DARLINGTON 1 BOSTON UNITED 2: The only way is up... or down?

Reece Thompson.
Reece Thompson.

Boston United secured a fantastic away victory at in-form Darlington, but the question remains: are the Pilgrims in a promotion race or relegation scrap?

As the full-time whistle blew the team in amber found themselves 11th in the table, eight points off the National League North’s play-off spots and the same number of points clear of the drop zone.

The truth is they’re probably not really in with a shout of either, today’s important three points leaving them safe enough to not look panicked over their shoulder and just about close enough to the promotion-chasers to dream

The Quakers were very much the form team going into the contest, having won their previous four matches at Blackwell Meadows and unbeaten in five fixtures.

But the Pilgrims put in a near-perfect away performance on the soggy Darlington turf, taking the game to their hosts, controlling the majority of the play and scrapping at the back when needed, keeper George Willis not having a save of note to make all afternoon.

Darlington hadn’t conceded in more than 400 minutes of football before Boston ended that proud run in emphatic fashion, Reece Thompson and Ashley Hemmings scoring twice within the space of five minutes.

Thompson’s persistence paid off as he won the ball back on the byline, skipped beyond his man and thumped his tight-angle strike beyond Aynsley Pears to hand the Pilgrims a 35th-minute lead.

Hemmings doubled the advantage with a low strike after collecting James Clifton’s cross-field pass.

But a near-perfect 45 from the away side ended with Reece Stryche setting up an enticing second half, beating George Willis with a 25-yard strike which skipped off the soggy turf and beyond the dive of George Willis.

In the pre-match build-up Craig Elliott - who stuck with the team which beat Kidderminster the previous week - had emphasised the importance of his Pilgrims playing to their strengths, and they comfortably controlled the first half.

Hemmings, Brogan and Clifton all had chances to add to the tally while Styche, whop netted in Tamworth’s win against Boston in August, could have put the Quakers in front, only to see his close-range header whizz wide of the back post.

Jake Beesley should have opened his Pilgrims account into the second half when Pears spilled Clifton’s deflected cross, but he somehow got his frame in front of the striker’s follow-up.

Chances became few and far apart as United closed ranks, but Clifton lashed a hopeful effort wide of the mark and the Quakers saw a couple of free kicks into the away side’s box come to little.

Into the five minutes of stoppage time the home fans were adamant Styche was shoved when attacking a header, but play continued and James Caton fired the loose ball well over.

The pressure continued with Gregg Smith hacking off the line following a goalmouth scramble before the full-time whistle arrived.

DARLINGTON: Pears, Portas (Collins 87), O’Hanlon, Turnbull (Mills 63), Heaton, Galbraith, Gillies (Caton 63), Wheatley, Styche, Syers, Thompson; Subs: Glover, Bancroft.

UNITED: Willis, Middleton, Brogan, Thanoj (McGuire 67), Keane, Qualter, Clifton (Smith 82), Abbott, Thompson, Beesley (Wafula 85), Hemmings; Subs: Tshimanga, Stewart.

Ref: Adam Herczeg.

Att: 1,188.