BOSTON UNITED 2 BRACKLEY TOWN 3: Pilgrims pay the penalty as fightback falls short

Gregg Smith.
Gregg Smith.

Boston United were left rueing a missed penalty as their comeback against Brackley Town fell short. Just.

Steve Diggin struck a hat-trick to fire the Saints into a comfortable 3-0 lead with just 33 minutes on the clock.

But goals from Lewis Hilliard and Gregg Smith gave the hosts hope up until the final whistle.

In between those two goals, Hilliard saw a spot kick well saved by Laurie Walker, which would prove pivotal as the final whistle blew.

Hilliard became the third Pilgrim to see a spot kick saved thos season, and Laurie pulled off a last-gasp reaction save at the death to deny Smith what would have been an equaliser.

Prior to kick off, United had never beaten Brackley at home, nor had they won at home on a Saturday this National League North season.

Another pre-match tidbit was that the Saints were unbeaten on the road this term, all three stats remaining firmly intact come the final whistle.

Dennis Greene handed a debut to midfielder Taylor Miles, who joined on loan from Lincoln City yesterday.

He was one of four changes to the starting XI which left Telford with a 2-1 win last week, Joe Maguire, Gregg Smith and Kalern Thomas also returning to the team at the expense of the suspended Jason St Juste and Joe Robinson, while Marcus Marshall and Waide Fairhurst dropped to the bench.

The Saints marched into a 3-0 lead, Diggin claiming the match ball with a quickfire treble.

With just a quarter of an hour on the clock James Armson guided a weak header towards goal, but a high bounce caught out Nat Brown, the ball striking him on the hip and arm, falling kindly for Diggin to slot home from just three yards out.

His second, coming just seven minutes later, was a simple tap-in from the same back-post position, the striker finishing a perfect pass from Glenn Walker, whose pace and close control had seen him storm through the Pilgrims’ back line.

Diggin completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot, sending Dion-Curtis Henry the wrong way after referee Richard Wild had spotted Joe Maguire pulling the shirt of Alex Gudger from a corner.

Four minutes before the break Hilliard gave the Pilgrims a flash of hope, meeting Smith’s knock down and prodding home from close range.

The same player was left with his head in his hands after Laurie Walker pushed away his second-half penalty, awarded on the hour mark for Glenn Walker’s shove on Smith.

But with 65 minutes on the clock Hilliard redeemed himself with a burst down the right flank and a teasing back post cross which was powered home by Smith to to give a hint that the comeback was on.

While Boston didn’t put in their finest first-half performance of the season, Brackley deserve the credit for their powerful and pacy attacking prowess which caught the United defence napping early on.

Had it not been for Henry - at full stretch to palm away efforts from both Lee Ndlovu and Armson - then the score could have been even higher before Diggin notched his third of the day.

But Boston also created chances in the first half, Chippendale twice trying his luck from distance.

Looking to freshen things up for the second half, Greene made a double substitution, bringing on Marshall and debutant Harry Vince for Chippendale and Wildin.

And Boston certainly looked livelier early on after the break as Laurie Walker was called upon to save headers from Marshall, Smith and Hilliard in the opening exchanges.

The Saints’ second-half chances were few and far between until Boston’s second, the Saints then resuming normal service.

Henry did well to get a hand onto Diggin’s ambitious 40 yard lob with the keeper well off his line, then denying the same player from closer in with his legs.

Glenn Walker also saw a long ranger deflected wide, before the United keeper was in the thick of it again, denying Ndlovu with his feet and plucking two goalbound headers out of the air.

And into the final minute, Brackley keeper Laurie Walker pulled off an excellent reaction save with his body to deny Smith at the back post and ensure the points went to the Saints.

UNITED: Henry, Thomas, Maguire, Brown, Gordon, Chippendale (Vince HT), Hilliard, Miles (Fairhurst 68), Rollins, Smith, Wildin (Marshall HT); Subs (not used): Johnson, Emery.

BRACKLEY: L. Walker, Myles, Gudger, Byrne, Graham, Dean, G. Walker, Armson (Lowe 80), Ndlovu (Cox 90), Diggin (Moyo 80), A. Walker; Subs (not used): Rankin, Pitt.

Ref: Richard Wild.

Att: 1,062 (39).