STALYBRIDGE CELTIC 0 BOSTON UNITED 5: Now for the play-offs! Southwell hits a hat-trick and Roberts nets a screamer as Pilgrims secure fifth

Dayle Southwell.
Dayle Southwell.

Cancel your plans for Wednesday, call the babysitter and set the planner to record Eastenders - because Boston United are in the play-offs.

A hat-trick from Dayle Southwell, Jay Rollins’ strike and a late contender for goal of the season from Grant Roberts ensured the Pilgrims left Bower Fold with the three points which would guarantee their place in the National League North’s top-five.

North Ferriby will be the visitors to the Jakemans Stadium in midweek as Dennis Greene’s side look to improve on last year’s semi-final heartbreak.

But arranging those plans can wait for tomorrow as this evening deserves to be one of celebration - a smile-enducing reflection of how Dennis Greene’s side ensured their promotion dreams remain in tact.

There have been injuries, frustrations, fall-outs and moments of pure brilliance - just like that Mark Jones individual effort against Stockport County and Kaine Felix’s wonder goal last week, which made sure the Pilgrims were in the driving seat going into today’s crunch contest.

The small matter of an ineligible player in Warwickshire helped a little as well.

But after 41 games played, United still had to do the business against Stalybridge Celtic. And do the business they did to send the 400 away fans - inflatables and all - wild.

Knowing they had to win to secure fifth, the Pilgrims were visibly fired up with captain Scott Garner leading by rugged example in the middle of the pitch, dominant in the air and not giving an inch on the ground.

But the skipper wasn’t the only one putting in a shift. Nat Brown stood strong and composed on the skiddy surface, marshalling the defence with cool composure, while the determined running of Southwell continued to stretch, twist and confuse the Celtic backline.

By the end, victory was too easy. But that perhaps was down as much to Boston’s determination as it was Celtic’s minds being on that beach we hear about this time of year.

It was Southwell who settled those early nerves with a 13th-minute opener. Keeping control of the ball on the difficult surface he charged down on goal and slipped a reverse-angled effort beyond the stranded Tony McMillan, his 22nd of the campaign.

That lead was doubled five minutes before the interval when Roberts’ vision set Rollins free, the attacker taking one touch before casually guiding the ball beyond McMillan with the outside of his boot.

But the best was saved for the second half as Roberts smashed a 30-yarder into the roof of the Celtic net to settle the contest in the 71st minute.

With seven minutes left Southwell made it 4-0 with goal number 23 of the campaign, the simplest tap-in he’ll ever score after Brown teed him up following a poorly-defended corner.

And in the 90th minute Southwell drew himself level with Fylde’s Danny Rowe on top of the division’s goalscoring charts with another close ranger, following a drilled cross from Mark Jones.

It may have taken that long for the result to be settled but, on the balance of play, it was rarely in doubt.

While Celtic had little more than Cisse Lingouba’s wayward header to show for their endeavours, Boston created chance after chance throughout the day.

Carl Piergianni saw efforts deflected wide in both halves while an extended leg cleared Lewis Hilliard’s effort on the goalline.

The second half saw McMillan frustrate Kaine Felix from a one-on-one before the United winger stabbed a cross wide and Garner’s goalbound header lacked venom.

So that’s the normal season over. The easy bit’s done.

Now for the play-offs.

STALYBRIDGE: McMillan, Wylie, Wisdom, Hughes, Shaw, Chalmers, Burns, Wright (McKenna 73), Osei, Lingouba (Crowley 43), Mudimu (Higgins 84); Subs (not used): Farrell, Tames.

UNITED: Spiess, Mills (Burgess 81), Brown, Piergianni, McEvoy, Roberts, Garner, Hilliard, Felix (Lavelle-Moore 77), Southwell, Rollins (M. Jones 77); Subs (not used): Robinson, Johnson.

Ref: Anthony Tankard.

Att: 945.