Boston United produced a rousing comeback but were ultimately left empty-handed against FC Halifax Town on Easter Monday.
Halifax raced into a three-goal lead at The Shay, but strikes from Marc Newsham and Josh Burge hauled the Pilgrims back into contention.
United dominated during the closing stages — but some fraught and frenetic Halifax defending kept the visitors at bay.
There had been no sign of United’s full-blooded response as Halifax seemingly put the game beyond the Pilgrims’ reach with three first half strikes.
Bradford City loanee Ross Hannah scored the first two, with James Dean getting the third, but Jason Lee and Lee Canoville saw their side battle all the way against play-off chasing opponents.
The game got off to a bad start for the Pilgrims. Nathan Stainfield fouled Lee Gregory, with referee Anthony Tankard playing a good advantage for the home side. HANNAH wriggled past Tom Ward and Gareth Jelleyman to finish well past an exposed Ricky Drury.
Halifax continued to dominate, with Scott McManus heading wide from a Sean Clancy corner, while Dean had a header ruled out following a brilliant left-wing cross from McManus.
Boston responded with Ian Ross lifting a 25-yard free-kick a fraction wide.
Halifax doubled their lead on 34 minutes. Clancy and Dean had shots blocked before HANNAH expertly scooped home the loose ball from six yards.
Gregory rattled the post moments later, but Halifax were further ahead five minutes later. Hannah assisted this time, allowing DEAN to thump home an emphatic finish from 12 yards.
United gave themselves a lifeline on the stroke of half-time when Spencer Weir-Daley crossed from the left, with Simon Eastwood saving well to deny Ben Fairclough, only for NEWSHAM to ram home the loose ball from close-range for his 20th goal of the season.
United looked a different animal after the break and Ross’ quick free-kick caught out Fairclough when a goal seemingly beckoned, while 17-year-old full league debutant James Reed blasted wide from 20 yards.
The Pilgrims cut the deficit further on 72 minutes when BURGE bundled the ball home after Eastwood had fumbled Ben Milnes’ drive following a Ryan Semple cross.
United had the better chances in the closing stages. Jelleyman’s arrowing header was grabbed by Eastwood, who then denied Semple from distance. Ross clipped the crossbar with a cross-come-shot in the dying embers, but Halifax had done enough — just.
FC Halifax (4-3-3): Simon Eastwood; Ryan Toulson, Liam Hogan, Danny Lowe, Scott McManus; Sean Clancy (Jason St Juste 71), Matt Crooks (Tom Baker 46), Simon Garner; James Dean, Ross Hannah (Aaron Hardy 83), Lee Gregory. Subs (not used): Jamie Rainford, Phil Senior (gk).
Boston (4-3-3): Ricky Drury; Conor Marshall, Tom Ward, Nathan Stainfield, Gareth Jelleyman (Lee Canoville 80); Ben Milnes, Ian Ross, James Reed (Josh Burge 71); Ben Fairclough, Spencer Weir-Daley (Ryan Semple 71), Marc Newsham. Subs (not used): Kallum Smith, Chris Hall.
Referee: Anthony Tankard
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