Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Boston United 0 Stamford AFC 0

It's big you know
(Stamford won 4-3 on penalties)

I sort of felt obliged to attend this game, the first of a four I’m hoping to make during my Easter fortnight back home, having watched United in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals. Sadly, this wasn’t a cup run with any kind of lustre, tradition or real appeal, but the Lincolnshire Senior Shield, a competition which is essentially a synonym for the word tinpot.

The previous rounds – a 4-0 home win over Grantham Town and a 2-1 away success at Gainsborough Trinity courtesy of Miles Hunter’s late goal – had been worked effortlessly into pre-season preparations but the final, against Evo-Stik Division One South Stamford AFC, came most inconveniently in the promotion run-in. The accent United placed on the game, which came before a pivotal Easter weekend, was reflected in a line-up which was a curious mixture of fringe first teamers, golden oldies and reserves fresh from storming the Lincolnshire League.

You know a competition is struggling in the list of priorities when Jason Lee picks himself – at centre back! Despite being in the opposite penalty area to the rest of his career, the player-gaffer was still class.

Stamford were essentially a collection of old Boston players, with the likes of Chris Wright, Liam Parker, Nick Jackson, Ben Sedgemore and Dan Cotton bringing back undesirable memories of that season we nearly dropped out of the Unibond League. To think, we could have been playing the likes of Stamford every week.

Due to general lack of interest, only the Fantasy Island Stand was open at York Street (the official line was health and safety) and 577 committed souls resisted the lure of Newcastle-Man United in the hope of seeing Boston retain the giant, unwieldy shield which caused such trophy cabinet carnage last year. There were a fair number from the southern tip of the county as well but any chance of an atmosphere was snuffed out by general apathy and a jobsworth steward who insisted that everyone sat down. My argument that I’d stood at the other 40-odd Boston games I’d been to this season was hopelessly lost in the maze of health and safety bureaucracy.

The game itself wasn’t bad for a nil-nil and United should have easily wrapped things up in the first half hour. Danny Davidson, sporting some smart electric blue boots, had a field day tormenting the Daniels’ defenders and his header from an excellent Ryan Semple cross rebounded back off the crossbar.

The best chance, however, came from the penalty spot after Sedgemore handled another Semple cross, but Reserve team top scorer Mickey Stones hit the post. Many other chances came and went, while the second half was uninspired as the crowd’s attention drifted, and penalties were the inevitable consequence.

James Cullingworth was the villain, sending his spot-kick high into the York Street End. Not a great week for him, having been at fault for the two points dropped against Hyde on Saturday. Stef Frost also missed, and Stamford were flawless, deservedly taking home the Shield.

I’d hoped that with United’s star rising again, we might be re-admitted to the Lincolnshire Senior Trophy, the county’s premier football competition, next season and tackle Lincoln, Grimsby and Scunthorpe. However, since we’ve already been drawn away at Lincoln United in the quarters for next season, I’m guessing we’re still seen as second class.

Next Match: Blyth Spartans at home on Saturday

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