For some Boro’ fans perhaps, the name Boston United will forever be linked to the club’s contentious 2001-2 Conference title win. Going from the Southern League to the Football League in just two seasons sounds like a fairytale. But the murky underbelly of their story behind their stunning success didn’t go down well; no love lost between the Pilgrims and Dagenham & Redbridge at the time, that’s for sure. But that’s not our problem. We’re too focused on our head-to-head record against the Pilgrims to delve into all that…
Who are Boston United?
In every story, there must be a start. In this one, it’s 1933; the year that Boston Town was wound up and replaced by the Pilgrims. Like the club before them, United were members of the Midland League – at least to start with. The 1955-6 season was arguably their best in the competition; coming second in the table. After two successive third-placed finishes, the time came to move on (and up). In 1958, the Pilgrims joined the Southern League.
To start with, however, it might seem that leap came too soon. In 1961, the Pilgrims were due to be relegated; instead leaving the competition and returning to the Midland League – albeit after a one-year gap in the records. The same happened again two years later as the club left the Midland League. In 1965, they popped back up again; this time as one of the teams taking part in the United Counties League. It was a stunning success; a league title claimed in their first season.
The Pilgrims didn’t stick around to defend their title; joining the West Midlands (Regional) League and claiming two straight titles. In 1968, the club would be a founder member of the Northern Premier League. And it started a decade-or-so of success; winning the title four times and going onto help form the Alliance Premier League (Conference) ahead of its first season. It also took them to the cusp of FA Trophy glory; losing to Wealdstone in the 1984-5 final.
Why do we know Boston United?
Sadly for the Pilgrims, their time in the Conference wouldn’t last. The 1992-3 season saw them relegated back to the Northern Premier League. The club would regularly feature in the top six of the competition over the next five campaigns. But second was as good as it got. So, in 1998-9, they moved sideways into the Southern League and – at first – picked up where they left off; finishing second.
Just one year later, the Pilgrims cracked it; claiming the Southern League championship. With it came promotion back to the Conference. The main difference, in our biased view, is that we were there waiting for them this time; missing them by two seasons when they were relegated.
What is our record against the Pilgrims?
It’s fair to say that our first two meetings with the Pilgrims were eventful affairs. Our first-ever encounter came at Broadhall Way in October 2000. Darran Hay came off the bench to score twice and help Boro’ come out on top by the odd goal in five. We scored three in the return fixture at York Street too; this time in even more dramatic circumstances.
First, the Pilgrims were all but home and dry before half time; Boro’ rocked by three goals in eight minutes after Adrian Clarke saw red on 34 minutes. Not that we made it easy. We pulled a goal back before the interval thanks to Drewe Broughton. Our task in the second half would still be an uphill one, however. Or you’d think. With 20 minutes left, Neil Illman reduced the deficit further. John Morgan then levelled it, before seeing red himself. Even with nine men, we looked the more likely to win it. But 3-3 is how it ended.
Here’s a match report from the other side.
The next season saw the Pilgrims, under Steve Evans, gunning for promotion. November 2001 saw them come to us; a hard-fought game goalless until the final stages. First, they took the lead through Daryl Clare. Matt Fisher, however, seemed to have secured a point for us with a goal nine minutes from time. But the visitors scored again to steal the points. The 2-1 reverse was only our second home defeat of the season.
Our return fixture came on a Tuesday night in April 2002. By this point, the Pilgrims were fighting it out for the Conference title. For us, meanwhile, we were midway through an FA Trophy semi-final with Morecambe. So, our team that night wasn’t exactly our first-choice. It seemed for all the world that three points would go the way of the hosts. Not so, though. Boro’ were resolute in securing a goalless draw.
Boston United: Boro’s Record
Our head-to-head:P 4 — W 1 — D 2 — L 1 — F 7 — A 7 — Pts 5 — WR 25%
Our last tango: Boston United 0-0 Stevenage Borough, 09 April 2002
What happened to them?
By the end of the season, the Pilgrims edged a compelling title race on goal difference at the expense of Dagenham & Redbridge. But it soon came to light that, actually, the gains could’ve been ill-gotten. And so it was proved in a court of law. Somehow, they kept their place in the Football League despite everything. They went onto have four unspectacular seasons in League Two, before the fifth ended in relegation.
A reunion with Boro’ was back on the cards. Off the pitch, however, things weren’t looking good and the club had gone into administration before the end of the 2006-7 season. The last game of the season was still in progress when the club entered a CVA; the plan being to take a 10-point hit that season rather than next. And that’s just what happened with the points. But it breached FA rules – and meant the Pilgrims were sent down two divisions.
Looking to regroup in Conference North, the cash concerns just wouldn’t go away. As the Pilgrims were still in administration in May 2008, it meant a second relegation on the spin; this time to the Northern Premier League. It took just two attempts to return to Conference North – and that’s where, as of November 2020, you can still find ’em. It’s not for the want of trying, though. Three times they’ve been thwarted in the playoffs; including the delayed 2019-20 season when they lost 1-0 to Altrincham.
• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Boston United club profile