Boston United 4 Stalybridge Celtic 1: Second-half turnaround gives United play-off hopes

Ben Milnes.
Ben Milnes.

Three goals in the space of six minutes transformed Boston United’s season from also-rans to promotion hopefuls.

With 74 minutes on the clock, Stalybridge Celtic held a 1-0 lead and the Pilgrims’ hopes of a top-five finish appeared to be in tatters.

But the one thing that this side have shown all season is a refusal to know when they’re beaten.

And a quickfire treble from Junior Konadu, Spencer Weir-Daley and Ben Milnes proved just that, turning the contest on its head.

United boss Dennis Greene made two changes to the side which drew 3-3 at Colwyn Bay on Tuesday.

Jamie McGhee and Konadu returned to the starting XI at the expense of Ian Ross and Milnes.

The Pilgrims and Stalybridge played out a 3-3 draw at Bower Fold back in December.

But since that day the two sides have gone their separate ways - United buzzing in and around the top five and Stalybridge being dragged down into a relegation scrap.

However, Stalybridge didn’t look like a side who began the contest 15 places below Boston and took a 20th minute lead.

Joel Bembo-Leta will never score an easier goal, tapping home from a yard out after Jack Ryan’s close-range volley hit the inside of Lewis King’s post before falling invitingly for him.

As the hosts looked edgy, Celtic pushed on looking to double their advantage.

However, Paul Ennis couldn’t hit the target with his free kick and Tom Buckley’s free volley was tame.

United were handed a lifeline in the 33rd minute when they won their customary York Street penalty - their ninth in 10 home games - after Ricky Miller was tripped by Oliver Crowley.

But leading scorer Miller - who had converted all seven of his spot kicks beforehand - sent Jack Cookson the wrong way but slammed his strike wide of the post.

United began with much more purpose after the break.

McGhee rattled a 20-yarder inches over the Stalybridge bar and Weir-Daley’s surging run ended with a strike being well blocked by Matt Regan.

Scott Garner then connected with McGhee’s back-post free kick, but his header flew off target before Miller’s lobbed header went the same way.

United began to take risks as they pushed forward, and centre back Carl Piergianni twice came close.

He saw a header drift wide of the post before a 20-yard strike was well held by Cookson.

Miller was next up to try his luck with an audacious 30-yard dipper which beat the Celtic keeper but rebounded back into play off the crossbar.

That Pilgrims perseverance paid off in the 73rd minute when Konadu netted his first goal for the club.

His 20-yard left footer seemed to deflect off Bembo-Leta before nestling in the net.

And by the 77th minute Boston had turned the contest on its head, Weir-Daley latching onto a long ball before coolly slotting home from an acute angle.

But more was to come as sub Ben Milnes made it 3-1 in the 79th minute.

After collecting Konadu’s short free kick he surges into the penalty area before unleashing a near-post strike which was too powerful for Cookson to keep out, despite his best efforts.

In the final minute Milnes added his second of the afternoon after battling to earn himself space to shoot, before beating Cookson from 16 yards.

There was still time for Miller to have one final effort, but again he pic ked the wrong side of the post.

However, the result was enough to see United move back into fifth spot, overtaking Guiseley on goal difference.

Three matches to go, and everything to play for.

UNITED: King, Mills, Steer, Dowie, Garner, Piergianni, Konadu (Ross 80), McGhee (Milnes 74), Miller, Weir-Daley, Agnew (Galisnki 58); Sub (not used): Aujla, Fairclough.

CELTIC: Cookson, Crowley, McWilliams, Bembo-Leta, Regan, Green, Ennis, Dickinson (Anoru 78), Ryan, Buckley (Sherratt 72), Coasdale; Subs (not used): McConville, Logan, Windle.

Ref: Alf Greenwood.

Att: 1,133.