Boston United 1 Leamington 0
(Jordan Thewlis 50)
Boston United claimed their first win and clean sheet of the season - but the major talking point will be four red cards brandished by referee Dean Watson.
Jordan Thewlis’ 50th-minute penalty settled the contest, but the attacker and fellow Pilgrim Jay Rollins will both serve three-match bans for their parts in a mass brawl that tarnished the victory.
Leamington’s Jordan Murphy and Junior English will suffer the same fate as they made it four reds in as many matches for the Brakes.
The match was billed as Boston’s final league game under floodlights. That probably won’t be the case, a cup run somewhere will scupper that.
But if that does turn out to be the case, it was certainly a memorable one. Albeit for the wrong reasons.
Dominic Knowles and Karl Byrne were handed National League North debuts at the expense of Andi Thanoj and Ben Middleton as Craig Elliott started with an attack-minded 4-4-2 formation.
But those fast starts which were a trademark of pre-season still aren’t being replicated by the Pilgrims, Leamington dictating the early play and taking the pace out of the game.
The unsighted Peter Crook had to be at his best to react to Murphy’s strike as it flew through a packed penalty area.
And moments later the Boston keeper found himself at full stretch to palm Kaiman Anderson’s long-range drive round his post.
In between those chances Jack Edwards charged down Luke Shiels’ clearance, the ball rebounding inches wide of United’s post.
But suddenly the hosts found their feet, stretching the Brakes with fast attacks down the flanks.
As pressure was exerted Simon Ainge’s deflected strike was parried by Jake Weaver, the on-loan Birmingham City keeper following that up by holding onto Knowles’s header and fingertipping Brad Abbott’s angled drive wide.
Knowles, lacking in match fitness but not clever link up play, saw the ball nicked off his feet as he was about to shoot, Jay Rollins slicing the loose ball wide on the spin.
But while those fast starts are still to come, Boston have looked a better prospect in the second half, and that was again the case.
Weaver reacted well to block Knowles’ deflected strike before the hosts toom the lead through Thewlis’ 50th-minute penalty.
Thewlis neatly controlled Tom Platt’s punted ball forward, squeezing himself in front of Junior English before going to ground.
In a carbon copy of his spot kick against Grimsby in the summer, Thewlis placed the ball high to Weaver’s left to hand United the advantage.
Thewlis twice found himself frustrated by Weaver as he cut in from the left, one a fine body block and the other a dive at full stretch.
In between those efforts Joe Clarke lifted a free kick over the United bar.
Sub Shaun Tuton then came close to adding to Boston’s lead, skipping round the challenge of Jamie Hood and sending is outside-of-the-boot effort across the face of goal.
And he went even closer as he nipped in between Hood and Weaver, lifting his ball high over the keeper but wide of the mark again.
Referee Watson had made a habit of getting simple decisions wrong all evening, but after consulting his assistants he brandished four red cards in the final three minutes.
English hacked JRollins to the floor before Jordan Murphy stormed in and shoved Rollins, a mass brawl ensuring.
Those three received their marching orders, as did Thewlis for his part in the ruck.
Referee Watson was somewhat more charitable towards James Mace after he shoved Tuton to the floor in stoppage time.
UNITED: Crook, Byrne, Whittle, Platt, Ainge, Shiels, Rollins, Abbott (Jackson 90), Wright (Tuton 75), Knowles (Thanoj 90) Thewlis; Subs (not used): Clare, Willis.
LEAMINGTON: Weaver, English, Lane, Clarke, Hood, Mace, Murphy, Gittings (King 73), March (Shamsi 73), Edwards, Anderson (Taylor 90); Subs (not used): Mussa, Dunbar.
REF: Dean Watson.
ATT: 1,083 (27).