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.