BRACKLEY 0 BOSTON UNITED 0: Spoils shared as Pilgrims denied at the death

Jay Rollins.
Jay Rollins.

Boston United and Brackley played out a goalless draw at St James Park - with Laurie Walker once again proving decisive.

The home side’s number one pulled off two first-class stoppage-time saves to ensure honours finished even.

But what else would you expect from the man who pushed away Lewis Hilliard’s penalty and made a last-gasp body block to thwart Gregg Smith in his side’s 3-2 victory in Lincolnshire back in November?

In hindsight, the contest couldn’t have been further from the five-goal thriller the Pilgrims and Saints previously conjured up.

Tentative at best and lacklustre at times, both sides carved out half chances but lacked any cutting edge in front of goal until the closing stages.

Quite frankly, it was April 1 and nobody was willing to play the fool.

The Pilgrims have enjoyed a good record at St James’ Park, winning three of their previous four league visits, but as they accepted the applause from the travelling they would perhaps have been happier than their promotion-chasing opponents.

Adam Murray was forced into making one change to the side which beat Salford City a week earlier, captain Adam Chapman’s late withdrawal due to a family illness seeing Shane Clarke replace him in midfield for his first start in six matches.

Steve Diggin netted a 33-minute hat-trick as Brackley stormed into an early 3-0 lead at the Jakemans Stadium back in November.

And despite the striker being being named on the bench, the Saints still began with intent.

With less than three minutes on the clock Shane Byrne saw his rising drive beat the outstretched fingertips of Ross Durrant but sail inches the wrong side of the goal frame.

But early pressure failed to bring any further chances and the contest fizzled into a scrappy midfield battle punctuated by hopeful cross-field balls.

That was until United had their first sight of goal in the 20th minute, Jack Broadhead’s effort diverted away from danger by Glenn Walker.

The lanky Saints midfielder then made his presence felt at the other end, putting in a cross for Matthew Barnes-Homer - which Durrant did well to divert wide after scrambling to cover ground in his goal - and then heading over from close range.

The first half, which failed to show the best either had to offer, ended as it started, with Byrne going close.

This time his 20-yard free kick was tipped over by Durrant at full stretch.

The second 45 began with a series of substitutions, United seeing defender Josh Robinson replacing Jan Yeomans, who was taken to hospital following a head clash with David Moyo, and Alex Simmons offer some pace in attack as he replaced Louis Briscoe.

For the hosts Barnes-Homer made way for James Armson.

Boston carved out two good chances in as many minutes when Broadhead drove wide from the edge of the penalty area and Nat Brown’s header looped over the upright.

And when Jay Rollins sprinted to the byline his cutback reached Lewis Hilliard, who scored and saw a penalty saved in the reverse fixture.

But a swarm of Brackley bodies in the box made sure the block was made.

The Saints began turning the screw, Boston scrambling clear after Durrant had spilled a routine collection of an overhit through ball, and Ellis Myles wasting a good opportunity when he volleyed Armson’s cross into the ground.

An ironic chant of ‘we’ve had a shot’ from the home fans echoed around the ground following Lee Ndlovu’s curling effort, which was further from the mark than the accompanying chant.

And seconds later David Pitt stabbed inches wide of Durrant’s goal, his teammates berating him for not passing.

Into time added on Rollins slipped Glenn Walker but saw namesake Laurie get a fingertip to his strike.

From the resultant corner, Mani Dieseruvwe’s header was forced over from point-blank range by the stopper.

BRACKLEY: L. Walker, Myles (Clifton 74), Gudger, Byrne, Gough (Pitt 73), Dean, G. Walker, Ndlovu, Barnes-Homer (Armson 50), Moyo, A. Walker; Subs (not used): Lowe, Diggin.

UNITED: Durrant, Thomas, Batchelor, Brown, Yeomans (Robinson HT), Vince (Hilliard 62), Clarke, Broadhead, Rollins, Dieseruvwe, Briscoe (Simmons 50); Subs (not used): Bishop, Gatter.

Ref: Chris Pollard.

Att: 333.