STOCKPORT COUNTY 1 BOSTON UNITED 1: United end their away jinx with a point at Edgeley Park

Gregg Smith.
Gregg Smith.

Gregg Smith’s early header was enough to earn Boston United their first point on the road this season.

After four consecutive, unimpressive and thoroughly miserable defeats away from home in the National League North, the Pilgrims finally put in the performance they have been promising at Stockport County.

At times Dennis Greene’s side played confident, flowing and attacking football.

On other occasions they dug in and battled for their lives.

But as Kevin Mulraine put his whistle to his lips and blew for full time, there was finally something other than an L in the away column.

And thoroughly deserved it was too in a contest where both sides fought hard, dared to go for the winner and missed delightful chances.

Stockport away is synonymous with Greene really marking his arrival at Boston United, the manager rather than the bloke drafted in to save a flagging campaign.

That 4-1 win on the opening day of the 2013-14 season was the first time we got to see a team he had built at Boston, and a day where the likes of Carl Piergianni and Scott Garner became fan favourites overnight.

Momentum was created.

This season has seen the second team that Den built take to the turf, but with four straight away defeats they finally got that point with this battling performance - expansive and attacking at times, tight and miserly at the back at others.

Of course, this was far from that last victory at Edgeley Park - you won’t see fans and fanzines using snapshots of the scoreboard as their Twitter profile pictures any time soon - but perhaps, just perhaps, this was the day that this squad finally found some self belief to build upon.

Greene showed faith in the side which started the second half against Bradford Park Avenue on Tuesday, Lewis Hilliard and Herve Pepe-Ngoma starting with Liam Adams and Cameron Johnson being left out of the squad.

But Pepe-Ngoma’s afternoon ended in the 35th minute, the midfielder falling to the floor in agony and clutching his knee after appearing to jar a straight leg into the turf.

Yet another injury worry for Boston, who seem to have crammed three season’s worth of suffering into the opening nine matches.

Smith got the Pilgrims off to the perfect start, meeting Marcus Marshall’s deep cross at the back post and looping a header beyond the reach of Ben Hinchcliffe.

Just four days earlier the target man had scored the 82nd-minute winner against the Avenue.

And Smith, quickly becoming a cult hero at the Jakemans Stadium, picked up where he left off with an even better finish.

County debutant Jimmy Ball was eager to impress the home crowd and, as well as striking up an instant understanding with fellow attacker Danny Lloyd, should have found himself on the scoresheet early on.

After dragging an early effort wide of Dion-Curtis Henry’s goal he forced a free header against the back of Joe Robinson, the ball rebounding past the wrong-footed keeper but over the crossbar.

As the hosts pushed for an equaliser Courtney Meppen-Walters failed to cause panic with a couple of long rangers and Josh Amis put forward his contender for miss of the season.

Ball’s deep cross had beaten Henry but Amis, three yards in front of the target and goalside of Robinson, somehow allowed the ball the skim off his head and wide of the far post.

United were playing on the break with the pace of Jay Rollins troubling County’s back four.

But when the Pilgrims earned a two-on-one situation, Hilliard’s cross to Rollins was hacked clear, the midfielder then swiping an effort from 20 yards out high into the stands.

Three minutes before the interval Stockport carved out another golden chance, but when Lloyd cut in he prodded his effort the wrong side of Henry’s post.

But two minutes after the re-start and County were level.

Scott Duxbury had alreadys seen a low cross whizz untroubled across the Boston six-yard box before Lloyd was afforded far too much time and space in the United area, his swept effort guided beyond Henry.

That was the wake-up call which spurred the away side back into life, Smith seeing a header strike the woodwork and the same man’s powerful strike being tipped away by Hinchcliffe at full stretch.

It was becoming the Smith show as the forward then met Jason St Juste’s header but forced the ball wide.

Lloyd’s inswinging corner caused confusion in the Pilgrims box, the ball scrambled off the line by Henry, whose reactions helped keep the scoreline level.

At the other end United should have re-taken the lead when Rollins’ deep cross was met at the back post by Liam Agnew, who slammed into the side netting with the goal unguarded in front of him.

Anything Amis can do, he can do too.

And Boston went even closer when Waide Fairhurst - back from injury - forced Hinchcliffe to tip his header over, Joe Maguire powering Liam Agnew’s resultant corner against the crossbar with the County defence rooted.

Egged on by the voiciferous home crowd, County went for the win, but Henry batted away Scott Spencer’s close-range effort with a top reaction save and Lloyd screwed an effort wide, well placed but falling backwards as he connected.

The draw was the outcome, and probably deserved in a thoroughly entertaining match.

COUNTY: Hinchcliffe, Ross, Duxbury, Meppen-Walters, Clarke, Smalley (Rule 69), Minihan, Montrose (Spencer HT), Amis (Odejayi 73), Ball, Lloyd; Subs: Ormson, Marsden.

UNITED: Henry, Marshall, Maguire, Robinson, St Juste, Pepe-Ngoma (Thomas 35), Agnew, McMillan (Fairhurst 57), Hilliard, Rollins, Smith; Subs: Colley, Wildin, Price.

Ref: Kevin Mulraine.

Att: 2,466.