The new year is not even 24 hours old and Boston United have already felt the highs and lows of 2017. Josh Robinson grabbed a deserved 90th-minute winner at Gainsborough Trinity, but the Pilgrims now face an anxious wait to discover the extent of Gregg Smith’s injury after the target man was stretchered off.
There were jubilant scenes as the Irishman skidded on his knees in front of the cheering away end after meeting Callum Chippendale’s free kick and heading a late winner in off the post.
It was a celebration which saw Robinson booked and a Pilgrims fan ejected from the Northolme for charging onto the pitch, but few seemed to care as Adam Murray grabbed his first away win as United boss and the Pilgrims ended a three-game run without a victory in Gainsborough.
But that was a stark contrast to the polite applause which saw Smith off the field earlier.
Midway through the second half the Pilgrims attacker met Chippendale’s corner, heading wide but landing badly, instantly holding his ankle and calling for assistance.
The absence of Smith would be a huge blow for Boston, who look to the summer signing as a talisman both on the pitch and in the dressing room.
New year, same old injury woes for Boston.
But Murray can take some comfort from his side’s victory, Shane Clarke returned from injury to make his first appearance of the season, new signing Joe Fitzpatrick looked composed in midfield and Jay Rollins marked his return to the starting XI with his ninth goal of the campaign, cancelling out James Reid’s opener.
Rollins and Fitzpatrick were the two changes to the side which drew 1-1 with the same opposition on Boxing Day, Jason St Juste omitted due to injury and Chippendale forced to watch from the bench until replacing Lewis Hilliard.
United began on the front foot with Hilliard and Smith both forcing half chances wide and Tom Batchelor, unmarked at the back post, unable to control Hilliard’s deep free kick.
Trinity stopper George Willis was called into action as he pulled off a fine double stop, parrying Hilliard’s goalbound dead ball and holding on to Smith’s follow-up.
Laurie Wilson saw a free kick deflected wide by Josh Robinson as the Blues forced their way into the game, the hosts then taking a 20th-minute lead from James Reid’s penalty.
Referee Garreth Rhodes spotted a handball as Ashley Worsfold forced his way into the United box, Reid making no mistake with a powerful drive to Ross Durrant’s left.
But it took less than three minutes for Rollins to restore parity, netting his ninth goal of the season with a 25-yard thumper which Willis, perhaps, should have got more behind.
Trinity should have regained the lead but Reid, so clinical from 12 yards, missed a sitter from less than six.
With the goal at his mercy and a low cross arriving kindly at his feet, the goalscorer somehow sidefooted over.
It was Boston who had the final chance of the half, but Batchelor’s header was too close to trouble Willis.
Willis was in the thick of the action from the re-start, pulling off the save of the match to deny Robinson’s goalbound header with a full-stretch, one-handed save.
And there was another superb stop seconds later as Rollins burst down the left and teed up Hilliard who, unmarked in the area, could only shake his head as the Blues number one made a block with his body.
Not done, Willis then tipped Smith’s strike over.
From the resultant corner Smith headed wide but landed awkwardly, his afternoon ending with the big target man carried off the pitch on a stretcher.
Trinity couldn’t match the pace and power they exhibited in the first half and Boston looked dangerous on the break, Jordan Thewlis’ curler - which fizzed wide - being their only real effort of the 45.
With Willis in top form it was always going to take something special to beat him.
But Robinson, who also beat the Blues keeper in the earlier draw, delivered at the death.
TRINITY: Willis, Lacey, Beatson, Evans, Quinn, L. Wilson, Reid (Thornhill 66), Chapman (Templeton 81), Worsfold (Jarman 89), Burdett, Thewlis; Subs (not used): Rothery, Wiles.
UNITED: Durrant, Thomas, Gordon, Robinson, Batchelor, Gatter (Clarke 76), Rollins, Fitzpatrick, Hilliard (Chippendale 57), Smith (Colley 66), Marshall; Subs (not used): Clappison, Fairhurst.
Ref: Garreth Rhodes.