Monday, 23 August 2010

Redditch United 0 Boston United 9 (nine)

The unpredictability and the hilarity of BUFC away days guarantees they remain in your memory a little longer than your average home match, but eventually they all sort of blend into one. Firstly, you lose recollection of the starting XI, then the goalscorers and then the finer points of the place visited as time goes by. However, I doubt anyone present at The Valley Stadium, Redditch last Saturday will forget this match in a hurry. I certainly won’t, not in five years of Saturdays, probably not until senility takes its course and I finally complete the morph from vocal, loyal supporter into moaning old git.

The 9-0 win gave new definition to the terrace favourite ‘It’s so f**king easy.’ It was apparently United’s record away league victory (surpassing even the days spent in the local leagues during the sixties) and it was certainly a record away win in the Conference North (although this is a bit of a misnomer because the league has only existed a few years). It was an afternoon when any one of our eleven, our bench, our management, our directors and, in all likelihood, our supporters could have scored. It might be clich├ęd, but I genuinely would have put money on my Nan (with her 90% titanium hips) grabbing a goal against a defence so generous they should be immediately shipped off to the South Pacific on a missionary errand.

The road trip to this particular Birmingham satellite town required a good three hours (including the inevitable Burger King – national free onion ring day = result! - and other, miscellaneous comfort breaks) with the WonderCorsa motoring along at a steady 60, the greatest hits of Oasis on a constant loop. By the time Liam Gallagher was wailing Champagne Supernova for the sixth time, we were picking our way between the monotonous landscape of multi-storey car parks and high-rise flats, both gloomily pebble-dashed in the sixties style, that consist the place of Redditch.

It’s fair to say The Valley Stadium needs some love and after the pleasant surprise of Hinckley’s ground the other night, this was a bit of a return to non-league reality. The covered terrace behind one goal (a smaller replica of the David Longhurst at York City) stood opposite a peculiar temporary all-seater stand last seen at the Henley Royal Regatta, Crufts or the sheep herding pen at a generic county show. It had quite a dangerous lean and I imagine in the gale-force winds of mid-December spectators might want to seriously think twice about using it. Behind it was a grass bank which had been horticulturally neglected long enough to be thick with brambles and nettles – bit of a throwback to Stocksbridge last season, though at least Redditch didn’t consider it part of the accommodation.

To be honest, the hospitality was excellent. A spread of sandwiches, sausage rolls and other savoury items was provided for the ravenous travelling supporters in the cosy clubhouse, while the home support, despite being pretty small, was superb. They continued to sing even after Ryan Semple had scored our ninth with their Ultras’ Greatest Hits repertoire spliced with a handful of FC United songs. I stick by my belief that Ultras staple Dale Cavese can only be performed when you have a full stand, however, though Redditch gave it a commendable go. Frankly, with such loyal support, you would have thought the players might have tried a little harder.

Nouse Sports love child Henry Cowen joined the Pilgrims support for the afternoon, having come round the mountain from Bromsgrove and I’m tempted to finance his travel to a few more matches, such was the good fortune he brought. When dug-out couple Rob Scott and Paul Hurst said in pre-season there would be no repeats of last season’s trouncings, I think we all believed them but here we are, forced to reconsider. Slavedriver Scott might have even cracked the briefest hint of a smile at the final whistle for the cameras before, no doubt, going into the changing rooms and lambasting his players for not reaching double figures or misplacing a through ball in the second minute or muddying their shorts.

Four minutes in and United were gifted the opening goal – Miles Hunter harassed home goalkeeper and general liability James Meredith into a spooned clearance and Danny ‘The Unit’ Davidson produced a quite sublime chip into the unguarded goal from 30 yards. There was a palpable pause before the celebrations from the 200-odd away fans as we mentally verified whether the scorer was someone other than Anthony Church and from that kind of distance, indeed Davidson.

A brace from Shaun Pearson and a header from free-scoring Church settled the game as a contest before the half-hour, before Hunter didn’t let a small thing like a twisted ankle hinder him, making it five on the stroke of half-time. I’ve seen Boston take some hidings in the past, but never in this class, and you really have to wonder what words of encouragement even the most happy-go-lucky manager could muster in this situation. Your goalkeeper is struggling to grasp the objective of the sport, let alone the round thing bouncing around, your back four have the aerial command of Bilbo Baggins, your midfield are taking industrial action and the strike partnership are playing like they haven’t been introduced.

Well, whatever was said, it most certainly didn’t work as Church headed home the sixth within four minutes of the re-start. This was our cue to move from the temporary seating scaffold thing to a position adjacent to the Redditch Ultras, purely in the interests of atmosphere, not a ruckus. The stewards tried to stop us going further than the corner but it wasn’t our intended destination that was the problem, more our manner of getting there. Turns out several of our supporters had formed a conga line. Some had removed their shirts. Both of these things are obviously EVIL.

A few exposed nipples were getting hardened in the incessant rain by the time substitute Spencer Weir-Daley tapped in the seventh and further late strikes from Davidson and Semple left the Boston followers in a state of naked, hoarse, sweaty, wondrous disbelief. What an afternoon.

You could say we were on cloud nine. That’s awful, sorry.

Next Match: Boston United vs. Nuneaton Borough (Tuesday 24th August)

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