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.