Accusations fly as Dagenham put Boston's promotion party in peril

Morecambe 0 Boston United 0
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The Independent Online

Steve Evans, the Boston United manager, last night accused Chester City of planning to field an under-strength team at Dagenham & Redbridge in the final Nationwide Conference fixtures on Sunday – one of two matches that will decide whether Boston or Dagenham win promotion to the Football League.

Speaking after Boston had drawn at Morecambe to retain the leadership on goal difference from Dagenham, who won 2-0 at Woking, Evans said: "The word has come out from a source at Chester that they are going to play a weakened side at Dagenham. We'll name the individual later in the week and I will be asking for a meeting of my board of directors."

Evans added: "I would suggest that we will be making a full report to the Conference office and the Football Association. I would say that Mark Wright and Ted McMinn [Chester's management team] are top-class professionals, but I can only quote my source."

Boston had hoped to be looking forward to derbies with Lincoln, Scunthorpe and Hull today. Instead, the Conference leaders must begin preparing for the biggest game in their history. Should they fail to win at Hayes, who could be relegated by Sunday, Dagenham could slip into the Third Division by beating Chester after drawing level on points with last night's victory at Woking.

The Lincolnshire side's fate is at least still in their own hands; they have a superior goal difference, so need only to match Dagenham's result. "Any manager would settle for our position," said Evans. "It could go against us but it won't be for lack of preparation. We had 400 fans here tonight but we will have 4,000 at Hayes, and that will make the difference."

Boston will need to play much better than they did at Christie Park. Apart from an 18-yard drive by Peter Costello which hit a post shortly before half-time, they rarely showed why they are the Conference's top scorers.

Morecambe also struck an upright, through Ian Arnold's fourth-minute volley; David Perkins and Stewart Drummond wasted free headers; and Paul Bastock in the visitors' goal made stunning saves to keep out Danny Carlton's 45th-minute lob and Arnold's shot 12 minutes from the end.

No one could accuse Morecambe of soft-pedalling; Jim Harvey's side ran and fought as if they were pursuing League status themselves. Evans' claim that Chester intended to take it easy is the latest round in the psychological war between the Scot and his Dagenham counterpart, Garry Hill.

Last month, after Dagenham beat Boston 1-0 at home to open a seven-point lead, Evans alleged that the home players did a lap of honour, sang "We Are the Champions" and hammered on his team's dressing-room door. However, Boston regained the leadership, making light of Hill's assertion that Evans' side did not have the "bottle, power or charisma" to stay the pace.

Evans, a Scot who played with Ayr, St Johnstone and Clyde, is following Jim Smith and Howard Wilkinson in starting his managerial career at York Street. When he took over, three-and-a-half years ago, Boston were second-bottom in the UniBond League.

They stepped out at Morecambe as a full-time team, having stayed locally overnight, only to play for long periods as if they had just emerged, like many of their supporters, from a cramped 183-mile bus ride. Another haul beckons on Sunday, to deepest Middlesex, and this time it is likely to be win or bust for Boston.

Morecambe (4-4-2): Mawson; Uberschar, Murphy, McKearney, Colkin; Arnold, Drummond (Rigoglioso, 90), Gouck, Perkins; Norman (Curtis, 57, Crumblehulme, 81), Carlton. Substitutes not used: McGuire, Willcock (gk).

Boston United (4-4-2): Bastock; Clifford, Rodwell, Ellender, Gould; Rusk, Costello, Weatherstone, Angel; Elding (Tarrant, 64), Clare (Cook, 90). Substitutes not used: Lodge, Beesley, Conroy (gk).

Referee: A Marriner (Birmingham).

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