Sunday, 24 March 2013

Boston United 0 Bradford Park Avenue 4

I’ve been to a lot of football matches in my time, and I’ve been quite cold at a fair number of them. But I don’t think I’ve ever been THIS cold at a football match before.

With ten minutes to play and blankets of snow blowing into my long-since-numbed face, huddling together for warmth with those remaining hardy folk on the Town End, I would have happily given Bradford Park Avenue as many goals as they desired if I could only go and get in the warmth a little quicker. 

Annoyingly, they took the goals anyway and still left us all shivering. 

Britain’s perma-winter shows no sign of thawing yet and my 24th birthday weekend - a weekend on which we’ve held BBQs in previous years - brought gale-force easterlies, drifting snow and Siberian temperatures. 

Fortunately, no aspect of my plans for a weekend at home was ruined by the elements - south Lincolnshire was spared the full force of the ghastly weather that had blocked roads, rails and knocked out power elsewhere - but at five to five, I was kind of wishing the match hadn’t happened.

Four-nil flattered the Yorkshire side immensely but the history books don’t contain that footnote. The truth of the matter is that Boston didn’t have the stomach for a physical match in these testing conditions and their lack of fight was exposed. 

I don’t blame the players - if I was sat in a dressing room in my shorts and staring out the window at a blizzard knowing I had to go out and run around in it for the afternoon, I wouldn’t fancy it either. 

It was a piss-steamer of a day and worse. Unprotected by my smart but inappropriate footwear, my toe tips lost contact with the rest of my body about 15 minutes in, and after making the mistake of buying a curry and chips at half-time, and taking my gloves off to eat it, communication with them was lost too. 

When I walked out of the bar and realised just how cold it was, I popped into the club shop and bought a woolly hat. It was the best £6.95 I could have spent. Also, it has a very prominent Boston United crest which will confuse Londoners immensely.

Anyway, on to the game and it’s fair to say the result has ended Dennis Greene’s honeymoon. Old weaknesses were exposed, especially at the back. The two unused substitutes were Nathan Stainsfield and Tom Ward, two of the men you would definitely suggest would be up for a scrap like this. 

After I’d gone to great trouble to praise his recent performances in my programme column, Dan Haystead looked shaky again. 

Park Avenue, who always seem to win at York Street anyway, knew they were stronger physically and proceeded to bully our players by leaving the foot in on every tackle. I lost count of the number of minutes wasted by our players rolling around in the deepening snow. 

The visitors, cheered on by 25 travelling fans who’d doubtless had quite a treacherous journey, took the lead on 27 minutes when Haystead misread a cross in the swirling wind and Jordan Deacey teed up Alex Davidson for the first of a hat-trick. 

Davidson then missed a great chance to double the lead. He lived on the edge throughout, sometimes beating the offside trap, often not. He did on this occasion but then missed the one-on-one opportunity. 

United hit back when Ben Fairclough, our best player, struck the crossbar from 20 yards with portly Bradford goalkeeper John Lamb nowhere near it. 

But after the break there was nothing at all from the Pilgrims and the game was there on a plate for Park Avenue. Davidson scored their second in controversial circumstances, with United believing Ben Milnes had been fouled in the build-up.

Davidson didn’t do his popularity any favours by celebrating right in front of the Town End. “Number seven , you’re a c***”, came the response. 

C*** or not, he was clinical and curled his third past Haystead on 81 minutes. That was the cue for half of the 851 crowd (I’m sure it would have been the four figures David Newton asked for, but for the weather) to walk out but those who remained saw Davidson quarrel with Richard Marshall to take the penalty awarded two minutes later. 

Marshall won the argument and fired right down the middle to give the scoreline an even more lopsided complexion. I wasn’t too bothered, just glad to restore the feeling in my fingers and toes...

Next Match: A look at England’s Under 21s when they play Austria at Brighton on Monday evening.