ANDY BOOTH provided a powerful reminder of his frontline skills as Town fluffed a great chance to notch their first League win.

Fans have suggested Town can't afford to play Booth because of the hefty appearance money he is due under the contract which brought him back to the club.

The question now, however, has to be whether Town can afford NOT to play him as they seek Bank Holiday wins against York and Doncaster and another win against First Division opposition in the Carling Cup.

Until 53 minutes had elapsed at York Street - a spell in which Town had palpably failed to find anything like the form which destroyed Derby - Booth had been kicking his heels this season because of the form of Jon Stead.

The 20-year-old is joint top scorer in the division thanks to his 55th-minute equaliser against a Boston side who led through the excellent Neil Redfearn's 22nd-minute volley, and Stead enhanced his growing reputation with the coolness and quality of his finish to a Tony Carss through ball.

It was Booth, however, who changed the game and Boston looked frightened to death of his aerial prowess, physical strength and neat controlling skills.

At 29 and with knees seizing up, he may not be as mobile as the crowd favourite who led Town to promotion eight years ago, but Booth circa 2003 is still a mighty handful when the quality of service is there.

Town, in a blistering spell just after the break, should have taken more advantage of that and rewarded their 1,379 travelling faithful with a win.

Bathed in sunshine on the appropriately-named Town End, they turned York Street into an offshoot of the McAlpine and gave Peter Jackson's side all the vocal encouragement they could possibly need.

It reached a crescendo on 59 minutes when Booth launched himself at a Tony Carss corner and Ian Hughes was nicely placed to nod Town in front with his first goal for the club and only the seventh of his 12-year career.

Having come from behind for the third successive game to take the lead, it seemed Town were set to take control but Boston - with Redfearn a constant danger and Stuart Douglas causing problems with his pace up front - had other ideas and were level again inside eight minutes.

There wasn't much Town could do about it.

They were backtracking when Graeme Jones - who missed a gilt-edged heading chance to give Boston a two-nil lead on 36 minutes - sent support racing down the left and, even though Steve Yates nodded the ball away, the ferocity of Paul Ellender's scoring volley from 20 yards was simply incredible.

The ball sizzled past Ian Gray before he'd blinked - and this was a man who had reacted brilliantly only minutes earlier to tip over another rasping drive from Refearn, who still lives near Holmfirth.

While Booth caught the eye up front for Town - he went close with headers and shots and had one effort superbly tipped over the top by Paul Bastock - there were other options unveiled for Town which were more encouraging than the result.

Perhaps the most telling was the use of Jon Newby on the left wing, where Danny Schofield had proved disappointingly ineffective.

Newby's pace and trickery gave Boston far more problems and, while the ex-Bury man prefers to play down the middle, he supplied several of the sort of crosses on which Booth can flourish.

It would be no surprise if Newby were to start on the left against York on Saturday, especially with John Thorrington continuing to play with confidence on the right.

The American needs to commit himself more often to the back-post scoring position when Town are attacking down the opposite wing, but his crossing seems to have improved immensely this season and, with a goal already under his belt, he could have field days against some defences at this level.

Town's best spells, however, were driven by the `ragamuffin' Welsh midfielder Lee Fowler, who won some cracking tackles against the physical Ellender and sprayed some perfect passes to Newby and Thorrington as Town improved markedly on their lacklustre first-half display.

Gritty in the challenge, Fowler showed plenty of skill on the ball and his holding role in midfield is sure to lead to goals before long from Carss, whose eagerness to get in the box was commendable until he took a late scoring chance off the head of Booth from Newby's inswinging cross.

At the back, where Martyn Booty stepped in well at left-back when Rob Edwards went off injured, Town still have work to do despite Efe Sodje's strength and speed and Yates' undoubted experience, and they were almost made to pay in the closing seconds as Redfearn scraped the woodwork with a chip which had Gray beaten all ends up.

It just served to underline that Town should have sealed the points with more goals in that spell after half time when they looked every inch a promotion contender.


Ian Gray Made a terrific stop to deny Redfearn in the second half. No chance with the goals, especially Ellender's cracker . Rating: 7/10

Ian Hughes Solid display and on hand to nod in his first Town goal from Andy Booth's tee-up header in the 59th minute. Rating: 7/10

Rob Edwards Had barely had chance to break sweat when he felt a hamstring niggle flare up. Handed the armband to Sodje. Rating: 5/10

Steve Yates He and his colleagues were caught on the turn a few times, but made some solid and vital clearing headers. Rating: 7/10

Efe Sodje Had a terrific battle with Stuart Douglas, making one fantastic tackle Boston felt a penalty. Strong throughout. Rating: 7/10

John Thorrington Put in several dangerous crosses and corners for Booth and Sodje. Might have scored himself by attacking back post more. Rating: 7/10

Lee Fowler At the hub of many moves and more influential than in the previous matches with his ball-winning skills. Rating: 8/10

Tony Carss Unlucky with a couple of efforts himself, making dangerous runs through the middle, he laid on Stead's goal well Rating: 7/10

Danny Schofield Struggled to make any impact going forward down the left and was replaced by Booth early in the second half. Rating: 5/10

Jon Newby Didn't get a sniff of a chance himself but he looked very lively and dangerous when moved to the left flank. Rating: 7/10

Jon Stead Four goals in three matches. Looking in fine form. Unlucky to hit a post in first half. Took goal superbly. Rating: 7/10

Boston United

Bastock, Sutch, Chapman, Ellender, Greaves, Bennett, Jones, Hocking, Logan, Redfearn, Douglas.

Subs not used: Balmer, Duffield, Croudson (Gkp), Clarke, Potter..



Played well throughout and sprayed some fine passes to both flanks. Had to work hard because Boston were strong in the centre, but stuck to his guns and showed exactly why he is in the Wales Under 21 squad this week against Serbia and Montenegro.


Andy Booth's introduction as a sub for Danny Schofield on 53 minutes. Booth dominated in the air, causing Boston no end of problems, and he had two or three decent chances to score himself.

Subs used: Boston United: None. Town: Booty for Edwards 22 mins, Booth for Schofield 53 mins.

Subs not used: Boston: Balmer, Duffield, Croudson (Gkp), Clarke, Potter. Town: Thompson, Senior (Gkp), Worthington.

Scorers: Boston: Redfearn 22, Ellender 67. Town: Stead 55, Hughes 59.

Bookings: None.

Shots on target: Boston 6, Town 6.

Corners: Boston 4, Town 6.

Caught offside: Boston 5, Town 3.

Free-kicks awarded: Boston 8, Town 15.

Attendance: 3,452 (Away: 1,379).

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