Boston United 1 Cambridge United 4: Donaldson treble sinks the Pilgrims

Conor Marshall was moved in to central defence.
Conor Marshall was moved in to central defence.

Boston United suffered their first defeat of pre-season following a 4-1 loss to Cambridge United.

Ryan Donaldson proved the difference as the Us striker netted a hat-trick... also scoring Boston’s goal for good measure.

The Pilgrims’ pre-match planning was thrown into disarray with an injury to Stefan Galinski.

And with fellow central defender Scott Garner still a Cambridge player and unable to feature, Conor Marshall was moved into the middle with Peter Bore slipping in at right back.

As Boston faced their toughest test of pre-season to date, boss Dennis Greene put out his most experimental side.

Teenagers James Reed and Jordan Nuttell were both given their first starts of pre-season, while the experienced trio of Marc Newsham, Ian Ross and Ricky Miller dropped down to the bench.

Meanwhile, young defender Charlie Ward - the brother of ex-United defender Tom - was brought into the squad.

In a contest that took far too long to get going, Us midfielder Luke Berry was handed the first clear sight at goal.

But - in comical fashion - as he prepared to pull the trigger he lost his footing and landed flat on his backside.

United’s first sight of goal fell to the feet of Nuttell, who blazed Ben Milnes’ through ball over Chris Maxwell’s bar.

Cambridge then began to turn the screw, taking a 21st minute lead after some poor defending from the Boston backline.

Were they missing Garner and Galinski?

It seemed that was the case as Greg Taylor’s low cross from the left wing dissected the flat footed Bore and Marshall, as well as Cambridge’s Harrison Dunk.

But there to slot home from six yards out was Ryan Donaldson.

Dunk almost doubled his side’s lead with a close range drive. But as Ashley Timms began his dive, Carl Piergianni got there first and deflected the shot off target.

From the resultant corner Berry should have done better as he headed over from almost below the crossbar.

Timms - making just his second appearance for United - cut an imposing figure between the sticks, dealing well with the tall, physical presence on Cambridge’s defenders in his penalty area.

But he could do little to prevent the visitors’ second.

Tom Elliott netted Cambridge’s second in the 43rd minute lead with a clever and calm finish.

Credit must go to Tom Champion who split the Pilgrims’ defence with a 20-yard pass from inside his own half, but Elliott still had plenty of work to do.

After outmuscling his marker he gave Timms the eyes before beating the keeper at his near post with a side-footed effort.

At the break, Greene made five changes to his side.

Strikers Newsham, Charley Sanders and Miller replaced Nuttell, Ben Fairclough and Spencer Weir-Daley.

Billy Bennett and Ian Ross replaced Gary Mills and Reed in midfield.

And Miller’s first input ws to wildly lash a strike on the turn well off target before Bennett failed to test Maxwell with a header.

However, the Us stopper was called into action to tip Miller’s powerful low drive off target.

And from the corner which followed, Donaldson could only divert Netan Sansara’s dead ball into his own net, leaving Maxwell with no chance at his front post.

Sixty-eight minutes gone and suddenly the Pilgrims were back in it... Well, for 10 minutes at least.

Donaldson made amends for his earlier mistake by smashing home his second of the evening.

From 20 yards out his low driven free kick gave keeper Vince no chance.

And Donaldson grabbed his official hat-trick with four minutes remaining, firing home a penalty after Peter Bore had tugged down Dunk in the box.

UNITED: Timms (Vince 58), Bore, Sansara, Mills (Ross HT), Marshall (Ward 78), Piergianni, Reed (Benett HT), Milnes, Nuttell (Sanders HT), Weir-Daley (Newsham HT), Fairclough (Miller HT).

CAMBRIDGE (from): Maxwell, Roberts, G. Taylor, Champion, Bonner, Miller, Hughes, Berry, Donaldson, Elliott, Dunk, Coulson, McAuley, Tait, Sam-Yorke, Pugh, Austin, Allen, Hurst, B.J. Taylor, Norris.