This was much more like it. After the disappointment of defeat at Boston Town seven days earlier, a United side which looked infinitely more settled and generally team-like batted aside a youthful XI from Premier League Wigan to earn a first pre-season win.
Ooooh, Premier League, eh? Well technically, yes, but absolutely no need to get carried away - this doesn’t mean Boston would be able to compete in the top flight. In their programme notes, Jason Lee and Lee Canoville took great pleasure in welcoming Roberto Martinez to the Stade Jakemans, but unfortunately for them, the suave Spaniard had taken the first team squad to dastardly Dave Whelan’s top secret Alpine training lab, leaving us with Graeme Jones and his ‘Development Squad’. Presumably, this is football’s equivalent of a year nine chemistry practical.
I vaguely remember Jones moping around up front for United during the early Football League years and seem to recall him scoring against Macclesfield. Then again, I could have just made that up because Jones wasn’t exactly the most prolific centre forward to grace the York Street turf. Andy Pickwell contributed a nicely complimentary story about Jones scoring once and unceremoniously whipping his shirt off in celebration to reveal a thick, matted rug of body hair coating an unflatteringly bloated stomach. Lovely.
Anyway, Jones was the reason the Latics were here to provide the first home opposition of the close-season. It wasn’t some very overdue compensation for them stealing our Football League place in 1977. His experimentals offered a stern test and were assured in the touch, with a decent passing radar apiece.
I stood with Pickwell in the Spayne Road terrace - when he types ‘Spayne‘ into his phone when texting, the predictive text function helpfully changes it to ‘apathetic’. This was pretty appropriate to be honest, with neither of us relishing the prospect of paying £12 with memories of last week at Boston Town fresh in the memory. In the end, we were pleased we made the effort.
Goals from Kevin Holsgrove, who was brilliant on the left wing, and Ryan Semple, brilliant on the right and apparently immune from a bad review in either mine of Pickwell’s blog, turned round an early Wigan strike from Ryan Watson. More encouraging was the performance in general, and the margin of victory could have been much greater.
Andy A was due to attend but was grappling with grief following the death of his car. I have written a tribute here:
THE ROVER (date of birth unknown - July 21st 2011)
Sometimes known as The Rover Sauna and once as the Rover Cooler - by me
A trusted and reliable steed, the Rover was only with us for a short time and yet shall leave an indelible memory on all those privileged to ride with her. The car was bequeathed in the spirit of kindness and friendship, but though it cost us nothing it repaid us time after time with a courage and stout-heartedness which consistently defied those armchair critics who condemned it as in the autumn of its years and, well, an unreliable Rover.
The passenger window was lame and refused to unwind, the wheel trims bore damagingly into the tyres (causing Andy considerable expense and Boston Tyre considerable profit) and, for a number of unbearable journeys, the heater would just not be tamed. Yet these idiosyncrasies only added to the charm and appeal of a vehicle which let us down seldom, if ever. And if it did, it ensured by the wise, kindly old head it carried, that we were within 100 yards of a petrol station and that passengers were on board to push.
The Rover was with us for one campaign, but completed many noteworthy conquests through its tremendous spirit and refusal to succumb to the ‘wisdom’ of the Top Gear brigade who quickly wrote it off as junk. It negotiated the great labyrinthine road to Gainsborough even when its weary headlights could barely light the way, it set a spectacular record time on the well-trodden Boston to Sheffield course of one hour 17 minutes following the draw with Solihull Moors (and even had the experience to evade the speed camera at the end) and it outsprinted a train between Walsall and Stafford to ensure that Shergie’s ticket was NOT invalidated.
But its finest hour came on that foggy February night when it cleared the Snake Pass en route to Stalybridge without missing a beat on that deadly, serpentine road, ensuring the lads missed only one of Stalybridge’s three goals. Huzzah! The Rover was also imbued with the virtue of great patience - it did not mind if Shergie wanted a second Burger King, nor if the boys wanted to play One bounce for an hour in the Welcome Break car park. It didn’t even muster a complaint when parked in the goal at Boston Town, despite being savagely pelted with a ball by three oafish brutes
Inevitably, there will be comparisons with the legendary Honda Logo but history shall not judge the Rover harshly. This was, quite literally, a gift from the motoring gods who decreed that: ‘The lads shalt not miss an away match and they shalt arrive there in a modicum of style and comfort. They’ll have to put up with the sauna conditions and the poor fuel consumption, but they shalt be there!‘
The Rover, Andy’s mechanical steed in British racing green, died of a broken head gasket, knackered water pump and snapped cam belt, in most inconvenient circumstances on the way to Andy’s graduation ceremony on July 21st. It will be scrapped somewhere on the route between Boston and Sheffield it knew so well and traversed so effortlessly until the very last. Floral tributes highly inappropriate. RIP.
Next Match: Lincoln United v Boston United in the Lincolnshire Senior Shield quarter-final on Thursday night