A makeshift and experimental Gainsborough Trinity side went down 3-1 at home to rivals Boston United in Tuesday’s Lincs County Senior Shield final.
Although the Pilgrims had the greater share of possession, the Blues put up a spirited performance and can take positives from the game.
Over the course of the match no fewer than four members of the Trinity U18s side made their senior debuts, and whilst the step up from the LIFL U18s League to the level of the Conference North is admittedly a huge one, there were nevertheless one or two promising signs for Trinity fans to enthuse over.
Trinity began with a 5-3-2 formation, with Dominic Roma playing virtually in a sweeper position whilst Terry Hawkridge and Jamie Yates patrolled the right and left flanks.
Boston, playing towards the Railway end, were quickly onto the attack, and Spencer Weir-Daley fired narrowly over the crossbar after only two minutes.
The Trinity defence was forced into some sterling work in a couple of incidents three minutes later.
First, the ball ran loose after Marc Newsham had challenged Jason White in the air, and Greg Young was forced to make a desperate on-the-line clearance.
Immediately afterwards it was skipper Paul Connor’s turn to replicate Young’s defensive heroics as he made a very similar last-ditch clearance .
The Pilgrims maintained the pressure, and Ben Fairchild scuffed a shot wide in the ninth minute.
Trinity’s first real chance came when goalkeeper Sam Vince, a 16-year-old in an otherwise full-strength Boston team, did extremely well to fingertip a fierce well-aimed shot from Connor over the bar.
Vince was called into action again just two minutes later, saving a free-kick from Jonathan Williams at the near post.
Trinity were coming rather more into the game at this stage, and after a badly sliced clearance by Ward, Connor sent in a good cross which led to Terry Hawkridge putting a shot over.
However, it was somewhat against the overall run of play when the Blues took the lead just after the half-hour mark.
Simon Russell was the real architect of the goal, as his lovely through ball found Connor, who kept his cool and finished in fine style.
Boston sought to redress the balance quickly, and a Connor Marshall shot went inches wide of the angle.
Trinity’s initial 5-3-2 strategy had not looked altogether convincing, and so it was no great surprise to see them switch to a 4-4-2 for the latter stages of the first half.
They might even have gone in at the interval with a two goal lead, as Connor was only a hair’s breadth away from putting the finishing touches to a Greg Young header following a corner won by Hawkridge.
Trinity manager Steve Housham made a double substitution at the start of the second half, with youngster Jake Park, an orthodox centre-forward, being brought on for Yates, and Ward Wisdom-Lockwood, a powerfully-built young midfielder, taking the field in place of fellow U18 midfielder Bradley Bull.
Their U18s colleague Lynton Karkach switched to a wide right position.
It took only four minutes’ play after the resumption for Boston to level the score, Fairchild taking full advantage when finding himself one-on-one against the keeper.
A nasty accidental collision between Fairchild and Young in the 52 minute required the attention of both physios: Fairchild recovered fairly quickly, but the unfortunate Young appeared to have suffered a head injury, and was replaced by yet another of Trinity’s promising youngsters, Josh Batty.
The Pilgrims continued to press, and a fine effort from Newsham skimmed the top of Trinity crossbar in the 59th minute.
Next, after a challenge by Roma on Weir-Daley, the Boston players had strong appeals for a penalty turned down – probably quite rightly – by the referee, who gave Fairchild a stern reprimand in the aftermath.
Wisdom Lockwood then conceded a free-kick in Ian Ross’s favoured position on the arc of the area, but the former Trinity man’s shot was blocked by the wall.
A good chance fell to Batty in the 72nd minute, and it took a splendid point-blank save from Vince to keep him out.
Opportunities continued to come the way of both sides in the final quarter of an hour, but it was Boston who took the match out of Trinity’s reach with two headed goals, both stemming from corners, within the space of three minutes.
Tom Ward put them ahead in the 85th, and Nathan Stanfield further increased their lead shortly afterwards
The Senior Shield was presented to the winners by Mr Graham Lyner, Chairman of the Lincolnshire.FA.
The two sides are due to face each other again at the semi-final stage of next season’s Lincolnshire Senior Cup, for which the draw has already been made.
Trinity: White; Yates (Park 46), Hawkridge; Waterfall, Young (Batty 53), Roma; Russell, J.
Williams, Karkach, Connor, Bull (Wisdom Lockwood 46). Unused sub: Budtz.
Boston: Vince; Marshall (Reed 90), Silk; Milnes, Stanfield, Ward; Fairchild (Lister 90), Ross,
Weir-Daley, Newsham, Mills (Saunders 75). Unused subs: Foster, Sturman.
Referee: Darren Drysdale (Lincoln).