I’d said to myself that, sometime between now and Christmas, I’d return home to the Shire. As fabulous as living in London is, us countrified types can only survive if we occasionally breathe fresh, unpolluted air and slow down the pulse of life to an agricultural crawl.
For probably the first time ever, the fixture list did me a favour. This Lincolnshire “Derby” between the Yellowbelly fen boys of Boston and the frontierland pikeys of Gainsborough should have been played on Tuesday evening, but was switched back 72 hours because a side some 250 miles away (Gloucester City) were playing an FA Cup tie and so, for the lack of having two teams of equal ability, were unable to play us.
And so on Friday evening, I found myself shivering in the icy microclimate and pitch darkness of Grantham station, before boarding a Skegness-bound train. The destination should tell you everything you need to know about the clientele - brat-like and rat-like children, bellowing out with every cubic milliletre of lung capacity, stomped up and down the aisle as their Jeremy Kyle-veteran mother sat apparently oblivious to their destructive wake. One thing didn’t add up though - who the hell goes on holiday to Skegness in November? Inevitably, they got off at Boston. Welcome back.
This was my first match at York Street since the 2-0 win against Gloucester in February, shortly before I was packed off to Glasgow, and I was convinced I’d picked a corker. The entirety of Lincolnshire football is in decline at the moment and it says something of our fall that where once the eagerly-anticipated local grudge match was with Lincoln, Scunthorpe and Grimsby, it is now most definitely with Trinity.
They are, in the words of Gaffer Lee, the “Noisy Neighbours”. A side who, for the best part of their existence, have been completely and utterly inept and unworthy of reference or mention. Until last season, when thanks to the big bucks of businessman Peter Swann, they signed a number of very good players and soared up the table, leaving us fading into a dot in their rear-view mirror. There was even talk of a new ground, of a legacy and, when they reached the play-offs, a £250,000 place in the Conference Premier.
They did become a little “noisier” - insufferably so. This club, that once brought a pathetic 26 fans to York Street on Boxing Day, now had people crawling out of the woodwork to support them. They even ran out for home games with “Blue Moon” blaring from the tannoy.
Alas, they failed in the play-off final and in August it was announced that Swanny’s pounds would be no more. He’d essentially bankrolled one season, one shot at getting promoted for the first time since the days of black and white television and they’d fluffed it.
Nonetheless, before their wealth and after it, Trinity had an annoying little habit of winning at York Street. Even on that infamous day, the 26 went home celebrating a 1-0 win. And they had been insufferable after the 2-1 win late last season that propelled them closer to the top five.
So bolstered by an outstanding midweek win at Stalybridge but all-too-aware of our inconsistencies, I got on the lagers in the Sports Bar. It was great to catch up with all the regulars and there was a wonderful moment of quiet sniggering when the Trinity bus load toddled in looking like a nursing home day trip waylaid on their way to Skeggie.
In all, there were 130 of them which, to be fair, is a vast improvement on 26. Did they make any contribution to the atmosphere? No, of course not. Was there an atmosphere? Yes, in the Town End, and given the lads’ performance, it was f**king rocking.
United had to cope without Ben Fairclough and Spencer Weir-Daley, both suspended in light of the FA Cup fiasco, and so Conor Marshall played out of position on the right-wing. Crucially, all the lads were bang up for it and with our first meaningful attack, the opening goal. Mark Jones, back from injury, was hacked and, from 20 yards, Ian Ross (olé, olé, Ian Ross, Ross, Ross) curled home a magnificent free-kick to our general delight.
Trinity hadn’t been in the game - and, in fact, Jones would have doubled the lead but for his shot hitting the leg of goalkeeper Jan Budtz - but they equalised just before half-time. Given the number of ex-Pilgrims in their squad - notably Jamie Yates, who got both sweary barrels from the Town End during his mainly ineffective 72 minutes - it was somewhat inevitable that two would combine. Yates crossed and Shane Clarke headed home.
Unbowed, United pressed hard in the second period. With Tom Ward (Wardy, Wardy, Wardy, Wardy, Wardy - it’s not an original chant) and our favourite battered and bloody albino Nathan Stainsfield (milky, milky bar) resolute at the back, United forayed forward. And on 69 minutes, Jones was clearly fouled by Luke Waterfall, allowing the reliable Marc Newsham (the Newsh is on fire!) to convert a penalty for 2-1.
|Great commitment from Milky Bar (Craig Singleton)|
With the Town End in full voice, a late Trinity barrage brought brief anxiety but this always looked like being our day and a first home win over Gainsborough since 1998 - and local bragging rights - were ours.
Outside, we mocked them with the “Money, money, money” song for the 57th time while the best offered in return was something about keeping the British pound. Christ, and they say we’re inbred.
Next Match: Back to London today, so may take a look at Charlton v Cardiff on Tuesday night.