Town’s title hopes dented by critical away loss at Boston

Harrogate Town striker Mark Beck is beaten to the ball by Boston United goalkeeper George Willis. Picture: Town Pix
Harrogate Town striker Mark Beck is beaten to the ball by Boston United goalkeeper George Willis. Picture: Town Pix

Harrogate Town endured an awful night as far as their National League North title hopes are concerned, losing out 3-0 on the road at Boston United.

Their defeat, coupled with leaders Salford City’s narrow win at Southport, leaves the Ammies six points clear at the top with just two games left to play in 2017/18.

After Joe Leesley squandered a great early chance to put his side in front when he missed a penalty, two Pilgrims goals in seven minutes left Simon Weaver’s side with a mountain to climb in the second half.

And despite Town doing all they could to stage a comeback after the interval, Boston eventually struck again six minutes from time to wrap up the points.

The visitors’ golden chance to take the lead from the penalty spot came with just four minutes on the clock after Leesley got to Ryan Fallowfield’s pass before home stopper George Willis, who brought down the Harrogate winger.

Leesley stepped up to take himself, but Willis saved with his feet, then a recovering defender cleared before the Town man could convert the rebound.

Weaver’s charges went close again 10 minutes later after excellent hold-up play from Mark Beck released strike partner Jake Wright through on goal, though the youngster’s attempted near-post finish struck the base of the post and bounced clear.

Boston also looked a threat going forward, and almost took the lead themselves when Ashley Hemmings’ corner was taken by the wind and looked to be heading in at the far post, though Leesley was in the right place to head off the goal-line.

The hosts did edge ahead after 29 minutes, however, as another Hemmings corner was met at the near post and headed into the back of the net by Jake Beesley.

Seven minutes later it was 2-0 despite James Belshaw denying Beesley a second from close range, the gloveman unable to prevent Reece Thompson’s follow-up from crossing the line.

And the Pilgrims’ lead was almost extended further just after the re-start as defender Ryan Qualter got on the end of Hemmings’ corner at the back post, but couldn’t get the right contact to turn the ball in.

Town could have been awarded a second penalty in the 58th minute when Jack Emmett played Wright through on goal and the striker was then seemingly brought down, though the referee saw the incident the other way and booked the former Sheffield United hitman for simulation.

Town tried desperately to force a way back into the game, but were met by a Boston side determined to see out the victory and a goalkeeper in Willis who seemed to claim everything that came his way.

With just 10 minutes to play, George Thomson almost pulled a goal back from a free-kick 25 yards out, but his shot flew just over the bar.

The visitors continued to pile men forward, leaving gaps at the back and this eventually allowed substitute Kabongo Tshimanga to strike on the counter-attack and end any hopes of a Harrogate comeback.

Town now travel to Bradford Park Avenue on Saturday needing a win to keep their slim title hopes alive, while Salford simply have to avoid defeat at home to Boston to make sure of top spot.