BOSTON UNITED 2-3 CAMBRIDGE UNITED
Competition: FA Cup 4th qualifying round
Weather at kick-off: blustery rain
Boston: Leabon 28', Ryan 57'
United: Crow 8', Willmott 48', Bloomer o.g. 83'
Martyn Margarson, Tom Matthews, Michael Wood, Matt Bloomer (c), Liam Parker (Keiran Leabon 14'); Steve Melton, Stewart Talbot (Euan Clarke 80'), Wes Parker (Adam Millson 76'), Jon Rowan; Ollie Ryan, Jon Froggatt.
Subs not used: Lee Beeson, David De Oliveira, Simon Ashton, Aaron Butcher.
Booked: Wood 74' foul
Danny Potter, Dan Gleeson, Phil Bolland, Wayne Hatswell, Anthony Tonkin; Robbie Willmott, Paul Carden (c), Jon Challinor, Felino Jardim; Mark Beesley, Danny Crow (Chris Holroyd 65').
Subs not used: Danny Brown, Josh Coulson, Mark Convery, Ben Farrell, Chris Jones, Stephen Drench.
An own goal by former U's skipper Matt Bloomer sent United through to the FA Cup First Round Proper, after a second goal in two games for Danny Crow and Robbie Willmott's first senior goal had twice given United the lead.
Gary Brabin made two changes to the side that drew 2-2 at Forest Green Rovers ten days ago, recalling fit-again captain Paul Carden and Felino Jardim in place of Danny Brown and Ben Farrell, and reverting to a 4-4-2 formation with Willmott and Jardim in the wide positions. Under the rules of the FA Cup, he named seven substitutes for the first time.
Boston manager Tommy Taylor made two changes to the side that won 6-0 in the FA Trophy last weekend, with defender Michael Wood and midfielder Wes Parker replacing Ryan Clarke (suspended) and Dave Farrell (injured).
Wearing the all-white change strip, United attacked the end containing the massed away support in the first half and made a lively start, with Wayne Hatswell driving an early free-kick goalwards and Felino Jardim narrowly missing a header as the ball was crossed back into the area.
For Boston, Jon Froggatt announced himself to Danny Potter by leaving his foot in as he challenged for the ball on a counterattack, and he had the ball in the net in the fourth minute but the flag had been raised long beforehand.
A crunching challenge on Jon Challinor in the eighth minute of a high tempo match led to a free kick and a Willmott cross that was cleared for a corner. Challinor met the flagkick with a looping header that was pushed behind at full-stretch by Margarson, but he was unable to do anything about the second corner that was well-worked by Willmott and Beesley into the area, where Danny Crow pounced with a deft finish to score his second goal in two games.
With Willmott and Jardim using their pace to good effect down the wings, United continued to take the game to Boston and in the 12th minute Jardim lifted a cross towards Crow that came off a defender's hand to Challinor who spooned the ball over the bar.
The first substitution came in the 14th minute as Liam Parker was replaced by Keiran Leabon, leading to a reshuffle of the Boston midfield as Wes Parker moved to left-back, and four minutes later Jardim showed neat control to beat his marker as he danced into the area but his shot was blocked and Carden's follow-up was hacked behind.
Willmott's resulting corner was cleared and Boston broke away with two men against one, but Froggatt's pass towards Leabon was woefully overhit, much to Boston's dismay and United's relief. Soon afterwards the U's defence was slow to clear the ball as it bounced in the area but Talbot's underpowered shot trickled through to Potter.
With Paul Carden sitting deep and pulling the strings in midfield, Jon Challinor was at liberty to join the attack when he could and on 22 Mark Beesley made a good run into the area, turned and slid the ball to Challinor who tucked the ball home, but the offside flag was already up.
Both sets of fans were noisy and the home crowd were in full voice on 27 when Ryan's shot from the edge of the area was kicked away by Potter and crossed back in towards Talbot and Leabon, but the alert Anthony Tonkin made a vital clearance. It was only a temporary let-off though as Boston equalised a minute later at a free kick, substitute Keiran Leabon permitted a free header to power the ball home and level the scores (1-1).
The goal lifted the home team and for a few minutes it was the turn of United's defence to look a little ragged. On 32 a cross bounced off Tonkin's upper arm but Boston's penalty claims were ignored, and United had to defend a series of crosses and set pieces as the blustery weather contributed to a scrappy spell of play.
The ball seemed to spend more time in the air than on the ground and, with both teams looking better going forward than defending, there were chances at both ends as half-time approached.
On 42 Challinor beat a defender and fed the ball to Carden who dummied his man to make space for a shot from the edge of the area but lifted it over the bar, a minute later Boston's top scorer Ollie Ryan beat the offside trap but was denied by a superbly-timed challenge on the edge of the area by Tonkin, and then Gleeson and Jardim linked well down the right and Jardim's cross was hacked behind for a corner that Hatswell glanced narrowly wide.
Half-time summary from match commentator Mark Johnson:
"A half that started so well for the U's ended with them hanging on as their old Achilles heel of not defending set pieces gave Boston a way back into the match."
The game resumed brightly and United made the perfect start by restoring the lead in the 48th minute. Robbie Willmott made a strong run from halfway to the edge of the area, and with Danny Crow racing through the middle in support he had the confidence to fire a shot that took a big deflection off a defender's back but looped into the net. It was the teenager's first senior goal and one fully deserved by his recent form.
United's fans renewed their loud support and there was another chance soon afterwards as Beesley continued a good move by nodding the ball down to Challinor, who clashed with the Boston keeper as they both challenged and the ball flew wide.
Boston had a golden opportunity to equalise when the pacy Leabon pounced on a loose pass and brought the ball forward before feeding it to Ryan, who blazed wide with the goal at his mercy. But he made up for that error in the 57th minute when he scored to level the scores again, racing onto a straightforward ball into the area and stabbing it home from close range.
The atmosphere went up another notch and United almost struck back immediately when Dan Gleeson's header across the face of goal was met by Beesley but he fired wide of the far post from close-range, and seconds later at the other end Ryan beat Hatswell to get through in the area but Potter made a superb save.
Gary Brabin made his only substitution on 65 to send on Chris Holroyd for Crow, and he was involved immediately when the impressive Willmott made another good good run and cross but it was just too high for Holroyd. Still causing all sorts of problems to the home side, Willmott had another shot deflected wide and Gleeson met the corner with a header from a narrow angle, but a free kick was awarded for a push on the keeper.
It was a good spell for United but Leabon was always a threat for the home side with his pace and the game was evenly poised as Michael Wood collected the game's first booking on 74 for clattering into Challinor and two minutes later Adam Millson replaced Wes Parker at left-back.
Paul Carden took matters into his own hands with a powerful shot from 20 yards that forced Margarson to push it away at full stretch, then Chris Holroyd showed good skill to beat his marker and made room for a shot but again Margarson made a save.
Tommy Taylor responded with his third substitution, sending on another forward Euan Clarke for midfielder Talbot in the 80th minute and going for the win with a third man up front, but the next opening fell to United.
Unsurprisingly it was Willmott who turned his marker inside out with a run down the right in the 81st minute before delivering a tempting cross to the far post. There was no one there to attack it, but two minutes later the teenager repeated the good work and it led to a goal. Margarson seemed to have the cross covered but Matt Bloomer was distracted by Holroyd as he darted into the area and the ball glanced off the former U's skipper's head and into his own net. 3-2.
With the lead restored Gary Brabin could be seen encouraging his men to maintain their concentration in the closing stages and Holroyd drew another good save from Margarson as he tested him with a powerful shot, while Boston's final chance came in stoppage time when Ryan's shot from the edge of the area flew over the bar under pressure from Hatswell.
The final whistle marked a welcome place for United in Sunday's draw for the FA Cup First Round Proper, but they were given the tough test Gary Brabin had predicted by a resilient Boston United.
Referee: Mr Richard West
Attendance: 1,956 (away 644)
Match Summary by match commentator Mark Johnson:
"Cambridge United are through to the first round of the FA Cup but they had to do it the hard way at blustery Boston. The U's got the perfect start to each half with Danny Crow and Robbie Willmott striking early in each but, despite the being two divisions below United, Boston gave them a real test and twice equalised. In a pulsating match that neither side deserved to lose, former United man Matt Bloomer had the final say, heading the ball into his own net seven minutes from time after a great cross from the brilliant Robbie Willmott."
Mark's Man of the Match:
"Robbie Willmott - his best game for United, terrorising the Boston defence, scoring one and forcing the deciding own goal. Honourable mentions to Anthony Tonkin who was back to his best after illness and made one particular challenge to deny a certain goal, while the whole midfield was very impressive."
Ref: Mr West - he was barely noticeable, which is always a good sign, and kept the game flowing on a blustery day.. 8/10."
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