STOCKPORT COUNTY 2 BOSTON UNITED 1: Pilgrims’ opening-day win record is ended at Edgeley Park

Dayle Southwell.
Dayle Southwell.
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Boston United’s run of opening day victories was brought to an end at Stockport County.

After eight straight wins, dating back to 2008, goals from Glen Rule and Karl Ledsham saw the Hatters claim a 2-1 victory at Edgeley Park.

But Boston - whose preparations were hampered after Zak Mills picked up an injury in the warm-up - didn’t go down without a fight.

Dayle Southwell gave the Pilgrims hope when he drew the scores level in the second half, while Jack Friend struck the post and Mark Jones somehow put wide from close range.

Dennis Greene was forced into re-arranging his team minutes before kick off when Mills was unable to take to the field.

Friend took his place in the starting XI with Grant Roberts dropping into the right back slot and the Pilgrims switching from a 4-3-3 line-up to a 4-4-2 formation.

Former Chesterfield goalkeeper Jason Alexander, who joined the club this week, was added to the bench.

But while Friend, keeper Henrich Ravas and midfielder Jordan Deacey were the only summer arrivals named in Boston’s starting line-up, the Hatters adopted a totally different approach, with keeper Danny Hurst being the only member of the 16-man squad who was a County player last season.

And the County side began looking very much like a team who had only met up in pre-season as Boston carved out some early chances.

Kaine Felix was enjoying some space down the right-hand side and tested the Stockport defence with some teasing crosses, Friend heading weakly at Hurst early on and another ball into the box scrambled clear by Sean O’Hanlon.

Southwell should also have done better from a close-range header, provided by Jones’ cross.

As Stockport began to find their footing in the game they were making the most of gaps down the wings and having a little too much joy from overlapping runs.

They should have taken the lead when Calum Dyson twisted his way beyond Liam Marrs but, with just Ravas to beat, he struck an early contender for miss of the season with a shanked effort which flew high and wide of the mark from close range - setting the tone for some later fluffed chances.

United defender Carl Piergianni was then forced to pull off a goalline header against his former club when Karl Ledsham’s header beat Ravas.

The Hatters finally opened the scoring in the 35th minute when United failed to clear a corner and Rule met Kayode Odejayi’s cross and headed home from close range.

That lead was almost doubled less than a minute later when Ravas casually let Dyson’s cross go past him, only for the ball to spin inches wide of the mark.

As the half drew to a close Friend was handed two chances to level things up, but one snapshot flew off the mark and a back-post strike smashed against the inside of the Stockport post and rolled across the face of goal before being hacked away.

The second half began with two glaring misses.

Firstly, an unmarked Ledsham met a deep cross six yards from goal but blasted his volley into the ground, momentum taking the ball well over Ravas’ bar.

And at the other end Jones was left holding his head in his hands when he scuffed an effort the wrong side of the post after meeting Piergianni’s cross inside the six-yard box.

But United were level inthe 59th minute as Southwell smashed home his first of the new campaign.

County failed to clear a corner and, after Hurst somehow denied Garner with a brilliant reaction stop, the Pilgrims hitman was once again in the right place to find the net.

If anything, that goal spurred the hosts on and after Ravas had beaten away Rule’s near post strike, the home side were back in front in the 68th minute.

Substitute Garvin unleashed a low 25 yard strike which crept beyond the outstretched glove of the United keeper and into his bottom left-hand corner.

Hurst - who tormented Boston in the 1-1 draw at the Jakemans Stadium last season - pulled off the latest in a long line of top stops with minutes left on the clock.

After Jay Rollins had controlled a loose ball on the edge of the penalty area he unleashed a twisting and dipping shot which looked goalbound until the County keeper forced the ball over with a one-handed stop.

As United were caught pusjing men forward County’s Lamin Colley was granted a last-ditch shooting opportunity, but he somehow blazed over.

The unbeaten record is gone, but the Pilgrims showed enough from the afternoon’s action to ensure there’s no need to hit the panic button.

COUNTY: Hurst, Morton, O’Hanlon, Thorniley, Roberts, Ledsham (Ellison 88), Montrose, Rule, Dyson (Garvin 63), Odejayi (Colley 79), Gonzales; Subs (not used): Robinson, Tyson.

UNITED: Ravas, Friend (Rollins 49), Garner, Piergianni, Marrs, Dixon, Roberts, Deacey (McGhee 55), Felix, Jones, Southwell; Subs (not used): Johnson, Sheridan, Alexander.

Ref: Andrew Miller.

Att: 3,396 (179).