HARROGATE TOWN 2 BOSTON UNITED 1: Late Jones goal is not enough

Dayle Southwell.
Dayle Southwell.

Mark Jones’ late goal wasn’t enough to earn Boston United any rewards at Harrogate Town.

With three minutes to go the striker headed home his first goal for the club since his return.

However, Town held on to win 2-1, with the damage done in the opening 20 minutes.

The result means Boston’s frustrating run of results against Harrogate continues, with the hosts winning five of the past six meetings and drawing the other.

United made four changes to the side which hammered Colwyn Bay 5-0 a fortnight earlier.

With Carl Piergianni ruled out due to illness and Rene Steer beginning a three-match suspension for his New Year’s Day red card at Lowestoft, loanees Tom McNamee and Greg Tempest slotted into the back four.

In attack Mark Jones - who has extended his loan spell until the end of the campaign - and 16-goal Dayle Southwell, who scored against Boston while on loan at Harrogate last season, both returned to lead the line, with Alex Simmons and Marc Newsham dropping to the bench.

Piergianni - who had been red carded in his previous two contests at Wetherby Road, with both Corby Town and Boston - had previously begun 75 of the Pilgrims’ 79 competitive matches since arriving at the Jakemans Stadium last summer, missing just four matches through suspension.

So it would be a test of the side’s character to replace their lynchpin with debutant McNamee, who was making the step up from Sunderland’s under 21s, in the heart of defence.

And with 17 minutes on the clock, Boston had conceded twice against a side which had only scored 25 times in 26 Vanarama North matches prior to kick off.

With 11 minutes gone Andy Gascoigne fired the hosts in front, beating Joel Dixon with a powerful curling effort from 12 yards out.

The Pilgrims’ argument that play should have been halted as Grant Roberts lay in an injured heap on the floor was dismissed, and there were further protests waved away when Harrogate doubled their advantage six minutes later.

The Boston defence claimed that Paul Clayton had taken the ball out of play when rounding Dixon, but no whistle was forthcoming and Ryan Fallowfield reacted fastest to slide home the low cross.

The game had been given the go-ahead despite the turf being brilliant white due to an overnight snow.

The boggy surface frustrated Boston wingers Kaine Felix and Nicky Walker, neither of whom could utilise their natural pace on the wings, while a number of teammates were culpable of playing short passes as the got used to the wet coating.

But that wasn’t the only problem caused by the colour of the pitch.

With no provisions for a coloured ball in Conference-level football both teams were forced to play with a white ball - the difficulty of tracking being evident when play was momentarily suspended when a white cone, part of Harrogate’s warm-up routine, was discovered on the turf midway through the first half.

United’s only two previous victories against Harrogate have both come at Wetherby Road, and the away side had chances to pull themselves level prior to half time.

Liam Marrs found himself in a rare shooting opportunit, but his low strike was parried wide by Peter Crook, who then got his hands behind strikes from Southwell and Roberts.

And when former Pilgrim Cecil Nyoni was caught in possession in his own penalty area Southwell hacked his effort wide following Scott Garner’s ball-winning reactions.

Into time added on in the first half Jones forced another good save from the Town number one.

From the resultant corner the Pilgrims were adamant they had scrambled the ball into the back of the net, but referee Scott Oldham shook his head and called for play to continue.

McNamee’s afternoon was brought to a premature end at half time. The defender was replaced by Michael Hollingsworth, who sat in midfield while Garner dropped back to join the impressive Zak Mills in defence.

Once again United enjoyed plenty of possession without any cutting edge before Harrogate missed a sitter which would have put the result beyond doubt.

However, with Dixon grounded, goalscorer Fallowfield somehow scooped his effort over the bar and into a group of disgruntled Town supporters holding up a ‘Weaver Out!’ banner.

Their side may have been 2-0 up, but sitting in the bottom half of the table hasn’t endeared manager Simon to the home fans of late.

As the ironic chant of “Simon Weaver, football genius” run out the Town manager at least had the comfort of knowing his side had a two-goal lead, thanks in part to Crook scrambling across his goal to smother Tempest’s deflected strike.

Substitute Marc Newsham looked certain to reduce the arrears when he shot goalwards from close range, but a last-gasp slide from Town captain David McGurk denied him.

Town should have made it three with eight minutes to go, but Clayton missed an absolute sitter.

After Dominic Rowe’s high-speed run and cross fell to the forward six yards from goal, he casually side-footed his effort towards Dixon, who pushed the ball over.

With three minutes to go Jones gave the Pilgrims a lifeline, heading home at the back post following Walker’s corner.

But it wasn’t enough.

TOWN: Crook, Nyoni, McGurk, Shiels, Turner, Emmett (Rowe 69), Gascoigne, Fallowfield (Nowakowski 90), Swain, Clayton, Thewlis (Nelthorpe 81); Subs: Walshaw, Milligan.

UNITED: J Dixon, Marrs, Mills, McNamee (Hollingsworth HT), Tempest (Newsham 74), Felix (Simmons 74), Garner, Roberts, Walker, Southwell, Jones; Subs (not used): McGhee, Price.

Ref: Scott Oldham.

Att: 460.