Oh Boston United, you little tease. Just as it looked like the season was tailing off, just as the knives looked set to be sharpened, the Pilgrims go and offer you renewed hope.
Today’s 2-1 victory at Kidderminster Harriers had all the elements of a textbook away performance, attacking flair, defensive solidity, tricks of running down the clock and, when all else fails, a flipping good save from the keeper.
Of course, there have been plenty of false dawns already in this stop-start season, but as United sit five points off the play-off spots you know you just can’t write them off if they continue to churn out performances like this with the regularity they need.
But just as Boston deserved victory, Harriers - who ended the day with 10 men - deserved their fourth home defeat of the season, bombarding the Pilgrims’s box in the second half but failing to muster a shot on target.
Both sides were in desperate need of a victory going into the contest, the Pilgrims winless in five and their hosts with just two three-point hauls in their past 11 matches.
But come the final whistle United got their way and Kidderminster chairmanager Colin Gordon remains searching for his first win.
Jay Rollins and Jonathan Wafula returned to the starting XI at the expense of Nicky Walker and Callum Chettle for a game where manager Craig Elliott demanded his side be a little more streetwise and savvy, five bookings suggesting the manager’s wish was granted.
A lively start saw Harriers keeper Brandon Hall hold on to Gavin Allott’s low strike and Sam Austin fire wide of the Boston goal.
But the Pilgrims were asking more questions and their pressure paid off when Rollins slipped Wright in on goal, the winger drilling his effort beyond Hall and into the net as Aggborough, with the exception of the corner where the smattering of United fans gathered, fell silent.
Harriers’s Ironside and United’s Gavin Allott both put headers off target before Pilgrims keeper George Willis denied Fraser Horsfall with what is becoming a weekly occurrence, a phenomenal save.
The big centre back rose highest to meet a deep free kick and, as his downward header looked set to cross the line, Boston’s number one stuck out and arm and flicked the ball onto the woodwork.
Ironside, who was recalled from his loan spell at York City in the week, rounded off a sweeping move to pull Kidderminster level, sliding in to power home Dan Bradley’s inch-perfect fizzing cross.
But there was still time for United to regain the lead.
After 26 matches without a penalty Davies converted his third spot kick in four matches, firing in off the bar after Allott was clumsily upended by Josh Heaton.
It was a decision which saw referee James Bell booed and heckled for the remainder of the contest but, credit where it’s due, the official stuck to his guns all afternoon, giving decisions as he saw them and getting the majority spot on.
Boston were left defending for their lives for the opening 20 minutes of the second half, scrapping and scrambling balls away as Harriers bombarded their box.
But when Rollins broke the hosts’s offside trap he was presented with a golden opportunity, wastefully dragging wide with just Hall to beat.
Andi Thanoj and Spencer Harris added half chances.
in stoppage time referee Bell turned down Harriers appeals for a handball in the United box and Kane Richards’s appeals earned him a straight red.
And that was that, United’s first away win since Curzon Ashton on September 29.
HARRIERS: Hall, Vaughan, Phillips (Baxendale 85), Weeks, Heaton, Horsfall, Austin (Clayton-Phillips 57), Penn, Ironside, Chambers (Richards 73), Bradley; Subs: Butterfield, Baxendale, Higginson.
UNITED: Willis, Davies, Jackson, Thanoj, Gibbens, Qualter, Wafula, Abbott, Allott (Slew 90), Rollins (Harris 80), Wright (Chettle 90). Subs: Walker, Malkowski.
REF: James Bell.
ATT: 1,249 (54).
STAR MAN: Max Wright - opened the scoring and spent the remainder of the afternoon selflessly stretching the play and taking the knocks to aid his team.
GOALS: HARRIERS - Joe Ironside (32); UNITED - Max Wright (6), Ben Davies (40).
BOOKINGS: HARRIERS - Ashley Chambers (22), Kane Richards (78); UNITED - Ryan Qualter (11), Andi Thanoj (71), Lewis Gibbens (78), Brad Abbott (78), Ashley Jackson (81).
RED CARDS: HARRIERS - Kane Richards (90).