Two empty Saturdays, interminable ice and snow, and the gloomy home atmosphere left behind by a family bereavement left me ravenous for some football this weekend, if only to get some fresh air for a couple of hours.
The usual source failed me - United weren’t in action for reasons which baffled everyone from the faithful to the press pack to the club hierarchy. As I’d pointed out in my pulped programme column for last Saturday’s postponed fixture with Worcester City, the beautiful neat blocks of Conference North fixtures calculated at the season’s start had long since been torn to shreds by postponements and the stupid rule that says County Cup games take precedence over league ones.
So why an arrangement with Hyde FC, the only other side not in action on this afternoon, could not have been made to bring forward April’s trip to Ewen Fields and give me a nice day out in Manchester, i’m not sure but since I don’t possess the mental capacity to understand the Conference’s rules and regulations I won’t moan on any more.
Luckily, there was Saturday afternoon football at York Street and I was spared another round of watching final score while listening to funeral arrangements. I do religiously read the reserves’ match reports and previews on the official website, but have never been down to watch them. Typically because they play at home when the first team are away. But since their re-inception, the team, under the firm hand of coach Glen Maddison, swept to Lincolnshire League success last season at the first attempt and are still in with a sniff this year, sitting fifth with a number of games in hand.
In bright late winter sunshine, it was a very pleasant afternoon after a slightly uncertain start. You see, when I took up my seat with 70 others in the Fantasy Island Stand (that’s a theme park near Skegness, not some kind of seedy brothel archipelago) I noticed there was only one team warming up. There was a load of sports bags dumped at one end of the Spayne Road terrace in a scene reminiscent of the many university sports fixtures I covered in a previous life, but no people with them.
Worryingly, Boston then also disappeared into the tunnel, leaving myself, Duncan Browne from the Standard and Mark Whiley from the Lincolnshire Echo (us press types have to sit together, mainly for safety in numbers and to share crude jokes) scratching our heads wondering what the hell was going on. Eventually, about 20 minutes late, the blue-shirted Grimsby Borough side emerged, followed closely by United, and battle was belatedly joined.
In the absence of a teamsheet or programme (only so many columns I can bash out each week...) I had to identify the players through those who had made first team debuts and those I’d heard snippets about on the grapevine.
There was my old neighbour and school chum Liam ‘Oggy’ Ogden on the right flank creating a nuisance for the visiting defenders, another old school mate Ricky Drury in the Boston net, Stuart Whitaker, who is Maureen’s son, and Lewis Sturman, who is wanted by Premier League Norwich City if recent press reports are to be believed. The rest were anonymous to my eyes, though I’m sure they’re all terrific lads.
The first half seemed to go on forever, with United making all the running against a team just one place above them in the standings. Most of the enterprise came down the right, but forward Tom Sergeant was denied by a steadfast Grimsby rearguard, and Oggy, when he took it upon himself to drive into the box, was thwarted by the keepers’ legs.
There had been plenty of meaty challenges on a boggy pitch, but things became really fractious after the break. Against the general theme of play, Grimsby took the lead - number ten Daniel Beecham struck speculatively from 30 yards, his effort swerving in the air and Drury couldn’t get enough behind it to keep it out.
Then Tony Edwards was charged by the Grimsby number four in the penalty area. The referee, who possessed a phenomenal broad Lincolnshire accent, decided to dismiss number four but, instead of doing the logical thing and awarding a penalty, gave a throw-in on half-way! Number four, who looked a bit of a dick in his lime green boots, called the Boston fans a “bunch of fuckwits” before he trooped off. How rude.
Ten minutes later, he re-emerged from the dressing room in his normal clothes and, after walking all the way round to the dug-outs to sit down, was told by the ‘local‘ ref to go and sit in the stand with the people he had called fuckwits. A glorious moment.
United had 25 minutes to turn it around but couldn’t do it. They continued to pour forward - wave after wave - but every time there was a cut-back or decent cross, the ball would bobble or hold up, allowing the opposition to whack it away. It just wasn’t United’s afternoon, but it was great to see that the kids are alright.
Next Match: Potentially Boston United’s home fixture with Gloucester City next Saturday, otherwise it’ll most likely be a Scottish fixture in the near future!