It was United’s first true test of the campaign – Corby started, and finished, the day a place beneath us in fifth – and they reacted well, enjoying marginally more possession and carrying the greater threat. If Lee Canoville had laced up his boots on the correct feet and not skied a brilliant opening from three yards out, we would have been celebrating.
Typically, the day started in glorious farce. A Friday night skinful left the regulars blankly wandering around their respective places of residence fending off migraines and attempting not to chunder everywhere. But not wanting to be outdone in the drama stakes, Mr. Housam had decided in his hair-brained, pissed-up wisdom to return to his Army Camp on the first train of the day. You should admire the sense of duty but when he walking into the barracks in smart shirt and suit trousers, reeking of scotch and pound-a-pint Fosters, without any of his kit, the reaction from the Top Brass would have been pretty interesting.
So, after showing natural concern for our AWOL colleague, just four of us crammed into the WonderCorsa for the 50-mile run through the affluent Fen towns of Spalding and Stamford to Corby. We were joined by professional drinker Mr. Craig Foster, still dressed up to the nines from our evening out, for a first taste of non-league football. I almost felt sorry for Craig, all seven-foot-odd of him, packed into the back seat Corsa bottle bank but I’ve shotgunned the front seat until 2034 so we don’t ever get lost. Too badly.
Soon, the quaint, six-figure stone townhouses of Stamford had given way to the once-proud industrial landscape of Corby and the Rockingham Triangle Stadium. I have a massive pet hate against athletics stadia masquerading as football grounds and my mood wasn’t enhanced by the lack of student concessionary rate here – apparently there are no students in Corby, presumably because they are conscripted to work in the steel foundries from the age of 12 and sleep on anvils.
This is the fourth athletics stadium I have watched United in after Grantham, Gateshead and Bradford Park Avenue, and this one had the familiar problems. The playing surface is pocked with hammer and javelin craters, rendering an open, passing game of football impossible. And since athletics remains an under-funded and minority sport, watched by lycra-loving enthusiasts and screened late at night on British Eurosport, there is usually only the one stand, into which everyone is crammed. And even then it is half-a-mile from the action across the long jump pits, your view impeded by the hammer cage. Not only this, but I had mislaid by binoculars after trying to get a wave from the International Space Station the other night, and hadn’t been able to locate them in time.
|Keep reaching for that rainbow, boys...|
The goodwill of the inaugural national Non-League Day was absent here – the stewards panicked as more and more Boston supporters poured into the little grandstand. They had anticipated a couple of hundred and segregated accordingly. When 500 turned up, a flustered steward untied the thin blue rope (yes, that’s a thin blue rope) splitting the fans and moved it along a few yards. We were still packed in like sardines, sweating and swearing profusely, but the atmosphere was electric. Chants of ‘Ing-er-land’ and renditions of God Save The Queen mingled with our more familiar repertoire and we were neighboured in the second-half by a couple of trolleyed Scots whose mumbled abuse was so inaudible it raised only laughs. Eventually, they pissed off to glug Bells from a brown paper bag, darn their kilts and work on their voodoo dolls of Maggie Thatcher for the evening.
As mentioned, the game produced little of note – a point gained at the start of a difficult run of fixtures. We were indebted to goalkeeper James McKeown in the last ten minutes for a fine couple of saves but both teams will likely be in the play-off picture in five month’s time.
The journey home brought an amusing interlude passing back through Stamford. It was kicking out time at the famous Burghley Horse Trails, with well-bred horsey faces, slightly askew teeth and tight riding trousers everywhere. Top totty abounded and our group of lads in bright amber and black football shirts stuck out like a lower middle class thumb. Tally Ho!
Next Match: Boston United vs. Workington (Saturday 11th September)