BOSTON UNITED 3 CURZON ASHTON 1: Hilliard thrills as Murray gets his first Pilgrims win

Lewis Hilliard.
Lewis Hilliard.

Well that was worth the wait. After six weeks without a home fixture Boston United turned on the style to record a deserved 3-1 victory over Curzon Ashton.

Lewis Hilliard treated the Jakemans Stadium to two very different, but equally entertaining, goals while Ben Gordon also got on the scoresheet for the first time since his arrival in September as the Pilgrims came from behind to cancel out Jordon Wright’s early finish.

Adam Murray’s first home contest as manager began in a fairly low-key fashion, the new boss received by a polite applause from the Mick George Stand as he, hands in pockets, strolled towards the dug-out.

But as the final whistle blew the manager punched the air, before taking in a much louder cheer and a chorus of ‘Adam Murray’s barmy army’ from the Town End.

Make no mistake about it, Murray hasn’t cast a magic spell overnight. This Pilgrims squad is far from the finished article with defensive indedcision still evident and too many stray and sloppy passes breaking down promising attacks.

But the new manager has definitely improved things. Pride and purpose is there for all to see, the spine has a more solid feel and the directness in the final third certainly paid off.

Curzon may have been knocked out of three cups - the FA Cup in that extraordinary contest against AFC Wimbledon when a 3-0 lead was turned into a 4-3 defeat in the final 10 minutes, the FA Trophy and Manchester Premier Cup - in the past three weeks, but in the National League North their recent form has been impressive.

The Nash arrived at the Jakemans Stadium on the back of three straight victories in the league, having beaten Harrogate, FC Halifax and Gloucester City, three teams who have comfortably put the Pilgrims to the sword this term.

However, they found themselves travelling to Lincolnshire to face a Boston side who had beaten Curzon in their three previous meetings, and who had won all three of their home midweek matches under the lights to date this season.

What’s more, incoming manager Adam Murray, whose arrival had been greeted with great excitement from the amber and black faithful, was making his home debut, something which created something of a vociferous buzz around the stadium.

Murray - who is quickly shaping his squad into a more formidable and less generous opposition, particularly across the backline - made sure he wasn’t the only home debutant, naming 6ft 5ins defender Tom Batchelor, keeper Ross Durrant and holding midfielder Charlie Gatter in his starting XI.

There was no place in the team for Shane Clarke, Grant Roberts, Nat Brown, Joe Burgess, Liam Agnew, Joe Maguire or Jay Rollins - who pulled his thigh in the warm-up - however, as even the new manager bounce can’t perform miracles with United’s lengthy injury list.

Boston began with pace and purpose but, with the exception of a few Hilliard corners and some direct running from Marcus Marshall and Jason St Juste, they had little to show for their efforts.

But as Curzon found their footing in the contest they began to create chances, Durrant being forced to tip Joe Guest’s strike onto the post and comfortably holding Wright’s tame header.

Wright handed the Nash a 13th-minute lead, slotting home from close range after Connor Hampson collected a short corner and turned with ease before teeing up his teammate with a low cross.

But that lead lasted just two minutes as Boston levelled with a swift break.

Jason St Juste, a late addition to the starting XI following Rollins’ withdrawal, patiently held onto possession before sending Gordon through on the overlap, the defender taking a touch before coolly slotting beyond Cameron Mason.

Undeterred, the Nash looked to regain their lead, James Baillie blasting an effort inches over and Hilliard frustrating former Liverpool squad member Adam Morgan with a goalline block.

Showing his worth at the other end, Hilliard put the Pilgrims in fron with a moment of magic five minutes before the interval.

Collecting Callum Chippendale’s pass he lost Jamie Stott with a Cruyff turn on the edge of the penalty area before beating the wrong-footed Mason at his near post with a low left-footed strike from 18 yards out.

Gregg Smith - cruelly nicknamed ‘sumo’ by the 17 travelling Curzon fans - almost rammed those taunts back down the supporters’ throats moments after the re-start, only for an offside flag to deny him his 10th goal of the season.

But it was 3-1 on 55 minutes as Hilliard put forward a contender for goal of the season. Collecting the ball 30 yards out he set himself before unleashing a sweet strike which continued to rise beyond the dive of Mason and high into the roof of the net.

Batchelor was next to see an effort chalked off, hopes of a debut goal denied by referee Anthony Tankard after the big defender controlled Hilliard’s free kick with an arm before firing home from close range.

With 20 minutes to go Morgan looked to have improvised the Nash back into the contest. With Durrant out of his area the Curzon man send a volley goalwards, only for Kalern Thomas to sprint in to cover and volley clear.

And when Morgan went down in the Boston box, seemingly after contact from Batchelor, referee Tankard kept his whistle well away from his lips.

And that’s how the scoreline remained as Boston made it four wins from four home games under the floodlights this season.

UNITED: Durrant, Thomas, Gordon, Robinson, Batchelor, Gatter, St Juste, Chippendale (Clappison 73), Hilliard, Smith (Colley 87), Marshall; Subs (not used): Fairhurst, Forth, Emery.

CURZON: Mason, Wright, Guest, Hunt, Stott, Hampson, Morgan, Clark (Rowney 78), Cummins (Ennis 71), Brown (Tomsett 84), Baillie; Subs (not used): Howard, Jennings.

Ref: Anthony Tankard.

Att: Att: 979 (17).