CHORLEY 1 BOSTON UNITED 1: Willis the hero for dogged United but injury dampens Pilgrims’s point

editorial image

Boston United earned a hard-fought draw at second-placed Chorley - but the result was marred by an injury to debutant Jordan Thewlis.

The debutant was stretchered off late on after being caught by Josh O’Keefe.

Nicky Walker gave Boston a half-time lead, only for Courtney Meppen-Walter to restore parity for the hosts, who have still only been beaten once at home this season.

It took a dogged, hard-working performance for the Pilgrims to earn their point.

Despite plenty of contenders, nobody put in a shift quite like George Willis, the keeper pulling off a string of superb saves while opposite number Matt Urwin didn’t have to make one all afternoon.

Craig Elliott stuck with the same starting XI which beat Ashton 5-0 in the FA Trophy last week, new signings Thewlis and Lewis Gibbens named on the bench.

These two sides have met 12 times in the past four years, producing four wins apiece and four draws, so it was barely a shock that they cancelled each other out early on.

The first sight of goal came in the 20th minute as Willis punched away Adam Blakeman’s free kick, conceded after the United keeper carried the ball out of his area, momentum sweeping him along the slippery surface.

And when Louis Almond broke clear of the Pilgrims defence far too simply, Willis was there again to deny the forward with a body block, holding on to Marcus Carver’s effort as the Magpies continued to press.

Just as the hosts looked on top Walker broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark with a goal that owed as much to Brad Abbott’s persistence as it did the winger’s powerful finish.

Refusing to give up a lost cause, the United midfielder threw himself at a loose ball, poking it into the path of Walker who was free to sprint down on goal and thump his strike beyond one-time Boston trialist Urwin.

It needed some last-ditch defending for United to take their lead into the interval, Liam Agnew getting enough of his boot behind the ball to divert Adam Anson’s effort.

From the resultant corner Willis dropped the ball but somehow blocked Carver’s strike when on the ground.

How much he knew about the save is debatable, but a save is a save.

The Magpies drew level 13 minutes into the second half, Meppen-Walter getting up highest in a crowded six-yard box to head home Blakeman’s corner.

Carver thought he’d put Chorley in front seconds later, but the palms of Willis diverted his stinging drive inches wide.

And when the same player found himself in space again, Spencer Harris’s block diverted the strike over.

Boston’s chances were limited after the break, Gavin Allott’s hopeful header about as good as it got in the opening 25 minutes.

Sensing the three points were still there to be won, Elliott handed a debut to on-loan Harrogate striker Jordan Thewlis, replacing Max Wright.

But the Chorley attacks continued, Willis making the save of the game to deny Carver with a fine reaction stop after neat passing play from the home side gave the striker a golden opportunity.

Allott went closer with a second header of the half before Magpie Almond blazed well over from the right.

And Boston almost won it at the death, Andi Thanoj’s 30-yarder rattling Urwin’s crossbar.

There was still time for Gibbens to make a late debut, becoming the 40th player to appear for the Pilgrims this season, but Boston had to play out stoppage time a man down after Thewlis left the field on a stretcher.

CHORLEY: Urwin, Anson, Blakeman, Teague (Hooper 86), Meppen-Walter, Jordan, A. Newby, O’Keefe, Carver, Almond (Wilson 86), E. Newby; Subs (not used): Whitham, Cottrell, Lussey.

UNITED: Willis, Davies, Jackson, Thanoj, Harris, Qualter, Wright (Thewlis 69), Abbott, Allott, Agnew (Rollins 77), Walker (Gibbens 90); Subs: Slew, Malkowski.

REF: Elliott Swallow.

ATT: 1,047.

STAR MAN: George Willis - made a series of unbelievable saves as his goal came under attack.

GOALS: CHORLEY - Courtney Meppen-Walter (58); UNITED - Nicky Walker (30).

BOOKINGS: CHORLEY - Josh O’Keefe 35, Elliot Newby (90); UNITED - Brad Abbott (90).