Ding dong merrily on high, a couple of days off over the Christmas period and a fleeting visit to The Shire. You know you’ve left your youth behind when the Boxing Day football takes on as much, if not greater, excitement than unwrapping your presents on Christmas morning, but that’s just how I felt this year.
It wasn’t even a proper festive derby, really. Just 50 miles separate Boston and Corby but there’s not really any discernible rivalry between the clubs, unlike if we were to play Lincoln or Gainsborough. For reasons unknown to everyone, Corby were selected as the festive fayre this year instead of Trinity and so we had to put up and shut up.
The game did come with some interesting sub-plots, however, to stir some intrigue among the 1100 odd who turned up, including about 30 from Northamptonshire, an effort just exceeding Trinity’s paltry Boxing Day benchmark of 26.
With the postponement of Saturday’s trip to Altrincham (see below), Graham Drury had to wait a little longer than anticipated to send out his first Boston team. It was Sod’s Law, then, that the opponents were Corby, his former club.
He wasn’t at all helped ahead of his debut game by the awful news that his right-hand man Paul Holden had suffered a heart attack on Christmas Day and was recovering in hospital. I hope the pressure of skippering the Good Ship Pilgrim isn’t getting to him already.
It was nice to get back to York Street for only the second time this season, and all the associated rituals of drinking pints in the Pilgrim Lounge, doing the rounds of familiar faces to wish them a Happy Christmas and then warming up the vocal chords by belting a few numbers from the top steps of the Town End.
Ryan Semple, now with Corby, was gone but certainly not forgotten and the wife shagging song was one of a number of retro chants unpacked for the occasion. The legendary Mikel Suarez chant got an airing as well, as did Away in a Manger on the one day of the season you can really use it.
It was a filthy day, with sideways, lashing rain and a carved-up pitch - clearly all those home matches before Christmas had taken their toll on the playing surface, which looked like a mud soup. Drury didn’t give a lot away, selecting the same kind of team that Jason Lee might have opted for, with newcomer from Ilkeston Jordan Smith starting on the bench.
What was noticeable was that Boston, despite the tricky conditions, had been told to pass the ball around and work opportunities. This pleased me and those in my vicinity and it was unsurprisingly (I’ve been saying we should play like this for a long time) effective as United dominated the first half.
Corby were penned back into their own defensive third for much of the first 45, with chances for Ben Milnes, Tom Ward and Ben Fairclough, who brought a good save out of Corby goalkeeper Paul Walker. It gave us plenty to cheer about, while not taking the piss out of Corby’s majority Scottish population as per usual.
We deserved the lead and, three minutes after a half-time break in which I’d devoured a most festive chicken curry and chips, Marc Newsham pounced on a spilt ball to tap us into the lead. Drury must have sprinted a good ten yards out of his technical area to celebrate on the pitch, the kind of enthusiasm we approve of.
It didn’t last - United were caught cold and, just three minutes later, Sam Ives send an innocuous low shot towards goal. But the ball bobbled around in the slippery goalmouth and squirmed under the body of Dan Haystead. The keeper received a bit of abuse from a number of people at the final whistle, something I don’t approve of and it’s not unreasonable to say that even a top class goalkeeper would have struggled to get down and keep it out.
In any case, Haystead redeemed himself later when Corby broke, Greg Kaziboni slid the ball across goal and Avelino Vieira was left to score into an unguarded net from about three yards. Miraculously, he tripped over in the quagmire and his tame effort was punched away by Haystead. A real Ronny Rosenthal moment which gave us all a good chuckle.
United sought to make the most of this let off and dominated the closing stages, with sub Smith impressively to the fore. Big and strong, he won most of his headers out on his right-wing station and looks like he has a bit of pace about him too.
In stoppage time, Spencer Weir-Daley, who impressively held long balls up again and again, came within inches of giving Drury the perfect start, cracking a long-range shot off the inside of the post. We all thought it was in and started celebrating, but Lady Luck, or Santa, wasn’t smiling on this occasion. Still, despite it only being a point, it was an encouraging performance.
Next Match: Back to work for the next seven days, so anyone’s guess!