Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Vauxhall Motors 4 Boston United 0

It takes a very special type of abysmal Boston United performance for me to stand there watching them and yet at once be a million miles away thinking about something - anything - else.

But this was the situation on Saturday, about half past three, when I stood ice veined on a terrace somewhere in deepest, murkiest Merseyside trying to desperately apply my mind to other things.

If I thought about other things, I had concluded, then maybe, just maybe, the nightmare unfolding before me on the pitch wasn’t actually happening. 

So I thought about what granny and grandad might like for Christmas, about whether Lionel Messi would break Gerd Muller’s goalscoring record, about the national economic strife, about finally getting round to learning Spanish. Hell, I even thought up some ideas for articles at work.

But a Nightmare before Christmas was unfolding before me and no about of daydreaming could change that. The quiet optimism felt on Thursday that a bright new era was getting underway had become shrouded by dark clouds bloody quickly. 

I suppose things will get worse before they get better, I conceded when Ashley Stott scored put Vauxhall Motors 4-0 up shortly after the half-hour mark. I suppose this new era might take a while to dawn. 

Also, in order to pick yourself up, you have to take a fall first. I’d assessed the second-half at Gloucester in midweek as one of the worst performances by any Boston team, but the first-half at Rivacre Park well and truly left that standing. 

Without meaning to be too melodramatic, this was really plumbing the depths. One to set alongside losing to Quorn three years ago, or the 5-0 thumping we took at Nantwich the year before that. 

The name Vauxhall Motors makes it sound all the worse too - to the uninitiated, it sounds as if you’ve lost to a group of Kwik-Fit mechanics when they are actually an established Conference North outfit. It’s not quite as bad, but not far off, as losing to a line of vegetarian meat substitutes. 

I’d left it late to book trains but in light of Thursday’s dramatic events, I travelled to Ellesmere Port with a moderate sense of anticipation. There had been no immediate replacement for Jason Lee and his assistant Graham Hyde took interim charge for the match. It wasn’t Hyde’s finest hour. 

A good few Pilgrims made the long journey in nippy temperatures. I went from Euston to Hooton via Chester and then made the frankly dangerous walk to the ground along country lanes and the slip road to the M53. I remembered the route from my last visit, for the dire goalless draw two years ago. 

In his requirements for Lee’s replacement, chairman David Newton wanted a good knowledge of the non-league. Some people at work had suggested I apply for the job. Well I can walk to most of the grounds in this league from memory without looking at a map, so, erm, that may come in handy!

It quickly became apparent this was going to be a complete disaster. News broke that Dan Haystead had injured himself warming up and Ricky Drury was brought in at short notice. I know Ricky from school and he’ll be the first to admit that his mind wasn’t on the game at all. 

United’s defence put up as much resistance as a group of Amazonian tribesmen with bows and arrows up against the Death Star. Motors scored two goals in the time it takes to put on a fuzzy wig and say “calm down, calm down.” 

Tom Rutter got them both - first ghosting through United’s paper-thin defence to finish from close range on 13 minutes and then taking advantage when Drury failed to grasp the ball from a cross. 

Quite frankly I wanted to stand there and cry. Any watery eyes at that moment were not just from the biting northerly wind whipping across the ground, which was slowly turning my fingers to icicles. 

On 24 minutes, another defensive malfunction and Danny Fearnehough made it 3-0 before Stott added the fourth ten minutes later, powering in off the underside of the crossbar. He was credited with the goal before Craig Mahon smashed in to make sure. 

I was in too much of a state of disbelief even to get annoyed. In these situations, you can only stand and laugh. Laugh at what’s happening to the team, laugh at the futility of it all, and laugh at yourself for being such a glutton for such brutal punishment. 

The second-half was a marked improvement, not only in that we kept a clean sheet but in the handful of chances created. Vauxhall did squander a penalty for the fifth when Louis Barnes struck the post with Drury nowhere near it. 

Marc Newsham had the best opening, slipping clear before seeing his attempted shot rebound off the body of home keeper Zac Jones. 

The one positive I saw was in Nathan Stainsfield - he made amends for the defence’s collective hesitancy early on by being a real leader in the second-half. He won every header and tackle, and was unremitting in bellowing out instructions to everyone else. At the end, he was first to applaud the travelling fans and he even apologised to us. 

Stainsfield is 24 now and will be club captain one day if he carries on like this. I never fail to be impressed by him. 

It was a long journey back sharing a carriage for three hours with Portsmouth’s 6.57 hardcore (they had played at Tranmere) and their Transport Police escort but they were as good as gold and funny company. The exploits described in the excellent and very entertaining book about them by Cass Pennant and Rob Silvester mean they come with a bad reputation and the cops wanted to kettle them off the train at Euston. 

As one of about four non-Pompey people in the carriage, I made a hasty exit when that suggestion crackled through on the police radio and ran headlong into Harry Redknapp and the QPR side recently arrived from Wigan on the next platform. There was a time when that encounter would have been interesting! 

Seeing them was about the only highlight of a dreadful day. The sooner we get a new boss in the better.

Next Match: Working every day until the Christmas break now so a midweeker in London looks the most likely now until the trip to Altrincham on the 22nd.