I was hoping for a backlash, but all we got at Nuneaton was confirmation this squad needs a cash-splash. Things went from bad to worse after Saturday’s debacle, with a thoroughly miserable two-nil defeat to a team clearly in decline, and we find ourselves glancing anxiously over our shoulder at the Evo-Stik beneath while furiously scratching our heads to figure out what’s going wrong.
I awoke in Watford, head scrambled by the complimentary vat of red wine kindly provided by the Daily Mail and copious supplementary beers, and knew it was going to be a very long day. Central London was being pounded by biblical rain and therefore off limits for a man equipped only with a kebab-stained shirt from the night before and his mother’s flimsy umbrella. With two hours to waste before my train departed, my friend Arran, who kindly put me up in Watford, suggested I visited the British Library to pass the time. I reminded him politely but firmly that my intellectual faculties were the current site of a war between an evil hangover genius and the paracetamol army, bought a disgusting cup of tea and sat on my own in St Pancras.
Things had recovered well by the time I got back to Boston mid-afternoon but the thought of then jumping on the supporters’ bus and going to Nuneaton was about as appealing as riding a Boris Bike naked through a full-scale riot. The last time I’d jumped on the BUSA bus was when we played at Durham City in October 2009. After a five-hour trawl up the A1, we arrived to be told the match had been cancelled owing to the fact three sides of the ground were simply an eight-foot tall, uncreosoted timber fence from Homebase and the wind had got up a bit, thereby creating a health and safety NIGHTMARE. I did not consider this a good omen but when you’ve been every away match as far back as your alcohol-addled memory can remember, you don’t think twice about getting on board.
The banter on board was delightful, though the author of Ravings of a Boston Boy did make a fevered SOS on Twitter when we inadvertently dropped in to an Alan Partridge-esque discussion about ladyboys. It started when BUSA stalwart Jan, doing her best Alan Whicker, finished off a description of how beautiful Thailand was with the line “the girls are nearly as pretty as the ladyboys!” and the back end of the bus fell about in hysterics. Back of the net.
This trip was never going to be as memorable as last season’s, when Boston took 500 to Liberty Way on a Easter Monday, including a sizeable number causing public transport chaos on the Party Train, but there was a decent midweek turn-out and we made ourselves heard. The two teams, at that point about to enter the play-offs, had won only one match between them in the first three rounds of fixtures this season and, accordingly, the attendance was less than half that of the last meeting.
Nuneaton clearly hadn’t been expecting so many to travel and seemed to have hired more security staff to watch over the away section than they had printed programmes. Be more grateful than usual for the cover scan top left because I’m certain I saw the editor trooping off into the nearby woodland armed with a hatchet to produce some more cursing his decision to order a print run of only 20.
With no help from the “Nuneaton Library” it was up to us to create the atmosphere, which we did with greater verve and commitment than was shown at any point on the pitch. I think our ‘Ring of Fire’ and accompanying bouncing, scarf twirling and general battering the shit out of corrugated iron made it all the way through half-time for the first time.
Sadly, there was little to cheer on the pitch. Most of the ire was directed at Mickey Stones, one of only two available strikers on the night. Partnered with Marc Newsham in a classic big-man, little-man combination, he just failed abjectly in his straightforward brief of winning headers. I think if we were a business and not a football club, Stones would have been “moved to another part of the organisation” by now, probably the section next to the exit door. He was unfortunate with a couple of late chances but it took the introduction of Jason Lee, 40, our manager, to create any kind of pressure. His pineapple is long gone but he still managed to win every header. When Lee brought himself on, the combined age of him, Paul Bastock in goal and Kevin Austin at centre-half was 119. Not good.
By the time the gaffer oiled his joints and gave United some impetus, they trailed by two. Kevin Holsgrove had a shocker and presented the ball to Lee Smith to walk through the defence and score with ease after 27 minutes. Robbie Burns, presumably Nuneaton’s poet-in-residence, doubled the lead on 51 minutes, bringing our Johnny Cash bouncing to an end after 25 calf-busting minutes.
The match was dissected on the return journey and very few positives came to the fore. There seems to be weaknesses in every area of the field and nearly everyone on the coach knew someone who was struggling to afford the new ticket prices. It could be quite a long season.
Next Match: Away to Harrogate Town on Saturday.