Arnold Town 3 Boston United 3
BOSTON United – complete with a Montserrat international, brand new signing and enough trialists to form their own splinter club – kicked off their pre-season campaign with a 3-3 draw at Arnold Town.
It may have been one of those games that, despite six goals and a few tasty confrontations, failed to hold the imagination.
But that wasn’t the reason fans turned up at Eagle Valley.
As with all pre-season campaigns, supporters want to run the rule over the new boys.
And there were no signings newer than Kevin Holsgrove.
The ink on the forward’s contract was not even dry by the time he had won a place in the Pilgrims fans’ hearts with a superb opening 45-minute display.
Holsgrove may be best known in these parts as the man who gave James Cullingworth a day to forget when Hyde earned a 2-2 draw at York Street last season, but last night he became the man who scored one and created another out of thin air as Boston netted twice in the opening half.
United’s first was a simple volley that Holsgrove tucked away at the back post after Julian Joachim – hoping to earn a return to the Jakemans Stadium – cleverly released young winger Liam Ogden, whose pinpoint cross was simply converted by the Wirral-based new signing.
But Holsgrove came into his own for goal number two.
With the ball at his feet and surrounded by Arnold defenders on the edge of the opposition’s penalty area, he skipped past one man, turned another and stabbed the ball through for Lee Canoville to slot home.
But the first half finished at 2-2.
Arnold had taken the lead when flat-footed defending allowed Joe Wood to break free before squaring the ball for Danny Gordon to side-foot into the empty net.
And Arnold levelled the fixture before the break when a deflected cross fell kindly for Anthony Gardner, although the forward still had a lot of work to do, dinking the ball beyond Paul Bastock and into the top corner.
Apart from this, chances were few and far between, although Ogden’s claim for a bump up from the reserves to the first team was done no harm by a telling cross, which Mikel Suarez wasted, heading wide.
United’s first half team had a more familiar look to it.
Paul Bastock took his familiar place between the sticks, while he was supported by a back four of first teamer Tom Ward and trialist Liam Parker, as Lee Canoville and Gareth Jelleyman filled in as full backs.
With Ogden and Holsgrove working the wings, Danny Sleath and trialist Alex Thompson – son of ex-Boston defender Steve – battled in the centre of the park while Joachim and Suarez picked off the scraps up front.
Boston’s XI for the second half offered a completely different look.
New signings Jordan Fairclough, Kevin Austin and Chris Hall were given a run out, while old boys Matt Hocking, Jamie Stevens and Adam Millson were all hoping to impress enough for a second bite of the amber cherry.
Fringe players Harry Deane, Jason Field and Mickey Stones were given 45 minutes, as was Ricky Drury, who took his place in goal.
But the name that raised eyebrows was Jaylee Hodgson.
Jaylee who? Well, if you were told he had spent time with Loughborough Dynamo, Long Eaton United and Heanor Town you could be excused for not getting too excited.
But, were you to mention that less that less than a month ago the striker scored twice on his international debut – a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier for Montserrat against Belize – and parts of you may start to tingle.
His debut for Boston may not have been as exciting (for the record Montserrat lost 5-2), especially as it was strike partner Stones who grabbed United’s second-half goal, but the presence of Hodgson was enough to get some talking.
Arnold took the lead a second time when Drury misjudged Joe Meakin’s cross and Gardner coolly slotted home at the back post.
United’s young keeper, however, more than made amends as he denied George Bradley from point-blank range and ably tipped Mitchell Slawson’s volley away from danger.
Boston earned a draw with 14 minutes remaining as Stones – who has spent the summer following manager Jason Lee’s orders to slim down – still had enough bulk to bully his way through the Arnold defence before heading Deane’s chipped cross beyond the helpless Lance Walker.
There was plenty on offer from United – and with Marc Newsham (injury), Ryan Semple (illness) and Jason Lee (dugout) still to strap the boots up – more could be on the way.
ARNOLD (from): Walker, Burton, Branson, Bartram, Wood, Buxton, Carson, Gardner, Dawkins, Slawson, Smithson, Bradley, Gordon, Meakin, Kirk-Ellis, Ditchfield, Geary, Carruthers, Freestone.
UNITED (first half): Bastock, Canoville, Ward, Parker, Jelleyman, Ogden, Thompson, Sleath, Holsgrove, Suarez, Joachim. UNITED (second half): Drury, Fairclough, Hocking, Stevens, Austin, Deane, Millson, Hall, Field, Stones, Hodgson.
Ref: M. Hutchinson.