Sunday, 30 January 2011

Bolton Wanderers 0 Wigan Athletic 0

Stuffing mini sausage rolls and onion bhajis into our hungry mouths on the train, we searched for consolation. It had been better than throwing in the towel this morning, turning back and heading home. Hmmm, well. It was a new ground visited, another atmosphere sampled, another place seen. I suppose. In ten years, time when we have wives and jobs and commitments and things, we won’t be able to go off to Bolton Wanderers versus Wigan Athletic on a whim. Erm, probably just as well actually.

I think both myself and the author of Ravings of a Boston Boy have filed this in the ‘best forgotten’ category of the considerable number of matches we’ve seen this season. This FA Cup fourth round tie will be condemned to the scrapheap of our memories, with a post-it note attached saying ‘Caution: Best disposed of and not disturbed.’

Boston’s trip to Stalybridge was frozen off, joining the not inconsiderable list of fixtures which have to be shoehorned into the remaining three-and-a-bit-months of the season, and having not left my flat at that point it should have been too-tempting to crawl back into bed and wait for Jeff and the boys at three.

But the idea of an all-Premier League cup tie, when mooted, was quite a tempting proposition. Yes, Bolton and Wigan aren’t exactly the first sides the executives think of when trying to roll out the English football brand to new world markets, but it’s the kind of local tiff that might add a bit of spice to the assumed FA Cup romance. How very, very wrong I was.

Boston and Bolton. There was so much more than one letter’s difference to my afternoon. The Reebok Stadium is a fine venue, even when there’s whole stands of empty seats, and I couldn’t find fault in the atmosphere, though essentially the two sets of supporters were slinging the same insults at each other. Wigan were inbreds, then Bolton were inbreds. Wigan was full of curry shops, Bolton was full of turbans etc. Pretty much what I expected.

One mob of mouthy, tracksuited teenagers would stand up and lob insults, before another mob of mouthy, tracksuited teenagers would stand up on the other side of the police line and lob the same insults back. There was a raging debate about the loyalties of Ali Al Habsi, who is currently on loan at Wigan from Bolton, which probably does more to sum up the on-pitch entertainment than any match report. I truly suspect he wonders why he’s here at all.

There was amusement to be found in the regular stream of Wigan fans being escorted out by the stewards – ‘going home early to shag their sisters’ – and the blatant attempts of one police officer to chat up his attractive WPC colleague. “Let’s just take this romantic stroll down the touchline for the twelfth time so I can continue to woo you with the merits of playing Robbie Blake in a more advanced role...”

Probably sums up the day (Andy Pickwell)

I’ve written three paragraphs about the atmosphere because it proved infinitely more interesting than the bore draw which unfolded before us. Although it wasn’t the dreadful long ball-fest that I’d predicted in doom mongering texts to friends pre-match, there was little to encourage sitting up until nearly 1am for the ‘highlights.’

Wigan had the better of the chances, with Jussi Jaaskelainen making several fine saves, notably late on when the visitors realised that for the sake of humanity it would be better to score now and spare everyone the utter misery of a replay at the JJB stadium. Bolton, despite having a decent league campaign, showed little interest in advancing in the Cup and barely broke the half-way line until Stuart Holden was introduced late on.

Probably both sides were delighted with the replay. We were delighted to just get out and trudged to the adjacent Tesco in search of comfort. I guess that where football is concerned, you pay your money and take your chance and sometimes it’s just thoroughly miserable.

Next Match: Might go to Sheffield United on Tuesday, otherwise Worcester City vs. Boston United on Saturday.              

Friday, 28 January 2011

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Yeovil Town 2

One of the most doolally games I’ve seen in a long time. On one hand, Wednesday’s performance was so generally abysmal that they didn’t deserve to take anything from the game at all. On the other, it’s fair to ask why they didn’t take all three points against relegation-threatened, nine-man Yeovil who could scarcely believe their good fortune.

These 90 minutes encapsulated the season, it was all here: the endemic defensive jitters leading inevitably to the opponents seizing the advantage, the lively fightback based on no shortage of attacking energy, the wastefulness in front of goal which makes the locals tear their hair out and, at in the final reckoning, scant reward for all the huffing and puffing.

Struggling to maintain sanity in the light of looming NCTJ law exams, Alex and I sneaked out to Hillsborough on another January night which demanded layers and thermals. I don’t quite know how he does it; I don’t know how any Wednesday fan does it. They are infuriating, even for part-time fans like me.

There are a few discernible parallels between the Owls and Boston United, obviously taken in the context of our respective levels. The sense that our opponents are beneath us, the lingering odour of injustice at not being where we should be, the pain from being kicked in the teeth on and off the pitch, the large stadium in a league of tinpot, the unswerving loyalty of the support, the yearning to go back to the good times at any cost.

But when Boston win, you usually think they’ve earned it, and when they lose, you usually think they deserve it. When Wednesday play at the moment, it’s usually all just screwed up somehow – totally bonkers.

Name-from-Premier-Leagues-past #135 Dean Bowditch gave Yeovil the lead on the quarter-hour with a shot which ballooned over goalkeeper Nicky Weaver. It was indicative of the kind of luck Alan Irvine seems to be experiencing right now, the kind of screw-job from Lady Luck which is keeping Wednesday marooned in mid-table.

The hosts had been abject throughout the half, but at least went back to the dressing room level. Annoyed at myself for booking tickets on the one row of the Kop where the view of the opposition penalty area was blocked by the crossbar, I hadn’t missed a great deal of action as Wednesday’s attacks seemed to drift lethargically sideways rather than forward, particularly when Jermaine Johnson received the ball. I did manage to see Gary Medine’s brave header to pull Wednesday level, however, and the strangely flat atmosphere picked up a little.

The second-half had everything. Yeovil fired the first salvo when Paul Huntington headed them into a 2-1 lead, to the delight of the travelling supporters. Only football could prompt the 200-mile displacement of dozens of people on a chilly Tuesday night in January and much respect to them.

Having been boosted by the goal, Yeovil proceeded to lose the plot in a kamikaze 15-minute spell. Luke Ayling had been tormented all night by Gary Teale and eventually received his marching orders for a second yellow card, before Adam Virgo joined him in the showers in the process of conceding a penalty. With two men gone in quick succession, there were shades of when you’re taking a hiding on FIFA and pummel the R1 button to commit professional fouls and get the game abandoned.

It was getting a bit steamy for ref Trevor Kettle and there was a bizarre five-minute delay while water was found to wash blood of the pitch. I’m no expert, but you’d have to be pretty damn unlucky to contract AIDS from grass. And so Giles Coke was left with a penalty to square the game – it curled beautifully into the top corner, from page one of the spot-kick manual. 2-2 then, salvation and game on. But wait, the referee, in direct contrast to the other 16,000-odd people in the ground, has spotted some sort of encroachment.  

The pressure got to Coke and he promptly placed the re-take on the seat two feet to my right. Not good for someone who is so inexplicably paranoid of being twonked on the noggin by a ball at matches he studies the pre-game -up shooting exercises with the hawk-like attention of a scout. “You nearly bloody hit me Coke!” I yelled at him.

Wednesday peppered the goal for the final ten minutes and six additional ones, but thanks to a combination of goalkeeper Stephen Henderson’s heroics, dreadful finishing and general misfortune, netted just the once, through Reda Johnson. It was not enough to appease the locals and the debate over what exactly is going wrong more than occupied me and Alex through our chip shop supper and beyond. I suppose he’s used to it by now.

Next Match: Boston United @ Stalybridge Celtic on Saturday. Away Day!  

Monday, 24 January 2011

Sheffield United 1 Norwich City 2

This was another one of those impulse games. Admittedly not a very exciting one, but the truth was that fucking media law – defamation this, copyright that, malicious falsehood the other... aaaannnnd repeat until they drag you away – was getting me pretty depressed.

The sole reason I took the decision at five past two to take the 20 minute stroll down to Bramall Lane was to try and ease the astute sense of cabin fever growing from staring at the endless ream of notes and handouts strewn hopelessly across my carpet. A stream of clauses, acts, orders and legal defences that, somehow, I had to absorb into my increasingly-rebellious brain in the following 36 hours.

Anyway, relegation-haunted Sheffield United against promotion hopefuls Norwich City seemed like an attractive Championship fixture, or at least one likely to feature on the Football League show before they cut to the opinions of Steve Claridge, or worse, Lizzie in her elaborate communications cave and I feel compelled to call it a night.

The spotty teen behind the ticket office window didn’t seem too bothered about snatching away my cash, but did insist I was put onto some kind of database. This never happens at Guiseley. Slightly taken aback at the apparent complexity of this transaction, I surrendered my student card to prompting, sticky fingers and the teen began tapping away.

“Do you live on Marquess Street?” he mumbled back. I only heard ‘Marquess’ so replied with a do-I-look-like-a-European-nobleman-of-hereditary-rank kind of face. He backed down and returned his attentions back to the safety of the computer screen. This continued for some time and eventually I gained access to the stadium for the fourth time this season. I’m not being on some spam register, get lost.

There were at least three names I didn’t recognise in the Sheffield United starting line-up, which was a bit embarrassing for a club you’re meant to have a soft spot for/follow. The manager had, of course, changed from Gary Speed to Mickey Adams in December – perhaps Speed took offence at my primitive Dictaphone flashing and beeping away during post-match interviews, then again there could be the general appeal of managing your home nation and all the glory and satisfaction he will inevitably receive from scraping a 1-0 win in Skopje to finish fourth in a qualifying group.

Having not seen United for a while – and their league standing, it’s fair to say, hadn’t immediately improved following the Adams appointment (they’re still looking for a first win) – I did find mostly positives from a first-half in which the Blades were seriously unlucky not to be a couple of goals in front. Ched Evans was twice thwarted by Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy, who also saved well in the opening moments from Jamie Ward.

Norwich, who have been a match for most sides on their return to the Championship so far, gave their colourful travelling contingent stood across from me little to get excited about as they laboured in midfield and were generally forced to hold back a red-and-white tide. Little wonder there seemed more animation amongst the die-hards in the Kop; this was a team who looked much improved since I last watched them.

But added cut and thrust doesn’t always deliver the desired results, and Norwich stung the home side after the break. Steve Simonsen bottled an aerial contest with Zak Whitbread and presented the ball to the feet of Andrew Crofts, who gleefully lashed home from near the penalty spot to open the scoring. A supporter in a yellow and green wig tried to hurdle the advertising boards and was dragged out in the quickest steward snatch-and-eject operation I’ve ever seen (check the BBC highlights, top of the picture).

But, in a sign that long weekends in Yeovil, Rochdale and Milton Keynes might not be on the agenda just yet, United were quick in their response. Evans had looked donkey-like in wasting his first-half openings but brushed aside the intimate attentions of Leon Barnett to finish with a sort of on-the-ground scissor kick thing.

Relief, and a genuine sense that United could go on and claim a vital three points. Not to be – another corner wasn’t properly cleared after Simonsen flapped and Crofts, picking his spot with laser-point accuracy, sent the victory to East Anglia.

‘Another nail in the coffin’ was the sombre consensus as the faithful melted into the freezing night.

Next Match: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Yeovil Town this Tuesday and then back on the road with Boston at Stalybridge Celtic on Saturday.


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Boston United 0 Gloucester City 1

There was a real danger that this post would become strewn with irrelevant legal titbits from the massive hysteria-inducing media law exam I took yesterday, so I’ve postponed the writing of it until today. Also, after all the evidence has been considered, it needs to be sectioned in the ‘best quickly forgotten’ file.

The only joy at York Street on Saturday was from the small, merry band of cider-swigging, birthday-celebrating, Olbas-oil sniffing Gloucester fans who bounced around in the away stand as though they had reached Wembley itself. And why not; their team arrived with a gameplan for the occasion and the quagmire of a pitch, executed it brilliantly by frustrating Boston’s superior attack and were worthy of their narrow progress to an away tie at Luton Town in round three.

They were certainly much-improved from last week and gained a very swift retribution. It was like watching Boston’s inspired 1-0 win at York City in the last round in reverse. United, affected by a full treatment room of injuries at the back, were poor throughout and the good work in the league over the last week was undone. Those who predicted an easy win when the draw came out were left as red-faced as Gloucester’s portly goalkeeper on a foray to the edge of his box.

Newstead had already played in the FA Trophy for Hinckley, so James McKeown returned for another curtain call. Not sure how this happened exactly – maybe his ferry to his new club in Rotterdam got delayed or he lost a bet with Neil kempster or something – but it was reassuring to see him between the sticks again, especially with Pearson, Ashton, Murphy, Nyoni and Jellyman all missing at the back.

There was nerves immediately – Rory Coleman blatantly handballed in the area when Darren Edwards headed goalwards. The Town End, some 100 + yards from the incident, saw the infringement to a man, woman, child and flag, gasping collectively in horror. Mercifully, referee Matthew McLaughlin and his assistant, a matter of five yards away, saw absolutely nothing untoward.

As they had down at Cheltenham, United dominated possession and created all the chances, though there was often sluggishness in returning the ball forward, which belied the fact the back line were not too familiar with one another. Mikel Suarez had the best chance, but his downward header got stuck in an area of goalmouth mud resembling a particularly septic and sandy alcove of the Lincolnshire Riviera, and keeper Sawyer defied his bulk and the general laws of physics to get down and snaffle the ball off the post.

The second-half took ages to get going and by this point there was a crushing inevitability that Gloucester would score. You just sort of know. And true to form, when McKeown’s clearance got caught in the blustery wind, the ball fell to Darren Mullings, who megged the keeper to score probably the greatest goal in Gloucester’s recent history.

The Town End, again sparsely populated, tried to rally the troops – ‘We’ll win the league, we’ll win the cup’ we sang on a constant loop, knowing that it might have to be quickly revised. By league, we mean we might get into the play-offs and then, after negotiating what will doubtless be a tricky two legged semi-final against one of those bastard teams to beat like Telford, Guiseley or Nuneaton, we’ll face some equally redoubtable side in the final. By cup, we now mean Lincolnshire Senior Shield. Again. Sigh.

The Pilgrims bombarded the Westcountry side for the last ten minutes, but fortune had deserted us. Nobody fancied a 300-mile midweek trip for the replay anyway, though it seemed like a remarkably attractive proposition when Coleman rattled the crossbar and, in stoppage time with Macca racing forward, there were about 16 handball shouts in a goalmouth scramble which culminated with Danny Sleath twatting the ball over.

Concentrate on the league then....

Next Match: Back in Sheffield now, so Boston United vs. Guiseley will be missed. Looking at Sheffield United against Norwich, but tempted to go to Stockport and cheer them on against Lincoln.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Boston United 3 Hinckley United 0

A routine win for United under the floodlights on a chilly Tuesday night against a very poor Hinckley side destined to be involved in the end-of-season relegation scrap. Two errors in defence gifted the Pilgrims a half-time advantage, which was explosively extended by the in-form Spencer Weir-Daley after the break.

Hinckley’s defence was a comedy of errors at times with goalkeeper Nathan Thackeray clown-in-chief. You have to feel partly responsible when you’ve recently stolen their first choice stopper (Dan Haystead) but the taunts of ‘Hinckley’s Number Two’ tumbling down from the Town End after each misguided clearance were not just mean-spirited but, on this evidence, prescient. Thackeray needs to be told to curtail his generosity now that the festive period has passed or lose his place.

Loose defending meant United had already struck the crossbar by the time Jamie Yates’s cross looped in off the boot of Hinckley defender Callum Burgess to open the scoring. With goalkeeper hopelessly positioned, the ball bobbled over the line almost in slow motion and I indulged in possibly the slowest celebratory raising of arms ever.

United attacked in waves, with a number of assaults starting when Thackeray’s kicks landed at the feet of a yellow-shirted player, and should have been at least three goals up by the time Suarez made it 2-0. Again it came gift-wrapped, with the keeper’s attempted clearance striking the Spaniard, allowing him to chase the ball down and roll it home.

Weir-Daley, in a rich vein of tap-in form, saved the best until last. His angled shot flashed into the bottom corner just after the hour mark, a fifth goal in five matches for the league’s only gangster striker.

No doubt counting the pennies from a series of recent postponements, and grateful for an upcoming run of four home fixtures across two competition, chairman David Newton and the Board couldn’t have failed to notice the poor attendance. Just 955 hardy souls, including about eight from Leicestershire, bothered to turn up.

Though the conditions were a million miles away from that balmy night earlier in the season when Anthony Church’s goal split the teams, the huge swathes of empty terracing were a disappointing sight. It was hard to get any kind of noise going and Rob Scott’s point that the atmosphere at home is not exactly febrile was brought to mind. I guess economic constraints mean some supporters must pick and choose their games as we enter this crucial period of the season.

And remarkably, the sides above us continue to keep winning. Before each round of fixtures, a cursory glance of the fixture list never fails to identify a possibility that Alfreton, Guiseley, Nuneaton or Telford might drop points and yet they never do. They are absolutely relentless and we already have a mini-league amongst the top five. Three of those four won 2-0 last night. Despite such impressive form, United can draw heart from the fact that Guiseley, Telford and Alfreton have yet to visit York Street and these games will no doubt decide who goes up automatically and who must enter the lottery of the play-offs.

Next Match: One last game before my return to Sheffield – Boston United vs. Gloucester City in the second round of the FA Trophy on Saturday.  


Sunday, 9 January 2011

Gloucester City 0 Boston United 1

I’ve waited to catch my breath, take on food and water, get a few hours kip and walked off the early symptoms of DVT before writing this post. Gloucester-Cheltenham away was a long old poke and eight hours on the road certainly took it out of me. So for all the thousands manically pressing F5 yesterday I can only apologise.

The person at Conference HQ who decided to put Gloucester City in the Northern division clearly wasn’t paying attention in geography lessons at school. When you start seeing signs translated into Cymru, rolling hills without coal mine scars on them and people using the definitive article when speaking you know you’re just not in the north; it’s a simple FACT.

Such a trek did permit a good, old-fashioned road trip, however, and a chance to assess the many features on Andy’s new Rover (quickly and unnervingly re-christened the Love Wagon by JB). One charming difference to the now-retired Honda Logo (testimonial coming soon) is that the dashboard vents continually spew out hot air and we haven’t quite worked out how to turn it off. On this frosty, early January morning it was a godsend – whether we’ll feel the same on pre-season runs in the 30 degree July heat when sweating out half our body mass onto the upholstery is another matter.

Since flood waters ruined their old ground, Gloucester have been bunking with Cheltenham Town and it was a pleasant surprise to be back at a handsome Football League ground. For the first time this season, the tenants saw fit to segregate and, with 97 making the long trip from South Lincolnshire, the crowd of 385 was higher than average.

Entering the Bowling Green End turnstiles (obviously the elderly users of the next-door Bowling Club dug their heels in when Whaddon Road was built) there was a brief moment of exasperation at the sign displaying admission prices of £20. Gloucester should see a financial advisor if their rent on the place is so high they have to charge double the usual Conference North fare. Thankfully, it was for Cheltenham games and for the £6 concessions fare I was given a complimentary pack of honey-flavoured Olbas lozenges, which wins hands-down as the most bizarre thing I’ve ever received at a football ground.

In a division where the top sides rarely seem to slip up, it was imperative United built on the momentum gained from Mikel Suarez’s late heroics at Eastwood and pick up a win to stay in touch with the leaders. They did, courtesy of another tap-in from Spencer Weir-Daley on 23 minutes, but it was a workmanlike, rather than a spectacular, performance.

Both sides had good openings – notably, when Gloucester’s Hector Mackie smashed a 20-yarder against the crossbar in the first-half and Anthony Church did something very similar in the second – but Boston’s defence, bolstered by Sheffield Wednesday loanee Cecil Nyoni (whom I’m going to wager is the first Zimbabwean to play for us), showed signs of the resolve which delivered nearly a thousand minutes without conceding earlier in the campaign and held out.

One disappointment from the day was the failure to set a new ‘One Bounce’ record. ‘One Bounce’ is a very straightforward game invented for the awayday fan who likes to break up their journey by kicking a ball around in the lorry parks of service stations. Volley, half-volley, head and chest the ball around your group without it bouncing more than once. It’s harder than it sounds, especially on the ice sheet we played on. A paltry 68 was the day’s best, well short of the glorious record of 135 set last year. Suddenly, i was grateful for Andy’s broken heater.

NEXT MATCH: Boston United vs. Hinckley United on Tuesday night, followed by a FA Trophy second round tie with Gloucester next Saturday.   


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Eastwood Town 2 Boston United 2

Thank goodness there’s plenty of football about this time of year. Barely 36 hours after mooching out of the Town End smarting from that 3-1 defeat to Gainsborough, I found myself facing Messrs Housam and Lawson over a Wetherspoons breakfast with renewed hope that amends would be made. Both were shaking and looked like death. We are 24-hour party people in these parts.

Eastwood Town was the Bank Holiday destination. I love the way the Bank Holiday in football circles is synonymous with the bumper crowd. Can someone please define the bumper crowd? This unspecified mass of people. This vague group of hangers-on who only appear in late August, at Christmas and Easter as though living underground the rest of the year. Maybe there’s a crowd rental service somewhere. I suspect they’re actually a figment of the football chairman’s active imagination. They certainly were at Eastwood, where the bumper crowd was nearly outnumbered by the travelling Boston public.

The early start for such a relatively local fixture permitted a stop-off in Grantham for the Townenders’ minibus. Grantham being an obvious and lovely place for a stop-off on any journey, of course. Once you’ve seen one Wetherspoons you’ve seen them all but The Tollemache was quite lively.

Everywhere you looked were seedy old blokes in tracksuit bottoms, socks secured with elastic bands. One had obviously bought the wrong cut of jeans and forgotten to keep the receipt – his ingenious solution was to take a pair of kitchen scissors and lop the bottom off. MAKE DO AND AMEND. At one point a woman on a motorbility scooter smashed through the saloon doors like an invalid A-Team. Best entrance to a pub ever!

Eastwood wasn’t much better. This was a place where a bus shelter had been uprooted and left upside down in a pub car park – an average evening’s entertainment, obviously. And where the idea of decor in the pub was a cabinet of china and a huge white china elephant sat in the corner. I didn’t trust it so we made our way to the ground, Coronation Park.

The ground was fairly tidy, with compact terraces behind both ends and a new-looking main stand. Adjacent to this was the Keith Smith stand, which was evidently Eastwood’s corporate area. Stand was a loose term – it was more like a bungalow with a carport tacked on to the front.

United handed debuts to their two new signings – goalkeeper Dan Haystead and livewire winger Nathan Koranteng – and restored Danny Davidson to the starting eleven after the ‘Unit’ looked solid in a late 20-minute cameo against Trinity. Koranteng wasted little time in showing the pace which prompted Scottie and Hurst to recall him from Peterborough, though he tended to over-elaborate instead of getting his head up and crossing.

After conceding seven times in their last two league games, there had been some question marks over the United defence and anxieties grew when Eastwood took the lead on 13 minutes. Lindon Meikle beat Kieran Murphy a little too easily and teed up Lee Stevenson, Eastwood’s top scorer, to curl home from 20 yards.

The lead was short lived. In fact, Eastwood only led for four minutes of the entire game. They gratefully accepted a helping hand from Chris Shaw, who accidentally headed Jamie Cullingworth’s free-kick past his own goalkeeper, allowing our old Fwiend Spencer Weir-Daley to score probably the easiest goal of his career from all of one yard.

The second-half embodied everything great about following United. A bunch of ever-so-slightly pissed fans packed together behind the goal singing, bouncing, scarf-twirling and metal-banging their hearts out. There was about 10 seconds of silence in the entire half, just after Eastwood retook the lead on 86 minutes through Stevenson’s second of the game. I’d lost the power of speech on Tuesday, so we must have been loud.  

Once again, United’s powers of recovery were faultless. This time Gareth Jellyman produced an undefendable cross and sub Mikel Suarez headed into the bottom corner. Bedlam ensued as the players rushed towards the supporters – I didn’t quite get on the pitch but was hanging over the hoardings trying to rip the shirt of Lee Canoville’s back which I’m sure he greatly appreciated. Bloody brilliant.

Next Match: A trip to the Westcountry for Gloucester City vs. Boston United on Saturday, being played at Whaddon Road, Cheltenham. 

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Boston United 1 Gainsborough Trinity 3

As Mark Corrigan of Peep Show said: “It’s impossible to have a good New Year’s Eve, there’s just too much pressure.” Not true, but New Year’s Day is a different matter. Perhaps United felt a little too much pressure to turn over their country rivals for the second time in two months. At times in this bitterly disappointing 3-1 defeat, it also seemed they felt too much pressure to score the perfect goal.

Or maybe the squad had been sinking the ales in Wetherspoons, one of the last legs of a 16-hour binge to bid farewell to 2010, jumping up periodically to improvise dance moves to R ‘n’ B barely audible through the cumulative drunken haze, attracting the laughter of all those around them. After, they’d gone to the premier local nightspot and necked some brightly-coloured alcopops while hopping around on the dance floor to assorted 90s dance, just about remembering the tape-recorded midnight bongs. Perhaps then they’d visited the local fried chicken palace and finger-licked their way through a grease-soaked box of drumsticks and demolished five chicken wraps. Oh wait, that was me and my friends. That’s right.

Surprisingly after such a fond farewell to what had been a fabulous 2010, I was up and about well before 8 considering whether to read Tolkien’s Silmarillion or one of the bounty of Terry Pratchett books stacked up in the particular room of JB’s Lincoln digs I’d eventually crashed in (I thought better of both suggestions). By 10, Mr. Housam and I had kept down a Wethers breakfast, returning to the scene of the previous night’s crimes against the art of dance, and made our way up to the beautiful cathedral to enjoy the sweeping views of the mist-shrouded Roman city. Hungover, you’re having a laff.

With university commitments and the postponement of the December 18th match with Hyde, this was my first visit to York Street since the 4-0 win over Workington in mid-September and I’d thoroughly been looking forward to it. Sadly, the afternoon proved a massive anti-climax, especially after such diligent efforts to get back safely and on time.

Once at York Street, cross-county rozzer watch switched to a hunt for a most elusive creature – the Gainsborough Trinity fan. Well, one that could be arsed to make the obviously intrepid and perilous 50-mile journey across Lincolnshire anyway. On Boxing Day 2007, just 26 of these rare species graced us with their presence, to massive scorn and derision. Today, they flipped those numbers – 62 – and even engaged in some community singing. Annoyingly, despite such piss-poor efforts, they won on both occasions!

Whatever the reason, United, who hadn’t played since the 1-0 success at York (see below), weren’t at the races. They dominated the first-half – at least after an early scare when Ryan Kendall’s shot rebounded to the soon-departing James McKeown off the inside of the post – and played some lovely, passing football which echoed some of the wonderful performances which brought such success in 2010. The build-up around the penalty area, especially that involving Spencer Weir-Daley, was usually excellent but, in a very Arsenal-like manner, there was no finish.

Marc Newsham was the guiltiest party – firstly hitting the woodwork with a glancing header and then lifting a sitter over the bar from 12 yards when one-on-one. Ryan Semple, who looked a bit off-colour, also should have scored from a similar situation, only for Phil Barnes to thwart him. By this point, United were behind. Gainsborough haven’t set the league on fire this season but Sam Aiston was clinical after uncharacteristic lapses in concentration from Lee Canoville and Gareth Jellyman allowed the ball through.  

United deserved parity and eventually it came. Football Fwiend Weir-Daley tapped in after Barnes had only succeeded in palming Shaun Pearson’s howitzer into the air. Remarkable how such a simple goal could spark such delirium in a Town End recently starved of action. I was dragged one way by Housam and one way by Broughton like a Magdeburg Hemisphere.

The second-half belonged to Gainsborough, who twice carved open our defence to secure victory. Kendall scored both goals, but the ease with which he maintained possession was alarming, cutting through weak challenges to send the home crowd into a state of shock. However, we’re not Man. United and one defeat does not constitute a crisis. The beauty of this football-soaked time of year is that there’s always a quick chance to respond, at Eastwood Town on Monday where a large travelling contingent should inspire the lads.

Next Match: Eastwood Town vs. Boston United on Monday and then an epic road trip to Gloucester City on Saturday.