Boston United and Aston Villa played out an exciting but goalless draw at the Jakemans Stadium this afternoon.
Villa’s under 21 squad featured Callum Robinson and Daniel Johnson - both of whom have first-team experience - while Henry Cowans, the son of former club favourite Gordan Cowans, took his place in front of the back four.
Boston’s team was, once again, a mixture of squad members and trialists.
Among the hopefuls was former Portsmouth, Stoke City, Sligo and Cork goalkeeper Matt Gledhill, who started between the posts.
Boston-based former Nottingham Forest trainee Michael Hollingworth, ex-Chelmsford City winger Aaron Greene and Danny Meadows, previously with Forest and Alfreton, were handed places in the starting line-up.
Jamie Anton (ex-Leicester City) and Carlos Djalo (formerly with Stoke City) took their places on the bench, alongside regular trialists Elliot Hodge and Blake Thompson.
Former United midfielders Jake Hall and Indy Aujla were also named amongst the substitutes.
With just seconds on the clock, Jamie McGhee was granted a gilt-edged chance just yards from goal. But as he controlled Greene’s pass he rushed his side-footed effort wide of Craig Hill’s goal.
A moment of indecision by Gledhill left Stefan Galinski outnumbered at the back, but Villa’s Robinson opted to shoot from a wide angle and his effort flew off his laces and well wide of the target.
And when the winger tried the same minutes later he was met with exactly the same outcome.
The Greene-McGhee partnership offered another chance for United when the former played a clever one-two corner with his teammate before unleashing a low, powerful angled strike which Hill smothered at his near post.
At the other end, two great chances fell to Mikey Drennan. But he wastefully stabbed wide from close range before blasting well over when put through on goal.
The action was end-to-end, and almost as soon as Stefan Galinski’s 20-yard fizzer was tipped over by Hill, the Villans came back with efforts from Graham Burke and Johnson.
Burke’s effort lacked the direction to trouble Gledhill, but when Johnson’s effort squirmed under his body, it took an outstretched knee on the goalline from Carl Piergianni to avert danger.
Scott Garner is continuing to reinvent himself as a striker, and the Pilgrims captain forced Hill into a save with his 20-yard effort.
He then forced the Villa stopper into action again after he met Kaine Felix’s cross with a clever backheeled effort.
But the final action of the half belonged to Gledhill, who did his stock no harm by palming Drennan’s powerful near-post strike wide of the target.
The pace of the game was much slower after the break, with the afternoon sun, numerous substitutions and a succession of niggling fouls slowing proceedings down.
United’s Carl Piergianni was left holding his head in his hands as he met McGhee’s teasing cross before nodd ing over from six yards out.
But minutes later, boss Dennis Greene swapped his entire XI and the visitors made six changes.
It was the Pilgrims who reacted the better to the substitutions, but when Jack Barlow was granted space 35 yards from goal his effort couldn’t muster enough pace to foil Brad Watkins.
A rare Villa effort saw Thomas Strain try his luck from distance, but his strike flew well wide of Sam Vince’s goal.
And at the death, Vince reacted sharply to tip Jerell Sellars’ close-range strike off target.
Exciting. But goalless.
UNITED: Matt Gledhill (Sam Vince), Zak Mills (Jamie Anton 32 (Elliot Hodge 65)), Rene Steer (Connor Smythe 65), Michael Hollingworth (Indy Aujla 65), Stefan Galinski (Duran Reynolds 65), Carl Piergianni (Conor Marshall 65), Kaine Felix (Carlos Djalo 65), Danny Meadows (Jake Hall 65), Scott Garner (Charley Sanders 65), Jamie McGhee (Dayle Southwell 65), Aaron Greene (Jack Barlow 65); Sub (not used): Blake Thompson.
VILLA: Craig Hill (Brad Watkins HT), Josh Webb (Thomas Leggett 57), Lewis Kinsella, Henry Cowans (Courtney Wildin 71), Janoi Donacien, Kevin Toner (Brad Lewis HT), Graham Burke (Isaac Nehemie 71), Riccardo Calder (Jerell Sellars 71), Mikey Drennan (Daniel O’Brien 71), Daniel Johnson (Thomas Strain 71), Callum Robinson (Jordan Graham 71).
Ref: Steve Ross.