Monday, 10 September 2012

Colwyn Bay 0 Boston United 2

It’s some 242 miles from the West End of London to the faded and largely forsaken North Wales ‘Riviera’ town of Colwyn Bay. The return journey seems a hell of a lot further if you lose. 

And so it was with great dalliance that I persuaded myself it would be a worthwhile investment of my time, energy, money, Young Person’s Railcard and lone day off to make a second visit to Colwyn this year. 

My nights were punctuated by nightmarish flashbacks to that Arctic-cold night in February when we trekked cross-country by minibus, only to come away with nothing thanks to that devastating last-minute goal. I would wake up in a cold sweat at the memory of climbing into bed shaking with the cold at four in the morning after the never-ending trip back. 

Now things seemed to be recurring. The midweek defeat at Oxford City - which I’d let slide through, I’m ashamed to admit, a burdensome feeling of apathy - was our fourth in succession and how the opening day celebrations at Droylsden seemed a distant memory. 

But things could only get better and, conjuring the same emotions as when I stepped on the BUSA bus back in February, I surrendered my rail fare and caught the 10.10 express to Chester, then a connection on to North Wales.

At least this time there would not be the pitch darkness and icy scenery of our last visit, offering the chance to wonder around and see what was left of this once proud and bustling seaside retreat colonised by the Victorians at the Coming of the Railways. 

The line skirts the Irish Sea coast, passing through Flint, Prestatyn and Rhyl before sweeping through Colwyn and onwards to Anglesey. Its sandbanks exposed in the low tide, the sea had an ethereal estuary quality and was shrouded in grey haze. 

The first sight to greet me on Welsh soil were two drunks arguing on a bench. With time to spare and no great desire to join them, I strolled down to the Promenade, where the derelict Victoria Pier, opened in 1900, stands as a sombre monument to days when the place teemed with life and laughter. 

But doubling back to make my way along the sea front to the ground, I came across only ice cream stalls at summer’s end, a few picnic benches and a ring of steel around the construction site that will give rise to a new watersports hub. There were a few jet skis tearing across the Bay - at least the place is trying to re-invent itself.

Llanellian Road had undergone a makeover too - what was a chilly, exposed terrace earlier in the year is now a smart, seated main stand. The whole place had clearly been given a lick of paint and a spruce up over the summer and it looked good in the brilliant sunshine which suddenly greeted me on the higher ground above the town. 

Remarkably, Colwyn had an identical record to us  - two opening wins, then four losses - and so something had to give. Nonetheless, the nervous pre-match chatter among the 80 or so travelling fans was about Jason Lee’s fate should we once again leave this ground pointless. 

But there was no need to worry. We were trooping round the side of the pitch to the far end when, after a mere 11 seconds, Ian Ross chipped the ball forward and Marc Newsham nodded into the path of Spencer Weir-Daley to gallop clear. 

His composed lob as goalkeeper Chris Sanna advanced was a delight and seeing the players running our way to celebrate, I put on a Usain Bolt-esque burst - satchel swinging inelegantly behind me - to reach over the barrier and get a nice hi-five from SWD. 

After such a dream start, United dominated the first-half, their cause helped when Frank Sinclair picked up a second booking after only 22 minutes. If some players are old, then Sinclair must be neolithic and he showed his age by taking about five minutes to walk back to the changing rooms. It was all going our way. 

Bay tried to push forward but found United’s defence as unforgiving as the Pass at Thermopylae. Tom Ward and Nathan Stainsfield at centre-half didn’t put a foot out of place or shirk an aerial challenge all afternoon, often reading the danger before the Welsh side even realised what they’d done was dangerous. 

United also looked far more stable for the return of captain Gareth Jellyman and for adopting a mixed approach to going forward. While so many frustrating games of the past have seen either infernal long balls or constant passing around the midfield without any penetration, there was a nice mixture here and the home defence had problems pre-empting it. 

There had been plenty of agricultural tackles - and plenty of whining noises from the predominantly Scouse home support (where have the boyos gone?) - and times when the referee looked a bit out of his depth. But one call he did get right delivered United’s second. 

By this point the better team by some distance, Ward, up for a corner, was fouled by Michael Thomas and Newsham settled the game from 12 yards. 

United coasted home, while the fans lapped up the comfortable win in the sunshine. This was ample compensation for February and I even provided a further stimulus to the local economy by buying some fish and chips on the walk back. 

I ate them on the same bench the drunks had been on earlier. To be fair, they weren’t very nice but absolutely nothing was going to ruin an invigorating trip to the seaside for Boston United.

Next Match: England v Ukraine on Tuesday night at Wembley.