BOSTON UNITED 2 BRADFORD PA 2: Late leveller breaks Pilgrims hearts

Max Wright.
Max Wright.

Ben McKenna’s stoppage time leveller ended Boston United’s hopes of stunning leaders Bradford Park Avenue.

With four of the five added minutes played the substitute’s low deflected strike evaded George Willis.

The Pilgrims looked to be heading for their third defeat in a row when Lewis Knight’s free kick caught out the United stopper.

But Ben Davies scored his first Boston goal with the team’s first penalty of the season, while Max Wright put the Pilgrims in front courtesy of a wicked deflection, only for McKenna to return the favour.

The poster advertising today’s clash began with a mea culpa following Boxing Day’s 1-0 defeat to Alfreton. “Apologies for the Boxing Day performance... but we still need you,” it read. But by full time that was a distant memory as United showed what they can do when on song.

Craig Elliott made three changes to the side which lost 1-0 to Alfreton on Boxing Day, Gavin Allott returning from illness and joined up front by Jay Rollins, handed his first start since March 24 as the Pilgrims reverted to a 4-4-2 formation.

Lewis Gibbens made his first start for the club, lining up in defence alongside Ryan Qualter, who overcame a bout of illness to face his former club.

Jordan Slew, Spencer Harris and Jonathan Wafula dropped to the bench where they were joined by teenage Barnsley loanee Tai-Reece Chisholm. Ex-Pilgrims Shane Killock Jake Beesley was among the BPA starters.

Bradford went in 1-0 ahead at half time courtesy of Knight’s 36th-minute free kick. From 40 yards out he appeared to have overhit his lofted delivery, but that was enough to catch out George Willis, who could only get the faintest of fingertips to the ball as he backtracked. The ball ended up in the net while Willis was left grounded, receiving an ear bashing from Qualter.

Before that the Boston skipper had made three important saves to keep the free-flowing leaders at bay, twice denying Oli Johnson and pushing Gianluca Havern’s downward header round his post.

Lady luck may have had some involvement in Knight’s opener but he certainly meant his audacious chip from virtually on the byline which had Willis scrambling, only for the ball to land wide of the back post.

Finding themselves chasing the game, Boston suddenly upped the ante and began testing the Bradford defence. Wright’s powerful strike was too close to Steve Drench, Andi Thanoj blazed over and Allott saw efforts thwarted by Mark Ross’s block and Beesley’s clearance on the goalline.

Two goals in the space of three second-half minutes turned the game on its head, and Killock was heavily involved in both.

As Nicky Walker chased down a lost cause he could only weakly prod the ball towards Drench. But Killock slid in and caught the man, referee David McNamara pointing to the spot.

Davies placed the ball and struck his shot high beyond the reach of Drench to convert the Pilgrims’s first spot kick of the season a mere 26 games in.

If Killock had felt hard done by for Boston’s first the second would have left him wondering what he had done wrong in a previous life, Wright’s hopeful 20-yarder slapping against his back and wrongfooting Drench.

Willis had to be alert to save at the feet of Alex Hurst as Bradford looked to pull level, while Qualter put a header over at the other end.

Wright was inches away from his second of the day, meeting Rollins’s cross at the near post but volleying against the bar before substitute Jordan Slew kept up the pressure as he forced Drench into a low save.

After beng stunned by the turnaround the away side returned to their attacking best, but Willis more than redeemed himself by twice blocking efforts from Beesley which looked destined for the net. And when McKenna beat the keeper his effort rattled the bar.

But McKenna had the last laugh, levelling things in stoppage time with a low strike from the edge of the box, whipping off his shirt to lead the away contingent in wild celebrations.

UNITED: Willis, Davies, Jackson, Thanoj, Gibbens, Qualter, Wright, Abbott, Allott (Harris 89)lew 68), Walker (Wafula 83); Subs: Chisholm, Rowe.

BPA: Drench, Ross, Lowe (Clee 76), Wroe, Killock, Havern, Knight, Branson, Beesley, Johnson (Nowakowski), Hurst (McKenna 81); Subs: Toulson, Spencer.

REF: David McNamara.

ATT: Att: 1,061 (56).

STAR MAN: Ben Davies - A fine performance topped off by his fierst goal.

GOALS: UNITED - Ben Davies (51), Max Wright (54); BPA - Lewis Knight (36), Ben McKenna (90).

BOOKINGS: UNITED - Ryan Qualter (27), Ben Davies (87), Ashley Jackson (90); BPA - Danny Lowe (14), Conor Branson (90), Ben McKenna (90).