Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Boston United 0 FC Halifax Town 0

Barring some unforeseen emergency or irresistible cup tie, this Bank Holiday Monday fixture was to be my last game at York Street for quite some time. Obviously my pre-match pleas to the players for a feast of gripping entertainment as a leaving present fell on deaf ears as we were treated to a drab nil-nil draw. 
United produced a solid display to build upon their excellent away win on Saturday, but looked a little toothless going forward and failed to convert the handful of chances which came their way. FC Halifax, one of the pre-season title favourites, were equally uninspired up front and resolute at the back. The result was inevitable really. 
Thrown off track by Bank Holiday printing deadlines, my third programme column was a bit of a car crash, written in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday night’s horrendous defeat at Nuneaton and generally being as critical as it is possible to be in an official publication without encouraging the editor to get the red pen out. I was relieved Jason Lee had scored on Saturday, since i’d devoted two paragraphs to how good his aerial ability remains despite the loss of the famous pineapple head fruit. Not a bad guess considering the article had been written on Wednesday!
With Mikel Suarez returning from injury, Lee had no cause to stretch his aging limbs for the second time in three days. Mickey Stones, who spent most of the afternoon sporting a Terry Butcher-esque head bandage after clashing with a Halifax defender, once again started but looked a bit off the pace. Or he could have been concussed. As did Marc Newsham and so there was little to celebrate. 
The good news came from defensive stability and another clean sheet. Alan White and Tom Ward might have a few years between them, but they’ve quickly formed a stout centre-half partnership and effortlessly swotted away everything the Shaymen could muster. Danny Sleath put in another fine shift in the midfield and we were all grateful to see him back. 
With little to watch on the field, greater entertainment came from the verbal joust with the 300 or so travelling fans. Yes, actual travelling fans instead of the usual five blokes in a car and a groundhopper. They didn’t look very impressed by our chants of “You let your club die” - is there a more emotionally devastating chant than that? - but gave as good as they got. And considering their club did die not so long ago, the rise of the phoenix club has been most impressive though I think a season of consolidation in Conference North is on the cards, rather than the automatic promotion some predicted. 
And other than that, really, there is nothing much else to say. 
Next Match: Another away trip to Bishop‘s Stortford on Saturday. New ground and opponents for United.   

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Harrogate Town 0 Boston United 2

This was a trip made entirely in hope rather than expectation. After the debacle of midweek at Nuneaton, I really was in two minds about making the journey to North Yorkshire and so didn’t start making travel arrangements until Friday night. With a crushing sense of inevitability, however, I found my self sat in the Lawson motor, which was pointed in the direction of Harrogate. There will come a time when I don’t get to matches, but that can wait. 
I think Harrogate’s Wetherby Road ground is one of the most beautiful i’ve ever visited, as befits the town as a whole. The undulating terrain of the pitch, with the horrendous slope down into one corner which caused them all kinds of problems in our 6-3 romp this time last year, and the car park end which is literally a car park, adds a certain charm. Add to that some usually generous defending from the home side and there was hope we’d have a decent afternoon. 
There was dismay amongst those who had been at Liberty Way on Tuesday night upon the news that Mickey Stones was again in the starting XI, but comfort at the return of Danny Sleath from his Oriental Adventure and, in yet another addition to the old boy’s club, veteran defender Alan White. White was a commanding presence in Boston’s defence during the Football League era and particularly menacing from corners going forward. Or so I seem to remember. You do sort of wonder who’ll be enticed back next... Ludovic Quistin? Simon Rusk? Miguel De Souza? Gazza with his fishing rod and bucket of chicken? 
I told young Ryan that Stones was starting and he immediately stormed from the clubhouse to tell his Dad in the usual indignant, sweary terms. Unfortunately, his Dad happened to be talking to the chairman at the time. Whoops. 
But we needn’t have feared. Stones played very well and bossed his marker, who looked like a cross between David Luiz and Carles Puyol. Unkempt, sodden, matted pikey hair beating neat perm on this occasion. There had been early excitement when an ice cream van parked behind us, but real joy when Marc Newsham opened the scoring after only ten minutes. It was a slow start by our standards on this ground - we were 4-0 up within 23 minutes last season - but you had to marvel at Newsham’s neck muscles as he looped a header off the post with pinpoint accuracy. The fifty or so Pilgrims fans gathered behind the goal danced around the, erm, car park in delight.    
Last year’s Harrogate keeper had been some kind of banter genius - what can you say when you concede six first-half goals - and this year’s wasn’t too bad either. Chucked in the goal next to his bottle of Harrogate Spa was an official UEFA Champions League baseball cap. Maybe he’s actually played in the Champions League? Maybe he’s just on loan here and is really famous? We asked him. “Erm, no, I was a mascot at a Champions League game once,” came the sheepish, if honest, reply. 
United were attacking uphill but Champions League still had plenty to worry about. There was great disappointment when Matt Bloomer, aka Daz Captain Clean because of his unwillingness to get stuck in and soil his shirt, was named on the bench, but his replacements struggled to contain Ryan Semple, Kevin Holsgrove and Danny Sleath, who was obviously not too jet-lagged. I did notice there were a number of photos of Bloomer in the matchday programme and I can confirm that his shirt was spotlessly clean.  
In the second-half, we were treated to an actual stand. Just as well because the Yorkshire weather closed in and, as Yorkshire weather is wont to do, drenched everyone. Harrogate weren’t offering too much going forward but you always felt a second goal was necessary to seal the points. That’s probably why Gaffer Lee brought himself on for Stones with 20 minutes to play. 
And the Gaffer served up a moment which immediately ranked among my favourites watching Boston. Chris Hall sent in a free-kick to the back post in the dying moments and Lee, lurking with elbows poised at the back post, leapt with the vigour of someone half his age, connected immaculately with the ball and headed it past Champions League for 2-0. 
“Gaffer, Gaffer!” we chanted in unison. Lee beat his chest and roared: “Yeah, who’s the Gaffer. WHO’S THE GAFFER!!!”  
Next Match: Home match with FC Halifax Town on Bank Holiday Monday

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Nuneaton Town 2 Boston United 0

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.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Boston United 1 Vauxhall Motors 2

This was a low. It may still be early in the season and things are meant to be gelling together and all that, but a home defeat to Vauxhall Motors is pretty embarrassing. I’d rank it up there with losing to Quorn in the FA Trophy a couple of years back.

Combine that with a dreadful attendance of just over 1,100 and we already have a pretty depressing outlook considering we’re not yet out of August. The increased ticket prices must be having an adverse effect and people are counting their change and thinking twice. This time last year, the first two home crowds were 1,604 against Stafford Rangers on the opening day and 1,681 against Nuneaton Town (midweek). This time, we had 1,222 against Histon the other night and 1,114 against Vauxhall. I refuse to believe that 400 more people have decided to go on holiday at this precise moment of the year from last season, and I don’t remember Stafford and Nuneaton packing the York Street End. People can’t keep paying out more and more.

I’m blinkered because obviously I’m happy to pay out £12 to watch Boston as they’re my side, but thinking about it comparatively, getting into York Street can cost twice as much as at away matches. Surely it’s not beyond the bounds of reason to offer a student rate as part of the concessions? I appreciate there isn’t a University of Boston and the Fens but the only other ground without some kind of discount last season was Corby Town. Frankly, it was a blessed relief when I’d forked out up to thirty quid on my train fare.

And those stayaways can’t argue that the on-field fare hasn’t, so far, been up to scratch. We won up at Workington and performed doggedly against a physical team, and were desperately unlucky not to beat Histon on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, this was not sustained against Vauxhall - it was truly abysmal, as though we hadn’t yet exited pre-season. I hate to be too pessimistic, but please don’t give those wavering over whether to hand over their £12 another excuse to stay in and watch Soccer Saturday.

The Town End is often the team’s Twelfth Man but on Saturday it was just a fountain of expletives. Everyone was royally pissed off and made their feelings known. Everyone in sight was abused - Vauxhall’s tattooed goalkeeper, the linesman, the referee, the four travelling fans, even the Fantasy Island elephant. There were four-lettered words I’d never even heard before. People who turned up after work at half-time had left by 70 minutes!

The first half flew by, but there had been little to cheer apart from an early Kevin Holsgrove howitzer that was repelled by Scott Tynan. There were lengthy passages of play where United failed to string more than four passes together. Their willingness to resort to hoof ball was like watching through a time warp - had we lapsed back five years? Even Paul Bastock’s goal kicks were wayward by ten yards. Just as the other night, we were quickly stunned into silence. We were camped inside our own half, playing counter-attacking football at home against a side who had lost their opening two games.

Inevitably, Vauxhall scored. Despite at least four shouts (increasingly urgent) encouraging Liam Parker to step up and join the offside trap, he didn’t and Michael Jackson, played onside, was left totally unmarked to head home. It was a BAD way to concede and there was no more noise for the rest of the half, just rage.

The players probably received another barrage of expletives in their ears at half-time because they had returned to the pitch before I’d purchased my half-time curry and chips. Thankfully it worked and there became a real danger of those around me being sprayed with soggy chips, pineapple and raisins as United started the second half on the front foot.

There were some ridiculous goalline clearances - Ryan Semple, Holsgrove, Kevin Austin, Parker, Lawrie Dudfield and Marc Newsham all had chances. The anger turned quickly back to frustration. Vauxhall were clinging on by their fingertips but, unlike against Histon, the equaliser didn’t materialise.

Even more inevitably, they broke out and scored a decisive second. Craig Mahon pounced on a stray pass and set up Josh Wilson for the easiest of finishes. United had over-committed. The stadium was half-empty by the time Tom Hannigan headed us an own goal consolation in injury time.

Tynan, subjected to abuse about his weight all afternoon, had the ‘audacity’ to celebrate at the final whistle. Some young moron sent him a volley of phlegm as the goalkeeper collected his water bottle. Such a disgusting and unnecessary thing to do.
A rubbish afternoon but before I left York Street, I made sure I secured my place on the supporters’ bus to Nuneaton on Tuesday night. I suppose you don’t fall out of love with something just because it lets you down once.

Next Match: Nuneaton Town away on Tuesday evening. Of course, it’ll be nothing on last season, but hopefully the right result. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Boston United 1 Histon 1

Following the epic voyage to Workington, the Good Ship Pilgrim was back in home port on Tuesday night as we welcomed Histon for the first time. There were a few running repairs to be made - with the forward cannon of Mikel Suarez, Mickey Stones and Julian Joachim needing urgent attention and damage in the engine room to Ryan Semple still being patched up. Danny Sleath is still missing out in the Orient, presumed drowned. Thankfully, Lawrie Dudfield, the veteran of many a Boston adventure, had returned to take grasp of the tiller.   
The evening’s first delight came in seeing my regular column in the programme for the first time, though I instantly regretted sending in the mugshot I did. With a glowing red nose and tatty facial hair it looked, at best, as though I’m under the weather and, at worst, as though I’ve had one too many whiskies. “You look like a smackhead,” Pickwell chimed in, making me feel much better about myself. I hope it went down well. I saw one guy reading it and believe he raised a slight smile at something I’d written, but then he could have been laughing at the grotesque red beast face at the top of the page. 
Histon is surely one of the smallest places Boston have ever played against. It is little more than a village and no doubt the 31 travelling fans in the York Street stand had left behind a ghost town. Business and commerce in the place must have ground to a halt in their absence. Small urchins roamed around looking for someone to cook them dinner. The tumbleweeds are now in firm control. 
Histon and Impington, as they are lumped together on the Wikipedia entry, presumably for the purposes of search engine optimisation, are about the size of Kirton and Wyberton combined. At least the priorities are right - the wiki entry begins: “Over the years the two villages have grown and entwined together, to such an extent that many villagers today do not know where one ends and the other begins. They contain a combined total of SIX pubs. They have a Nursery, Infants', Junior, and Secondary school.” Beer before education!
But we were quickly forced to remember that our opponents have only just dropped down from the Conference and, in the not too distant past, they dumped Leeds United out of the FA Cup. Defensive communications broke down completely on four minutes, allowing Omer Riza to outpace Kevin Austin and square for Dan Holman to open the scoring. 
The Town End, fairly packed, had been in very good voice at the start but was reduced to stunned silence by the ease of Histon’s goal. The rest of the half was a Boston bombardment - Austin and Liam Parker spent more time in the opponent’s half as corners and free-kicks were swung in with increasing frequency. We gradually recovered our vocal backing, though there was strictly no bouncing, to my great disappointment. Obviously too early in the season for such hi-jinx. 
Mad Cap’n Canoville was forced off with a worrying injury which was later confirmed as medial knee ligament damage. He was caught by a Histon player as he received a hospital pass on the right wing and resigned himself to sitting, alone, in the Fantasy Island stand for the rest of the game. 
Dudfield’s influence came to the fore with the equaliser on 26 minutes as he did what the rest of our strikeforce can’t and nodded a long ball into Marc Newsham’s path. Jesus, as he is nicknamed for reasons I can no longer remember, finished with assurance and I grabbed the opportunity to swing from the rusty Town End rafters for the first of hopefully many times this season. 
Histon’s goalkeeper, the brilliantly named Jorg Stadelmann, pulled off a succession of first-rate saves to prevent Boston going in front, but he was guilty of some terrible time-wasting. It was as though they’d come for the draw or something. A vivid red moon rose above the York Street Stand during the second-half, though it could perhaps have been the sun, such was Stadelmann’s unwillingness to hurry.  
Kevin Holsgrove showed his scoring touch at the weekend, and reasserted his class with a steady flow of drag-backs, soul rolls and pirouettes. He had the slipperiness of a plasma screen-looting scally evading the fuzz on the streets of Toxteth. Sadly, there was no last-minute winner on this occasion and mixed feelings at the final whistle. Two points dropped, yes, but there’s an awful lot of football to be played yet. 
Next Match: At home to Vauxhall Motors on Saturday. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Workington AFC 1 Boston United 2

Sometimes you want to love the fixture computer. When it delivers a festive period of local derbies or four consecutive away trips when your student loan has just been paid in, you just wish you could kiss it on its shiny chrome noggin and seductively feed data into its almighty processors. You learn to adore the little whirs and bleeps, and the randomness of the multi-coloured flashing lights on the front. The free-spirited minx. 
And then when you think you’ve found the one, it comes up, after those magical nano-seconds of sequencing and concocting, with an opening day of Workington (away). The lust drains away from your eyes, the bloody ceaseless noises suddenly start to get on your nerves and you want to rip out its tapes and dent its microchips with a lead pipe, or ‘accidentally’ spill some Ribena on it.  
230 miles there and 230 miles back again, the trip to Workington is the season’s longest game of ‘Are we there yet?‘ It makes Palin’s Pole to Pole look like he just popped out to the corner shop for a paper. Thankfully it’s usually worth it when we go up there and Saturday was no exception. 
Jambo had spent the week on tour with the cricket club and needed a detox, so I was adopted by his family for the day and took his place in the car next to a mountain of chocolate, crisps and Tuborg. He assured me on the phone that three matches of cricket had been played when drinking wasn’t taking place but wouldn’t let on how many runs had been scored. Probably three fuzzy ducks. 
My view that it didn’t somehow seem right to miss the opening game of the campaign was shared by about a hundred other travelling Pilgrims but the rusty structures and steep, open-air terraces of Borough Park whipped by the bracing Irish Sea winds, weren’t really conducive to a rocking atmosphere and we were all quite subdued. It was good to see that the pitch had been replaced and looked bowling green smooth, a real contrast to my last visit in February when it genuinely looked as if the tide had just gone out. It was also great to see all the bridges rebuilt after the terrible floods a couple of years back and the local community getting back on its feet. 
Mikel Suarez started the game but had clearly picked up a knock in the warm-up (or his long legs had seized up on the epic journey) and was quickly replaced by Julian Joachim. Nobody expected a repeat of the eight-goal thriller from last season, when Boston surged back from 3-2 down to win in the last ten minutes, and Workington is the kind of game where you stick a target man up top, get your boot underneath the ball and hope you’re not hacked to bits. Therefore, losing Suarez wasn’t ideal and we essentially admitted this wasn’t the time or place for pretty, passing football when Jockey was shifted out wide and Newsham installed as the human leaping salmon. 
This didn’t mean the veteran Joachim was ineffective and he won us a penalty just before half-time when Kyle May handled. Nobody in the Boston support saw the incident clearly but the linesman was convinced and flung his flag across his chest. Kevin Holsgrove stroked home a confident penalty. 
Justice was served in the eyes of the home fans when Holsgrove felled Lee Andrews with about 20 minutes left. Another penalty, and Gareth Arnison fired past Paul Bastock to equalise. The troubles continued when Joachim limped off three minutes later, leaving Newsham as our only fully fit striker. The gaffer stuck Tom Ward, the centre half, up front by virtue that he was the tallest of the substitutes and he ruffled the home defence sufficiently to allow Holsgrove time and space to jinx in from the right and unleash a shot in stoppage time. I’m not sure whom it deflected off, or what part of the body it hit, but from shivering at the top of the terrace, the next moment I was climbing on the advertising hoardings in mental celebration. Workington had been mugged once again. 

Such was the surge of euphoria, I could have walked home. What a start to the season!
Next Match: At home to Histon on Tuesday night 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Boston United 3 Lincoln City 4

It’s fair comment to say we don’t like Lincoln City. When the teams met regularly during our time in the Football League, I don’t recall the rivalry being that fierce. We competed at opposite ends of the table, with Lincoln reaching the play-offs on a number of occasions under the stewardship of the late Keith Alexander but never quite achieving promotion and Boston content to avoid relegation. 
But over this last season or two, when Boston have been successful in righting the wrongs of the previous owners, they’ve come on to the radar as rivals again, a situation helped by their relegation from League Two last season. The collapse was quite spectacular and culminated in an abysmal final day 3-0 defeat to Aldershot that, coupled with Barnet’s 1-0 win over Port Vale, sent them into the Conference for the first time since 1988. I was outside the ground with JB at the final whistle to enact what had become a familiar terrace ditty on our away jaunts - we went to Sincil Bank to laugh at Lincoln. 
Saturday was the first round of fixtures in the Football League and the fact they weren’t in competitive action must have grated in the minds of the travelling Lincoln fans. As would the prospect of an opening day trip to Southport next weekend - what a comedown and a reality check. Still, on this evidence, they look a decent bet to be challenging at the top of the table. Don’t be fooled by the narrow scoreline, Lincoln were the better side by a fair distance and the seven goals the result of some ponderous defending on account of both sides which needs to be erased pretty quickly. 
A number of the Lincoln support took the resumption of county hostilities a little too literally. The remnants of the Lincoln Transit Elite - active in the heyday of football hooliganism - decided to have a little day out. After creating trouble in Wetherspoons, they tried to mingle with the Boston fans. Trouble is, we’re such a tightly knit group of supporters and we all recognise each other’s faces that newcomers, particularly pig ugly, forty-something, tattooed thugs intoxicated and barely able to stand straight, are identified and reported to the police pretty quickly. What an embarrassment to their club. Just accept those days are gone and try and get yourself off benefits.  
Watching these animals being herded about by the local police and stewards detracted from an entertaining opening to the match and I missed Lincoln’s opening two goals by keeping a watchful eye on events at the front of the Town End. Mikel Suarez rattled the crossbar early on, but The Gimps took control after John Nutter’s quickly-taken free-kick (that’s the description from the official website, I didn’t it as I say). 
Gavin McCallum doubled the lead, firing past an exposed Paul Bastock, who was understandably livid with his defence for conceding such a straightforward goal. This became a common theme and I doubt Bazza’s blood pressure was helped any by the two goals we let in during the second-half. There was a reprieve when, in their brightest spell just before the break, Ben Milnes followed up on the rebound after Marc Newsham’s penalty was saved by Doug Lindberg. Thankfully I managed to see that goal!
The crowd trouble sapped all atmosphere during the second-half and if the LTE had sobered up enough they would have seen the restoration of the two-goal cushion through Alan Power. This third goal was the most frustrating, coming literally seconds after Kevin Holsgrove was denied in a one-on-one at the other end which would have squared the game. 
Suarez pulled one back and the home crowd’s interest briefly lifted again, but awful defending allowed Brad Barraclough the opportunity to make it 4-2. Bazza booted the sponsor board in sheer frustration - this is an issue which needs addressing before we start the campaign proper next weekend at Workington. Newsham pulled one back in stoppage time to make the scoreline more respectable but the bragging rights went to Lincoln this time. 
Next Match: Hoping to make the epic trip to Workington for the first league match next Saturday, but otherwise the first home against Histon the Tuesday after.         

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Gainsborough Trinity 1 Boston United 2

The Adventures in the Lincolnshire Tinpot Shield series, aired every summer in two feature-length episodes with a special in March or April, continued on Tuesday evening with a visit to Gainsborough. This was my third visit to the Northolme inside 12 months and the place doesn’t get any prettier, despite the club becoming the nouveau riche of the Blue Square Bet Conference North (never thought I’d write that sentence).
Trinity’s thousands, combined with the irresistible appeal of working under a football genius of the calibre of Brian Little, had already enticed Jamie Yates to swap York Street for the lawless Lincolnshire frontierlands, joining a cache of former Pilgrims, including the exotic Dominic Roma, Major League Soccerball try-out Shane Clarke and handball enthusiast Rory Coleman. Rumour has it that Yates is now on £500 a week, which beats change for his bus fare, a ham cob from Tiffin’s and a sack of spuds each Friday. 
Unfortunately, this new injection of cash - which is believed to either come from Hong Kong, Aruba or the Worksop area - has rather gone to Trinity heads. One fan - I was unable to ascertain if he was a member of those 26 (that’s twenty-six) hardy and courageous individuals (sarcasm) who braved the fifty mile journey cross-county to York Street on Boxing Day 2007 for the biggest match of their season - paraded a replica shirt with ‘I 8 Boston‘ emblazoned across the back as though genuinely believing his club had achieved the big time. 
The ‘noisy neighbour‘ impression was confirmed when the sides walked out to a limp version of Blue Moon, to howls of derisive laughter from the travelling support. I understand plans are afoot to rename the Northolme after a Middle Eastern airline, the strip will be toned down to a lighter blue and a pre-season tour is being planned for this time next year to crack the American market. 
Only time will tell if forward Darryn Stamp, an acquisition from Guiseley, throws his toys out the pram and does a Balotelli by slagging off Gainsborough’s restaurants, climate and nightlife before demanding a return to Leeds. 
As forecast in the previous blog, I was staying with Mr Broughton in Lincoln again (degree result still pending, library fine still gaining interest, previous purchase of lager left accidentally in freezer with inevitable, explosive consequences - beer-battered chips, anyone?) On one of those sultry evenings where shirt clings sweatily to skin, we set off to Gainsborough in the blue Corsa, which continues its remarkable metamorphosis from car to all-purpose skip. I’m told that at one point, floor mats were visible. Even the back seats had been removed, replaced by an anonymous mass of furniture, clothing and crisp packets. If you’re a hitchhiker and see us approaching, don’t even bother. 
It was United who were sweating early on as Trinity piled on the pressure. Ryan Kendall tested Paul Bastock’s cat-like reflexes, and Yates struck the post with a long-range dipper. One of the home supporters turned and asked us how long Bazza, 41, had been playing for Boston, as though time, in fact, had not advanced since he last appeared at the Northolme in the 1997-1998 season. We replied that for all his feline abilities, he was most certainly on his ninth life. 
Coincidentally, that season was the last time United lost on this ground, but their performance early on suggested tonight could be Gainsborough’s night at long last. It was no surprise when Stamp headed a corner from Yates past Bazza for the opening goal. The home fans grew dangerously excitable, as though the great drought could be ended, and one chose to assault everyone’s senses with an air raid siren. Maybe it was an ironic comment on Boston’s aerial bombardment style, which looked so primitive against the tica-taca revolution of finesse football orchestrated by emeritus professor of the game Brian Little and his lavishly salaried players. Maybe the Luftwaffe were having a reunion. Or perhaps he was just a twat. 
Anyway, the celebrations didn’t last long as Kevin Holsgrove, signed to replace Yates, equalised with a crisp low drive just inside the post ten minutes later. After that, United were more in control and, with just under 20 minutes remaining, Mikel Suarez, winning literally his only header of the evening, scored the winner from a peachy Ryan Semple cross. The Transit Van song was given its first of hopefully many airing this season, to the usual bemusement. I was happy to see Mikel compensate me for knocking my phone on the floor and creasing my teamsheet with an errant shot during the warm-up.      
Another good evening watching Lincolnshire’s second cup competition. Stamford or Grantham Town await us in the final, which will be played on some inconvenient date later in the season. We even had the fortune of passing ‘I 8 Boston’ in the car on the way out. A salute was raised. And it wasn’t the one used by the Air Force. Noisy Neighbours indeed. 
Next Match: Lincoln City are welcomed to York Street with the customary grace and courtesy in our final pre-season fixture on Saturday, with absolutely no mention that they are now non-league...