Bradford Park Aveue 1 Boston United 1: Ross earns a point with a splendid strike

Scott Garner.
Scott Garner.

A picture perfect free kick from captain fantastic Ian Ross earned Boston United a priceless point at Bradford Park Avenue.

As the Pilgrims trailed to Alex Davidson’s simple finish, the man with the armband curled home a tremendous 25-yard free kick to earn his side a share of the spoils.

But while Ross earned the glory with a moment of brilliance, United owed planty to their stern defence and keeper Lewis King - who made a handful of splendid saves.

Boss Dennis Greene made four changes to the side which swept past Redditch in the FA Trophy last weekend.

The biggest story prior to kick off was teenage striker Charley Sanders - complete with his new Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired ponytail - being handed his first start for the Pilgrims.

Sanders, a product of the club’s youth set-up, had been made to wait for his full debut, previously making 23 appearances from the bench.

Also back in the starting XI were keeper Lewis King, Stefan Galinski, who slipped into his favoured role in the heart of defence, and left back Netan Sansara.

Sam Vince, Conor Marshall and Spencer Weir-Daley dropped to the bench, while Rene Steer missed out through suspension.

But as Boston took to the pitch, there was a brave new look.

Centre back Scott Garner joined Sanders and Ricky Miller in attack, with forward Marc Newsham dropping into midfield alongside Ross and Jake Hall.

The tactics appeared to be centred around pumping long balls into the Park Avenue penalty area, bypassing the poor playing surface and putting pressure on the hosts’ three central defenders.

But it was Bradford who had the best of the early exchanges.

Chib Chilaka and Paul Walker both dragged efforts wide while Lewis King somehow blocked Jordan Deacey’s close-range effort, although it’s not known how much he knew about his save.

Boston’s first clear chance fell to Garner, but as he beat John Lamb with his looping header the ball bounced wide of the target.

King certainly knew all about the two top saves he pulled off to keep the Pilgrims on level terms.

Firstly, he corrected himself well to keep Nathan Hotte’s swerving strike out, especially as it appeared he had overrun the ball.

And then the keeper got his fingertips to Nicky Boshell’s free kick, forcing the ball on to the crossbar.

Two rare Pilgrims attempt in the first half saw Ross’ left-footed half-volley whizz wide of goal and Newsham’s volley, on the edge of the penalty area, clear the crossbar.

Bradford had blitzed Boston with a full-throttle attacking approach when they left York Street with a 3-2 victory in September.

And despite Greene describing them as the ‘best attacking team we’ve faced so far’ they also showed defensive vulnerabilities on that day.

And since that match, a victory over Gloucester City had been their soliary success in the Skrill North.

In contrast, United had won six of their nine matches in all competitions - their only two defeats both coming at Brackley Town.

But Bradford were a team in form following their 4-0 FA Trophy success over Harrogate Town, and took the lead four minutes after the break.

Walker got goalside of Galinski before squaring for Alex Davidson, who had the simple task of sliding home from close range.

Park Avenue had two golden chances to extend their advantage, but King did well to smother Jordan Deacey’s strike and Nicky Boshell somehow fired wide from inside the area.

With an hour gone Spencer Weir-Daley replaced Sanders and United returned to their familiar line-up.

Weir-Daley fired over before Ross pulled the Pilgrims level in the 76th minute.

The captain’s 25-yard free kick curled away from Lamb’s outstretc hed hand and into the net to make things all square.

Moments later and Ross was given a carbon copy chance, but his second free kick flew off target.

It was all Boston in the final stages, but a top save from Lamb denied Conor Marshall and Sansara’s drive smashed against the crossbar.

But that second breakthrough just wouldn’t come and, on reflection, a draw was a fair results all round.

BPA: Lamb, Haworth, Knowles, Lenighan, Mallory, Boshell (Clayton 83), Chalaka, Hotte, Davidson, Deacey (St Just 83), Walker. Subs (not used): Corner, Clamp, Maxfield.

UNITED: King, Galinski, Garner, Piergianni, Marrs, Ross, Hall (Marshall 74), Sansara, Miller, Sanders (Weir-Daley 60) Newsham; Subs (not used): Milnes, Aujla, Vince.

Ref: Phillip Dermot.

Att: 401.