ALTRINCHAM 0 BOSTON UNITED 2: Another clean sheet as Pilgrims move up to second

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Boston United moved up to second in the National League North with a comfortable 2-0 win at Altrincham.

This was far from vintage Pilgrims, and you feel that there is still much more to come from a side which looks yet to find its stride.

But the early signs are nothing short of encouraging.

Adam Marriott and Nathan Arnold got on the scoresheet which enabled Boston to leapfrog second-placed Hereford, who Lost 1-0 at leaders Chorley.

But much must also be made of the makeshift central defensive pairing of Toby Lees and Spencer Harris, who kept a highly-rated Robins attack limited to efforts from distance and picked up the side’s third clean sheet from five National League North fixtures.

Nicky Walker and Lees made their first starts of the season for Craig Elliott’s side, Walker’s show-stealing second half against Nuneaton on Tuesday seeing him take the place of Andre Johnson up front.

Lees came into central defence for the injured Ryan Qualter, who couldn’t shake off his knee injury.

Elliott had demanded his attackers find their creative spark in the build-up to the Moss Lane clash, but the first half was more of the same from Boston: too much disconnection and miscommunication in the final third.

Walker - their stand out player with his bullish never-give-up approach complemented by clever touches - came closest to opening the scoring in a goalless first half with a stunning 30-yard volley which left Tony Thompson rooted but struck the foot of the post.

Apart from that a lot of endeavour was frustratingly followed by weak, scuffed finishing.

Some bizarre decision making from the hosts’ defence - stray goal kicks, attempts at turning inside - gave the Pilgrims some early sights of goal, Marriott, Brad Abbott, Arnold and Jonathan Wafula unable to find the finishing touch their harrying and hassling warranted.

But Boston’s problem was magnified by the Robins, whose build-up play stretched United at times although their opening 45 highlights were Jordan Hulme’s wild volley and George Willis being called upon to parry John Johnston’s promising cross.

The second half was less than four minutes old when Marriott put the Pilgrims in front.

The Robins defence failed to clear their lines properly and, when the ball landed at the feet of the Boston striker, they sat back and allowed him to pick his spot with a powerful low 20-yarder.

The goal changed the shape of the game, United happier to preserve their lead and play for scraps up top.

Ben Middleton was within a whisker of doubling the lead when he headed just wide from a corner while Ashley Jackson had to be alert at the other end to put the ball away for a corner when Hulme looked odds-on to head home a teasing cross.

Alty pressure continued in the final throes, Brendon Daniels slamming a strike inches the wrong side of Willis’ post.

There was a let off for the home side when another back pass from the shaky defence allowed Walker to beat Thompson to the ball, but the angle was tight and the chance was lost.

Any hopes of a comeback ended when Arnold doubled the advantage in the 89th minute.

Craig Westcarr slipped the winger in and a touch and a dinked finish later and Thompson was beaten and Boston has wrapped up the three points.

ALTRINCHAM: Thompson, White, Hampson (Williams 66), Hannigan, Goulding, Moult, Johnston (Peers 73), Harrop (Daniels 62), Hulme, Richman, Hancock. Subs (not used): Jones, Wynne.

UNITED: Willis, Middleton, Lees, Harris, Jackson, Wafula, Abbott, Thanoj, Arnold (Gough 90), Marriott (Westcarr 73), Walker (Roberts 89); Subs (not used): Johnson, Margetts.

REF: Matt Corlett.

ATT: 1,067.

STAR MAN: Nicky Walker. Strong, bullish and a constant pain for the hosts.

GOALS: UNITED - Marriott (49), arnold (89).

BOOKINGS ALTRINCHAM - Hulme (26), Hampson (61); UNITED - Middleton (5), Thanoj (52), Wafula (65).