BOSTON UNITED 1 BRADFORD PARK AVENUE 0: Late Smith header seals victory - cue the funky chicken

Gregg Smith.
Gregg Smith.

Gregg Smith charged to towards the dug-out with his fist-clenched and right arm raised.

Normally Dennis Greene would be striding towards him to celebrate and join in the pile-on, but the manager was too busy composing himself after jumping on the turf to perform the funky chicken.

It may have been the most bizarre goal celebration you’ve seen at the Jakemans Stadium in some time, but when reasons to be cheerful have been so few and far between you may excuse those involved for letting go a little.

With eight minutes remaining in this must-win game for two sides languishing at the bottom of the table, Liam Agnew found space on the left wing and teased in a curling cross which was bulleted towards the bottom corner off the head of Smith, the stand-out player of the evening.

That goal, the Pilgrims mobbing the goalscorer and a man in his 50s - looking like an extra from Oliver with his flat cap, white shirt and dark wasitcoat - strutting his stuff like it was the final dance at a wedding with a free bar was about as exciting as it got.

But to Boston that didn’t matter one jot.

Victory number two of the season sees them up to seven points and 16th in the table.

At last, a little more cheer in a season which has offered little more than annoyance and frustration so far.

A smarting Greene promised changes to his team following Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to FC United of Manchester, the Pilgrims’ sixth reverse of the season.

And he was true to his word as teenagers Jack McMillan, Liam Adams and Cameron Johnson were named in the starting XI.

Youth was very much the theme running through the United starters, with an average age of just 22.

The midfield trio, joined by newly-appointed captain Agnew, aged merely 21 himself, had just four Pilgrims starts between them prior to kick off, while experienced wingers Marcus Marshall and Jason St Juste slotted back to the full back roles vacated by the dropped Courtney Wildin and injured Joe Burgess.

Eyebrows may have been raised at the decision, but St Juste is no stranger to the role, featuring there for St Kitts and Nevis when on international duty.

Keeper Dion-Curtis Henry, the fourth teenager in the starting XI, kept his place between the sticks with Christian Dibble leaving the club to link up with Nuneaton Town.

The contest began as you may expect from two sides with just one win between them in 16 attempts in the National League North... cagily.

For the visitors Chris Sharp fired an early effort wide and failed to trouble Henry with a weak free kick, while Ben McKenna’s speculative strike was well held and Matt Hill’s header failed to hit the target.

Boston tested Joe Cracknell early on with Adams’ curler and Jay Rollins rounding the keeper, only to be beaten by the angle.

But it was Smith, almost qualifying for a bus pass in this team at the ripe old age of 26, who went closest in the first half with two late chances.

After meeting Marshall’s free kick his header landed inches the wrong side of the woodwork, the same fate befalling a low side-footer minutes later.

The interval saw Lewis Hilliard and Herve Pepe-Ngoma replace Adams and Johnson, and the Pilgrims switch to a 3-5-2 formation, encouraging the full backs to push on further.

Hilliard had a golden chance to open the scoring just five minutes after his introduction, meeting Rollins’ cross but seeing his first effort blocked by McKenna and his second fizz across the face of goal.

Smith then chested down St Juste’s cross but his volley was high of the mark, while McMillan’s chipped cross forced Cracknell to tip the goalbound ball over his bar.

In response, McKenna’s low cross caused a few skipped heartbeats in the Boston box, only for Sharp to airkick and Tom Davie to power the ball high into the Town End.

Bradford then carved out two further good chances to take the lead, only for McKenna to put a free header over and Sharp to direct his effort into the arms of Henry.

After twisting and turning in the Park Avenue box, Hilliard swiped a strike wide of the post, while Callum Chippendale - facing his former club after replacing McMillan - saw a 20-yarder held by Cracknell.

With 82 minutes gone Smith got what his performance deserved, that winning goal.

But there was still time for Park Avenue to snatch an equaliser.

Henry was down well to parry Liam Dickinson’s header, while somehow the follow-up was blocked on the line by Joe Maguire.

Phew. Just.

UNITED: Henry, Marshall, St Juste, McMillan (Chippendale 75), Maguire, Robinson, Adams (Pepe-Ngoma HT), Agnew, Rollins, Smith, Johnson (Hilliard HT); Subs (not used): Price, Colley.

BPA: Cracknell, Toulson, McWilliams, Kearns (Monaghan 85), Gumbs, Hill, McKenna, Wroe, Sharp (Dickinson 79), Payne, Davie (Osborne 60); Subs (not used): Coates, Boshell.

Ref: Garreth Rhodes.

Att: 905 (18).