Boston United have defied the odds and are now 90 minutes away from promotion to the National League, some 15 years after administration sentenced the Pilgrims to an era of non-league football.
Extraordinary things often breed from extraordinary seasons. Boston United have been far from their best in the National League North this year, scraping into a play-off place in dramatic fashion on the final day of the regular season.
For the Pilgrims, getting promotion has always been the objective, but that seemed a distant dream at the turn of the year, when manager Craig Elliott left the club at the beginning of January in seventh position, only just in the play-offs.
His replacement, Paul Cox, may not have dazzled and produced title winning form straight away, but he did enough to give Boston a chance in the play-offs, and you have to be in it to win it.
The task was daunting. To win promotion Boston would have to win three games in nine days, all away from home, against teams ranked higher than them in the league, starting with one of the star giant killers of this season’s FA Cup – Kidderminster Harriers.
A 2-1 win on Thursday, May 12 gave the Pilgrims the perfect start on their quest, and the play-off semi-final over the weekend produced the moment of the season so far for Boston.
On Sunday, May 15, Boston United travelled to third placed AFC Fylde as underdogs, but this is play-off football we are talking about, so write off anybody at your peril.
As has often proved the case this campaign, Danny Elliott was the go-to man for the Pilgrims, as he scored a brace to take his season tally to 31 and fire Boston into the final.
The scenes at the end of the game were incredible, with the travelling supporters joining the players on the pitch for mass celebration at the achievement. The Pilgrims are just one game away from a promotion that has passed them by so many times before.
Boston will now prepare to travel to York City on Saturday for the final, with the winner earning promotion to the fifth tier, and the loser condemned to another campaign in the National League North.
The prize at the end of the tunnel is a spot in the Vanarama National League, the highest tier of non-league football and just one step below the professional English Football League.
They are no strangers to this situation. Boston have lost in four separate National League North play-off campaigns since 2010, none more brutal than defeat to Altrincham in the final in 2020 – which happened to be the last game ever played at York Street before Boston moved to the Jakemans Community Stadium.
It is 15 years since Boston United’s darkest hour. The club were relegated from League Two after going into administration, with HM Revenue & Customs sanctioning the club and demoting them two divisions as they entered a Company Voluntary Arrangement.
The Pilgrims have not been higher than the sixth tier since 2007, and despite the previous heartbreaks from play-off campaigns, Paul Cox’s Boston have a chance to write their name into the famous history of this football club forevermore.
Boston lost to Guiseley on penalties in 2011/12, then to Chorley, again via spot kicks, in 2014/15, then to North Ferriby in 2015/16, and most recently to Altrincham in 2019/20. Will there be one more moment of devastation for the Pilgrims? Or can they get over the line at long last?
The demons of the past must be abolished, Boston United are a team determined to spread their wings and compete at the highest level possible. While some clubs in Lincolnshire had felt a disconnect with the fan base, this bond feels like it’s never been stronger.
Should Boston United win promotion to the National League, they will be the third Greater Lincolnshire club in the fifth tier, joining Grimsby Town and Scunthorpe United, both of which have been relegated from League Two in recent seasons.