Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Bishop's Stortford 1 Boston United 0

I don’t want to get anybody into trouble over this one, so I’d just like to thank my legendary but nameless editor for letting me miss an afternoon of work for this fixture. This is a man who clearly understands what it is to be a dedicated football fan, however tinpot my team and how madcap my support must appear in his eyes. 

And so, dressed in my best work suit, pressed white shirt, tie and exceedingly smart and exceedingly inappropriate shoes, I found myself embarking on a bezerk 90 minute dash from Kensington in West London to the well known “northern” town of Bishop’s Stortford in, erm, Hertfordshire. 

I say “northern” with the inverted commas because this was, after all, a Conference North fixture being played quite clearly in a southern town. It may have been a Bank Holiday, but there was still a steady flow of planes taking off from the adjacent London Stansted airport, which is by anyone’s estimation a southern airport, and the place is barely north of Watford on the traditional geographical yardstick. 

In fact, we were so close to the border with Essex that I was wary of being savagely mauled by the famous, but ultimately non-existent, Essex Lion which was on the front of my copy of the Daily Mail that day. It was a delightful Bank Holiday prank which set Twitter alight as basically a chance to take the piss out of TOWIE and the orange-tinged county as a whole. 

It did however, make for some brilliant newspaper copy, including witness Rob Hull, barman at the Tudor Bar Social Club in St Osyth near Clacton, who described the mythical beast as “ambling laconically along by the lake in the field, like it didn’t have a care in the world” - thus becoming the first man in recorded history to describe anything as “ambling laconically.”

Che Kevlin, 40, who lived near the scene of the apparent “drama” (whatever that may entail) said: “I was sitting with my wife in the front room playing backgammon at around 10pm when I heard a very loud roar.” Thus becoming the first person in the recorded history of Essex to claim to have been playing backgammon. I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t wait for the next series of TOWIE when the cast all sit around playing backgammon. 

Anyway I digress. To return to a Boston United topic, I heard that Paul Gascoigne was heading down to Essex with a four-pack of Stella, a fishing rod and some fried wildebeest... 

Unsurprisingly, I had to explain to numerous regulars why I was wearing a suit. Presumably they either thought I’d been fast-tracked on to the board of directors or I’d cracked under the pressure of living and working in “that there London” and should be carried home to the Shire lying on some hay bales behind Farmer Giles’s tractor. 

Anyway, to the game and the performance which was, in the words of one, “fucking garbage”. And lest the entire squad didn’t hear his outspoken verdict the first time, he waited until they came a little closer and then shouted it again - “fucking garbage.” 

I couldn’t really take issue with him. After two opening games, two wins and seven unanswered goals, United’s season seems to have dropped off like a gull flying out to sea to die. If Saturday’s home loss to perennial cannon fodder Hinckley wasn’t bad enough - and eerily similar to the 2-1 home defeat to Vauxhall Motors on the same weekend last year - this was a whole new low. 

United tried to play nice football and there were great and admirable signs that the team wants to stroke the ball around, build patiently and play an attractive, flowing game. Unfortunately, after all this, we didn’t muster a single shot on target. 

The home goalkeeper Luke Chambers, who was the target of much abuse from the travelling support because he had a Justin Bieber fringe (and fashions in southern Lincolnshire are arguably stuck in 1977), might have spent his Bank Holiday Monday watching all the James Bond films back-to-back he was so redundant (mandatory Partridge reference there).    

Afolabi Obafemi scored the decisive goal after nine minutes and thereafter Bishop’s Stortford stifled Boston with some pretty soporific football. Their centre-half pairing were ruthlessly efficient in getting the ball clear and nobody took any nonsense, leading to some wild clearances and meaty challenges. 

Boston simply could not break them down, the only real chance arriving from a corner. Marc Newsham, who seems to have been downgraded from “on fire” to “tepid”, peeled away to the near post and was unmarked, only to allow the inswinging ball to smack him right in the face. 

The away following of a hundred or more had very little to sing about and so didn’t really bother. There was certainly no repeat of the mental on-the-pitch celebrations of Newsham’s 97th minute winner last season. What’s more, I came suited and booted and didn’t get as much as a fucking prawn sandwich...

Next Match: London-based game this Saturday

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Barnet 1 York City 3

In the same way it’s difficult to find anyone willing to bad mouth lazy summer afternoons, cute kittens and Sir Elton John, it’s rare to find any dissenting voices about the City of York. 

Everyone who visits there comes away saying how beautiful and historic it is, talking about how nice the Minster looked against the glow of the sunset, how quaint it was to take afternoon tea in Betty’s and how invigorated they felt after strolling along the city walls. 

I’m no exception and in three years of university study there not one day passed when I didn’t think how fortunate I was to live in such a wonderful place. Doing a history degree made me appreciate the city even more because it just drips history at every step, turn and glance. 

I adopted many things in York and the football club was one of them. I watched them at every opportunity for all three of my years there and walking down to Bootham Crescent at half past two on a Saturday afternoon was a nice treat, if not just for the pre-match fish and chips in town or a cheeky ale afterwards. 

So, when the chance arose on Saturday to go and watch the Minstermen at Barnet, it was too much to refuse. 

That’s not to say my visits to York City weren’t without incident. I once had a run-in with the Jorvik Reds fan group after calling them a ‘firm’ in a match report for the student paper. 

An indignant comment was left saying that ‘firm’ had all kinds of negative connotations and that they’d prefer to be referred to as an ‘English Ultras group’ - something which made me laugh given that, on the continent, it’s never those in the posh seats who start the trouble.

I did some digging and went on their forum where, sure enough, my article had been linked to under the title ‘Student muppets’. In the thread, someone had threatened to ram a flare down my throat if they ever caught me on the David Longhurst terrace again - kind of very nicely proving my point. 

I went to many City games after that and, as Alan Partridge might say, had the last laugh. 

And then when Boston won 1-0 at York in the FA Trophy in December 2010, some of the locals didn’t take too kindly to me wearing my Amber and Black colours when drinking with some mates in the city centre afterwards. 

Apparently when the ITV Digital crisis was at its height a decade ago, and York were seemingly within hours of financial meltdown, some Boston fans thought it clever to wave paper money in their faces and mock their dire predicament. 

Given Boston are now in the Conference North following their own financial collapse and York, under the very able stewardship of Gary Mills, are now back in their rightful home of the Football League, we can equalise the last laugh count. 

Anyway, with all forgotten and forgiven I arrived at Underhill and located the away terrace down one side of the ground. To me, Underhill just conjures up images of Hobbits and their habitats and it’s certainly an old ground full of character, if sharing many similarities with Dagenham’s in being a little too high than its non-league station. 

It is a hotch-potch of terraces and stands, with a long open terrace behind one goal with nets to prevent the ball flying into people’s back gardens on the street behind. The pitch had a noticeable slope towards the newest of the stands - a smart all-seater - while the 496 away fans had a choice of standing or sitting in a very makeshift looking gazebo stand. 

Barnet, who seem to be perennial relegation candidates and yet always seem to survive (one time at the expense of Lincoln lest we forget), are bound for a new arena called The Hive next season, so I was actually quite pleased to visit Underhill while the opportunity allowed. 

The weather forecast looked capricious and I was dressed in my usual inappropriate t-shirt, jeans and smart but not especially waterproof footwear. York were attacking towards London in the first-half and commandingly so, allowing us plenty of chances to marvel at the humungous electrical storm brewing overhead. 

On the pitch, York were fast as lightning in their attacks and had the lead on seven minutes when Danny Parslow - one of the few surviving names from the teams I used to watch - drilled home from long range. There were great scenes of celebration around me, particularly since York were chasing their first victory since returning to League Two. 

On 16 minutes, Ashley Chambers exposed a poor Barnet backline to make it two and the afternoon couldn’t be going much better. Then, totally against the grain of the game, Jon Nurse pulled one back for the home side on the half-hour. 

Not to worry. Back came York to make it 3-1 on the brink of half-time through Michael Coulson and any resistance from the Bees was thereby exterminated. 

They may have had the slope in the second-half but quite absurd monsoon conditions made playing decent football almost impossible - how I pitied those on the open terrace behind the goal who had nowhere to go as the weather lashed relentlessly into their faces. 

Poor Nurse had to be stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask and neck brace, which led to nine minutes of stoppage time. With the thick black clouds starting to bubble and cracks of thunder getting nearer and nearer, I wisely decided to make a dash for the station after three of those. When I got there, the heavens opened again and I had missed nothing more in the game. 

I certainly hope to watch York again when they play in and around the Capital this season. 

Next Match: Possible midweek League Cup tie or otherwise something next weekend, when Boston are again at home

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Dagenham and Redbridge 0 Plymouth Argyle 0

The year is 2002, the month is March. Depressingly, Will Young is top of the charts with ‘Anything is Possible’ but the lovely Shakira is second with the catchy ‘Whenever, Wherever.’ At the cinema, we are about to have our IQ lowered by Ali G Indahouse and the headlines are dominated by the invasion of Afghanistan. 

Meanwhile, two teams are neck-and-neck in the race to claim the sole promotion place from the Conference to the Football League. They meet before the Sky TV cameras on a Monday night in East London. In a scrappy game, one side does just enough to claim a 1-0 win. The result is crucial, it puts them seven points clear in the table. Thinking it’s all done and dusted, the home side perform a lap of honour, celebrating as though it’s all over. It is a fatal mistake. 

The teams are, as i’m sure you worked just after the bit about Ali G, Dagenham and Redbridge and Boston United. The respective bosses are Garry Hill and S**ve E**ns. They absolutely hate each other, their war of words creating a thoroughly entertaining sub-plot to a championship battle as tight as Shakira’s backside. in the end, United were motivated by that lap of honour more than anything E**ns could ever say or bribe and they went on to win the title on the last day. 

So, fast forwarding to the present, and my first visit to Dagenham and (*takes deep breath*) The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Stadium is not one to be taken lightly. I’m pretty sure they still hate Boston for cheating to beat them into the league, even though both managers are long gone and the sides have now swapped places. 

A well-known Boston sports reporter described my visit there as the “ultimate sin” (move over, Eve) and many cautioned against a trip to the Eastern hinterlands of London on the ground that it was quite a long way for a Tuesday night and the Tube would be really, really busy. 

But at least I could visit with ‘Pilgrims’ solidarity, for Plymouth were appearing there and my online colleague Rob was going. And boy it was a long way, 27 stops on the rush hour district line from High Street Kensington to Dagenham East (could they sound any more different?) 

The ground sounds like one long Freedom of Information request (Rob’s observation) and is about as dull as one. It’s a bad sign when a club gives the best stand over to the away fans and the excellent 500-plus following from the Westcountry had a good stab at filling it. They were loud throughout despite having minimal hopes for the season.

The rest of the ground belongs in the non-league I’m afraid, as do their attendances and most of the football we saw. It was a much better goalless draw that many I’ve seen in the past, but only the home side actually looked like scoring. 

If it hadn’t been for a succession of great saves from Jake Cole and a big dollop of good fortune, Plymouth would have been dead and buried by half-time. The first of the saves, from Dwight Gayle’s top corner-bound shot, was the pick, while cross after cross flew across goal begging for a touch. 

Late in the half, Plymouth could have gained an unlikely lead when Conor Hourihane picked out Matt Lecointe, only for the England Under-18 international to drag his shot badly wide. 

The second-half was very poor, with chances at a premium. The Plymouth defence held firm, throwing bodies on the line to block the dangerous supply of crosses. In fact, the highlight, like Saturday at Droylsden, came from the PA announcer, who asked the crowd to stop using flash photography as it was ‘distracting’ the players. Tom Daley has set an annoying precedent here. 

The response from the away end was sparkling Westcountry wit: “We’ll flash when we want, we’ll flash when we want, we’re Plymouth Argyle, we’ll flash when we want.” Just wonderful. 

Drifting out into the East End night, a home fan had a pop at us for putting the players off with our incessant photography as though Dagenham might break out the tiki-taka as long as nobody knows about it. He was walking on a crutch so thankfully we could walk quicker than he could! 

And moments before, I glanced up as I walked out and couldn’t help but giggle - yes, Dagenham were doing a bloody lap of honour.

Next Match: Free-scoring Boston are at home again, so looking at Barnet v York City




Monday, 20 August 2012

Droylsden 0 Boston United 1

I should have felt like a small child who’s run downstairs on Christmas morning and spied a bicycle-shaped present next to the tree. I actually felt like Bradley Wiggins had untied the bow, attached one end to the rear bumper, the other to my neck and dragged me around all 3,000km of the Tour De France ringing the bell in my ear the entire way. 

Oh yes, the football season was definitely back. The ears had that kind of distant hum, the bleary eyes had restricted vision, the legs were full of lactic and the mouth a heady mixture of hops, barley and regret. There were drops of anonymous takeaway juice on my work shoes, my tie was draped over the windowsill and it was necessary to check seven times that my wallet was still there and in credit. 

There’s only one thing that can arose you from such a hellish hangover - the thought that at a nearby station, a seat on a train awaits. A train that will whisk you away to some destination, the match and your football team, your pride and joy and guilty passion. 

It is the greatest day of the year - you are once more the small child who realises that Santa has been - and the concourse at Euston was swarming with fans of a dozen or more clubs - a quite glorious sight. They were chugging off in infinite directions, to all corners of the nation, but on this glorious summer’s morning each and every one of them, regardless of their natural place on the glass half full scale, carried the same heady hopes and expectations. 

And as I sat there watching them, sipping Irn-Bru and swallowing Anadin, I felt no different. For we are greedy and this is to be OUR season, not theirs. This is to be our time, our unbeaten run, our silverware. At least I walked back across that concourse ten hours later feeling no different. 

There was a delicate balance with this opening afternoon visit to Droylsden - we rarely do well there and my last visit in 2010 ended in a miserable 4-0 defeat which dynamited a long-standing unbeaten run. But on the other hand, we have won each and every opening game since returning to the non-league in 2007. Swings and roundabouts. Thin margins. 

It was wonderful to be re-acquainted with familiar faces and United had travelled in fantastic numbers. There were amber and black shirts on all four sides of the ground and the locals were undoubtedly outnumbered in a crowd of 344. Droylsden strikes me as a friendly club, but the area is so saturated with clubs it must be tremendously difficult to drum up a following. 

Lawson Jr was also drumming and as we worked through our repertoire of songs for the first time this season, it didn’t take long for my vocal chords, already assaulted with lager and fags the night before, to pack up. Next year, I will put them through pre-season training to avoid such croaky embarrassment, perhaps in the shower or simply out the window. 

One man who wasn’t lacking in voice was the tannoy announcer. Droylsden didn’t print enough programmes (hence the lack of a scan) but they do have a good PA system and it was employed, with increasing impatience, to track down the owner of a blue Toyota Yaris blocking the exit. There must have been six or seven announcements through the game, each more desperate than the last, to get someone to shift it. 

In the end, we just sang: “We’re Boston United, we’ll park where we want” to great titters of laughter. 

On the field, United’s mixture of old and new were blending quite beautifully. Droylsden’s defence looked as vulnerable as a packet of Ryvita being tipped into an industrial cement mixer and their policy of passing the ball out of defence, something clearly instilled into them during the off-season, was folly. 

The winner came early and easy - Mark Jones, who will be henceforth known as Jonah the Whale (his nickname, I’m not saying he’s fat), slipped the ball into Marc Newsham who made no mistake in the one-on-one. Newsham is genuinely on fire, as the song suggests, and he now has six competitive goals this season. Admittedly five came in the John Deere Tractors Lincolnshire Tinpot Shield against Lincoln United, Stamford, the Dog and Duck and Old Linconians Veterans XI. 

There were a couple of tense moments as the half wore on when Droylsden cut loose. They may play at the Butcher’s Arms but their strikers had the cutting edge of a bendy straw and Dan Haystead was relatively untroubled in goal. Kern Miller, who was making his league debut at centre-half, was unflappable and will be henceforth called the Kern-el (Colonel).

United expertly ran down the clock in the corners, much to the anger of the home players who started going in with some meaty challenges. It’s obviously because the town’s long-anticipated tram link into central Manchester is still not complete. Obviously. 

We greeted the final whistle in exuberant fashion, launching into the standard rendition of ‘We’re singing in the sun,’ which had the new players watching on in utter bemusement as they warmed down. What an excellent start and perfect day out - the best hangover cure. 

Next Match: Watching the other Pilgrims, Plymouth Argyle, at Dagenham and Redbridge on Tuesday night.


Saturday, 11 August 2012

Chelmsford City 2 Boston United 0

Four-pager, 20p. Boston's
history weirdly stopped
in 1934!
DISCLAIMER: If you have stumbled on to this blog post because I’ve gone and written some kind of clever Twitter tag like ‘The Only Way is Essex’ please be incredibly disappointed to learn that it contains no reference to the popular county-specific television series. You will not find any advice on male chest waxing, my top ten vajazzle colour preferences, designer chihuahuas, fake tittery, fake tannery or how to look Reem when walking down Braintree High Street. It’s also likely that this blog will contain words and themes you won’t understand so please hit the ‘Back‘ button (the one at the top left of the screen) now. Or you could refresh Mail Online. This is about a football match played in Essex and not a lot else. LOLZ. 

After four random football matches this pre-season, it was time to actually check-in with my team and see whether the new campaign is likely to bring me sunshine or showers. You’re looking for that precious something to cling on to as you once again board the rollercoaster - the new winger with the electric turn of pace, the centre-half with the commanding leap or the forward with a knack of being in the right place at the right time. 

You look at the team before you, which is being pain-stakingly slotted together like a 2,000-piece jigsaw in time for the new season, and you sort, shuffle and sift the players. In your waters, you know who will work - and who won’t. 

We are just seven days away now from the opening day assignment at Droylsden and, I must say, on today’s form United look 90 per cent of the way there. Sure, they were beaten at Chelmsford City but there wasn’t a lot to lose sleep over. 

This was a starting XI shorn of five or six first-team regulars who should fill in what was missing and those who did play deserved one goal at least, if not a share of the negligible spoils on offer. 

If nothing else, we’re all feeling a damn sight better than this time last year when we were facing the start of the season with a front-line of Julian Joachim (old, slow, disinterested), Mickey Stones (young, terrible) and Gaffer Lee (old, slowing, balding, only showing occasional glimpses of once great talent) and a defence with an average age of 74. 

This time, we definitely have a lot more in Spencer Weir-Daley (whose football is often like his gangsta rap - sick), Marc Newsham (who is owning the Lincolnshire Senior Shield) and Mark Jones (the best thing to come out of Corby since Louise Mensch MP). With Dan Haystead returning to York Street for the 34th time and Nathan Stainsfield looking solid, the back end isn’t bad either. 

Sadly, I don’t think Korey Dyer-Stewart will be joining them. He is allegedly a relation of ex-pro Bruce Dyer but as he limped off in the second-half sadly bore more of a resemblance to Kieron Dyer. After a sub-par display, he is unlikely to be offered a shirt number. I’m also slightly uncomfortable about supporting someone whose name would be more at home in a magazine for American teenage girls. 

Talking of shirts, I was able to collect my new amber and black pride and joy at the match. Having not bothered for a couple of years, I decided to splash out after really liking the design. The stripes have returned, with a kind of amber sash on the shoulder/upper left pectoral/moob area featuring the club crest. It looks as smart as bumble bee chic can be. To make it all the more special, I decided to have a name on the back. 

This is fraught with difficulty. There is an inevitability that if you pick a player’s name and number - obviously we all have our faves, even though we support the team as a whole - that they will then be sold and you’ve fed forty notes into the drain as people snigger at you. 

So, the only safe bet is to get your own name on it. I therefore have a worryingly snug (I’ve been on the McDonalds shakes too much, clearly) replica shirt with ‘SHERGOLD 5‘ on the reverse.

Shergold I hope is self-explanatory. Five was the number I used to prefer during my glorious school playing career. An “uncompromising” and “tough-tackling” [sic] centre-half whose goal record for Boston Grammar School will forever be frozen in time on minus one. 

The own goal blunder came  sometime in 2006 when Ben Edwards, in goal, blasted a clearance against my exposed shinpads and then looked on in agony as the ball looped back clean over his head and into the goal from 25 yards. Oh how I wanted to score at the right end to put that blemish right. I announced my retirement shortly afterwards. Anyway, thanks to Craig and the club for getting the shirt sorted.

Chelmsford’s Melbourne Park ground was an athletics stadium and they are a big pet hate of mine along with people who write on their matchday programme, deliberate diving and tourists who walk slowly. Athletics metaphors abounded among the knot of hardcore fans from Lincolnshire but the view was fairly good. 

Scotty, Shaun and I was reprimanded by a steward for walking around the far end of the ground. “We’ll get in trouble with the council if you walk round there,” he said. I’m sure our indiscretion has been minuted for the next full council committee meeting already. They also have very nice burgers.

On the pitch, the first half was played beneath crystal clear blue skies and as boring as hell. Nothing really happened as both sides cancelled each other out. In the second, the Conference South side won it when  Anthony Cook thrashed in a half-volley from the edge of the box on the hour mark and Cliff Akurang rose unmarked to double the lead in the last ten. 

United had some chances and were denied a clear penalty for handball in the second-half. But there was enough on show for me to approach next Saturday’s tour to Tameside - and season 2012-2013 - with a decent slice of optimism. 

Next Match: Aiming for a midweek match in London now the Capital One League Milk Cup and the Conference Premier are underway.



Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Mexico 4 Senegal 2

Tournament Programme

Oh, Olympics of London how I love you. This wonderful carnival of sport, here in the greatest country in the world. This showcase of the best of sport, the best of Britain and the best of humanity. 

Something has changed about Britain in these past two weeks and perhaps something has also changed about London. The capital unmistakably has a softer, friendlier visage now the whole world is looking at it. People have a spring in their step and a smile on their face, however fleeting. 

Maybe it is the apparently endless stream of British success, maybe it is the popular patriotism and pride in waving the Union flag, maybe it is the effortless organisation of everything, maybe it is the relief than nothing has gone wrong to spoil the show - but the feel-good barometer of city and country is off the chart. 

The Olympic naysayers have gone into hiding. They moaned about the cost and the hassle and the traffic and the stress - and now they have beat a hasty retreat. Who now would try and claim the Olympics have not made life better these last two weeks? 

I won’t be able to select a favourite moment from the Games of the 30th Summer Olympiad - there are simply too many. I choked up when Sir Chris Hoy took his curtain call on the Olympic stage, a gold round his neck and tears flooding from his eyes. I was delirious when Jessica Ennis won the heptathlon, even though I had watched the climax on an iPhone screen in a Honda Logo in the drop off area outside Sheffield Station. 

I was at Headingley cricket ground watching the torrential rain pour down on the Test Match on Sunday when  Andy Murray won at Wimbledon. The throng gathered around a tiny television screen behind the snack bar bounced when he delivered the coup de grace - an ace - to win gold, strangers embraced and all burst into a spontaneous rendition of the national anthem. 

There are many more tales to tell, many more ‘where were you?’ moments - everyone will have them. 

But I have been in an office for the most part, watching hawk-like and writing articles for the Mail Online. It has been a pleasure to write the first draft of history during these Olympics and share my joy in experiencing it through my words and choice of pictures. Such has been the British success that the whooping and unprompted applause that accompany every medal have become beautifully regular occurrences in the office. Etiquette and professionalism can go out the window, people beam with delight. 

I spend anything up to 16 hours each day watching, thinking about, talking, reading and writing about the Olympics and yet, writing this on Day 12, I don’t feel any fatigue. I’ve also been to five Olympic events - all for pleasure I add, the media accreditation was sorted out long before I arrived in London - and feel so immensely satisfied that I have been and witnessed it live. 

The fifth and final of my events (so far) was this football quarter-final between Mexico and Senegal on Saturday. There’s nothing new for me about visiting Wembley Stadium, of course, but there was a pleasantly different feel for the Olympics. 

Gone was the usual inherent tension of going to watch England - the stress of supporting such an under-achieving team - to be replaced by an easy-going, friendly atmosphere. Fans of myriad clubs and countries - I must have spotted shirts and flags of three dozen football sides walking down Wembley Way - mingled happily and all enjoyed the occasion. 

I was an honorary member of Clan Searles for the day after my good mate James invited me along. And quite a clan it was - a collection of parents, aunties, uncles, cousins and siblings who had annexed off a entire row in the posh seats. They’re the ones who don’t come back after half-time. 

I think we’d all hoped that Great Britain would finish second in their group - i.e. do well but not too well - and we’d get to see them here, but as it transpired Mexico-Senegal was almost certainly a more entertaining game. 

Senegal were the more imposing team physically but handicapped themselves with shoddy defending, allowing Mexico, who could string plenty of passes together, to take control. They struck the crossbar through Marco Fabian on three minutes and had the lead on ten when Jorge Enriquez was right place, right time to head home a cross from Giovani dos Santos. 

Unusually for a knockout tie, this game was  delightfully open. Both sides pinged sixty yard passes with abandon and worked the flanks, raining in teasing crosses. There were chances aplenty but no further goals before my half-time £5 bottle of Coca-Cola (no Pepsi, it’s been outlawed).

When Mexico, who were cheered on by a fairly noisy contingent of sombrero wearers even in the prawn sandwich seats, doubled their advantage on 63 minutes through Javier Aquino, my mind was already on the train to Sheffield I had to catch at half six. 

But Senegal rallied superbly and dragged themselves level. The lively Konate headed his fifth goal of the tournament (who says nobody takes it seriously) before Ibrahima Balde levelled with 14 to play. 

I left during stoppage time, dashing to Wembley Central to get a train back into central London. It was a shame because extra time was probably every bit as entertaining. In the end, Mexico gathered themselves and won 4-2 to reach the last four, with goals from Dos Santos and Hector Herrera.

Sure, it wasn’t the greatest Olympic moment of all time, but this game will always be lodged somewhere in my memory amid these golden days. 

Next Match: My first Boston United fixture of the season will be this Saturday (work permitting), a pre-season friendly at Chelmsford