As Callum Johnson and Dayle Southwell watch on, Boston United fail to land a knockout blow

Gregg Smith.
Gregg Smith.

Former striker Dayle Southwell returned to Boston United to collect last season’s golden boot award on Saturday.

During the same half time interval Callum Johnson, the town’s newly-crowned Commonwealth light-heavyweight champion, paraded his belt to the applause of the Jakemans Stadium.

But either side of that break, the Pilgrims were left wishing they had someone with Southwell’s killer instinct in front of goal, someone to deliver the kind of knockout blow Johnson landed on Willbeforce Shihepo, as they were forced to settle for a goalless draw at home to Worcester City.

The Blues have often been a thorn in Boston’s side, but under Dennis Greene United have now claimed eight points from their past four home contests against tricky opposition.

But while that can be seen as improvement, Saturday’s flat contest finished with the feeling that two points had been dropped.

With Joe Maguire suspended Dennis Greene was forced to shuffle his pack, opting to move striker Gregg Smith into the heart of defence alongside Joe Robinson, a bold move but on which paid off as the big man’s lack of pace was more than balanced out by his physical presence and aerial ability.

Callum Chippendale was named on the bench after putting his second hamstring injury of the season behind him, while the Pilgrims were without the services of Jason St Juste and Courtney Wildin, both away on international duty in the Caribbean Cup qualifiers.

United’s injury troubles aren’t getting any easier as, with just two minutes on the clock, Joe Burgess was left clutching his right leg after what appeared to be a bad landing following an aerial collision.

Five minutes later, following a visit from the club doctor Arunkamar Gurusamy, his afternoon was over as he left the pitch on a stretcher with a broken ankle to be replaced by Lewis Hilliard, joining Herve Pepe-Ngoma, Shane Clarke, Nat Brown and Grant Roberts on the treatment table.

Boston began taking the game to City as the match resumed.

Waide Fairhurst claimed the role of chief tormentor, going within a whisker of the target with a strike and then a header which owed much to the tricky footwork of Lamin Colley and a clever cross from Ben Gordon.

When the striker brought a parried save from Ryan Boot, Liam Agnew forced the rebound home, only for the offside flag to spoil his celebrations.

Jay Rollins also forced a tight-angled strike over before the Blues began making their mark on the game.

Worcester’s response saw Micah Evans dink the ball over Dion-Curtis Henry, only for Robinson to clear.

And when former West Brom striker Lee Hughes got goalside of Smith he squeezed an effort beyond Henry but wide of the post.

City finished the half on top and would have been in front were it not for Agnew hacking away Junior English’s goalbound header from on the line.

The second half began with Boston gaining the upper hand again, Hilliard and Fairhurst both forcing efforts the wrong side of the goal frame.

Rollins should have done better when Gordon’s persistance won the ball back in the penalty area but, when presented with an effort just eight yards out, he blazed over.

One final throw of the dice saw Marcus Marshall move back into defence for the final 15 minutes as Smith was pushed into his favoured forward role.

While Chippendale, on for Fairhurst, saw his dipping free kick well held by Boot, Marshall proved he is becoming Boston’s man for all positions at the other end with a thumping last-man challenge to deny Jordan Murphy a run on goal.

UNITED: Henry, Thomas, Burgess (Hilliard 7), Robinson, Gordon, Colley (Johnson 60), Agnew, Marshall, Rollins, Fairhurst (Chippendale 83), Smith; Subs (not used): Adams, Emery.

WORCESTER: Boot, Gallinagh, Weir, Oji, Hutchison, English (Jackman 90), Steele, Fitzpatrick, Hughes, Nelson-Addy (Murphy 76), Evans (Olukanmi 76); Subs (not used): Sharpe, Ross.

Ref: Declan Bourne. Att: 1,138 (22).