulate, the conditions not helping either side keep control of their challenges, but on 66 minutes the Bucks clawed a goal back. A Boston defender cleared the ball against Oswell and he took possession before advancing and hitting a sweet shot from 20 yards or so that started outside Fitzsimons’ left post but curled in to nestle in the far corner.
Cowan opted to change things up front, with Oswell limping off and Hardy, who Boston seemed to have got the measure of, replaced by Jordan Davies and Dom McHale. The substitutes weren’t able to swing the game decisively in the Bucks favour and Ross White had to block Scott Duxbury’s goal-bound shot on the line to keep the Bucks in the hunt.
As the Bucks pressed, Boston had chances with the game beginning to open up. Hawkridge had a shot blocked and substitute Jordan Archer couldn’t turn home an inviting cross. The game’s remaining best chance fell to Bucks defender Theo Streete, who snuck in behind the defence to connect with a free-kick, but his powerfully hit shot was turned over the bar by Fitzsimons to deny the Bucks a share of the spoils and consign them to defeat, albeit one in which they showed plenty of quality as well as fight, something that pleased Cowan despite the result.
AFC Telford United: Griffiths, Vaughan, Streete, White (Barnes-Homer), Sutton (c), Walker, Cowans, Hardy (McHale 74), Williams, Oswell (Davies 74), Byrne.
Unused substitutes: Rawlins (gk), Lilly.
Scorers: Williams (19), Oswell (66).
Cautions: Oswell, Streete.
Boston United: Fitzsimons, Tootle, Duxbury, Platt, Garner, Shiels (c), Thanoj (DiMaio 64), Green, Burrow, Thewlis (Warren 86), Hawkridge (Archer 86).
Unused substitutes: Crook (gk), Askew.
Scorers: Thewlis (21), Burrow (45), Garner (47).
Cautions: Shiels, Duxbury.
Referee: Ben Wyatt.
Assistants: Ian Jackson, Lewis Saunders-Johnson.