Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Worcester City 2 Boston United 0

I can’t think of a single positive about this one. Normally, there’s a silver lining of some sort – a decent atmosphere, a nice pub lunch, a good laugh, Lincoln losing – but Worcester away was just a rolling bank of dark, ominous clouds.

Boston were completely outplayed, with deficiencies exposed in just about every area of the park by a side not exactly setting the Conference North alight. The defence, still not fully nursed back to health from a succession of injuries, looked lightweight. The midfield were clearly intimidated by a bullish Worcester not afraid to present their studs in the challenge. The strikeforce only bothered turning up in the second-half and never really looked like scoring. Add into the cocktail an atrocious referee and a dilapidated stadium, and you’ve got a very miserable and forgettable occasion. I was also mammothly hungover.  

St George’s Lane oozed character: not in the usual quaint non-league way – original turnstiles, wooden seats or a 104-year-old programme seller – but rather an urgently-needs-to-be-dragged-out-of-the-sepia-tone-era kind of charm. The main stand contained a great deal of wood more than the regulations allow, the terrace behind one end sort of tapered down to nothingness, the stadium clock didn’t have any hands (useful) and there was a disused engine shed on the other side which had been extensively tagged by the Worcester youth. In the second-half, our vantage point was inexplicably raised above the goal, causing big problems for the vertiginous-averse in the Boston support and those without oxygen canisters. The goalmouths had a fine-looking top soil, however, which made us country folk feel right at home.

Sadly, the Worcester players didn’t. They crashed into challenges at every opportunity in order to disrupt Boston’s attempts at playing passing football (for we are obviously the Barcelona of this division...) and then smacked the ball forward, aided by a gusty wind. On the whole, their primitive tactics failed to work, so referee A.J. Hopkins decided to give them some help. We were a good hundred yards away but felt that sinking feeling when the official awarded them a penalty for handball and then booked Shaun Pearson. He must have been the guilty party then, probably lucky to stay on the field in that case. But no, his crime had been to ask Mr. Hopkins who had done the dirty cheating deed. He actually got booked for dissent; the referee had no idea who’d done the crime. Danny Glover scored the spot-kick.

On half-time, a Worcester fan had the audacity to come up and say “Do you lot always play this dirty? Your team are a bunch of fucking animals.” I would be drawn in to the debate, but I think it’s quite an achievement to be so blind AND such a prick.

The wind at their backs (and in our faces, elevated by this bizarre stand) Boston were much improved after the break, with Anthony Church, Spencer Weir-Daley and Ryan Semple having chances. The antagonism continued; with Worcester’s mouthy Irish number two Graham Ward lucky to escape punishment for man-handling the referee and screaming abuse in his face. Ward was clearly irked and took out his frustrations on anyone who came within a five metre radius. Ryan Clarke, a non-memorable ex-Boston player, was also giving it plenty of lip. Unfortunately, they had the last laugh.

When the ref dismissed home goalkeeper Dean Coleman for a baffling handball some ten yards outside his box, there was some optimism that United might claim an undeserved point. But no, because on their only forward foray of the half Shane Clarke put Glover’s cross into his own net. Worcester celebrated like they had won the cup. A painful, painful day.    

Next Match: Gainsborough Trinity vs. Boston United on Tuesday.