Monday, 11 March 2013

Brackley Town 0 Boston United 2

There is no such thing as a quiet week at Boston United Football Club. 

It’s a long-standing fact and one that isn’t always fair for everyone. On Monday evening, chairman David Newton took the swift and decisive action befitting a Roman Emperor watching a gladiator contest. It was the Caesarian thumbs down for the flagging Graham Drury, dragged out of the lion’s den and sent off into exile.

I was taken by surprise at the news, having been out that evening, but soon all hell was cutting loose on Facebook and Twitter. The consensus was that Mr Newton had made the correct decision. In fact, I didn’t see a single, daring voice of dissent in the chorus of relief. 

Like Jason Lee before him, I’m sure Drury had done his best. He was not helped by the heart attack suffered by his assistant over Christmas and he was not helped by the postponement of games at times when we might have gained a bit of momentum. 

But the cold hard facts of his regime were that he achieved just two victories in 13 attempts. When he took over we were hardly in rude health, but we were at least within touching distance of the play-off places. There was a slither of optimism that the end of the season might not be a total write-off. 

By the time Drury was relieved of his responsibilities, we were staring a relegation battle straight in its cold dark eyes. Following the 1-0 home defeat to Vauxhall Motors, a result that meant embarrassingly they had done the double over us and scored five goals without conceding, we were left in a situation where we were relying on the teams below us being worse. 

In an obvious sign that his sacking had been on the cards for some time, Drury was replaced within two hours by Dennis Greene. The former Histon man had come a close second in the interviews for the vacancy after Lee was sacked and I understand Drury had given a better presentation on the day. Like AVB did at Chelsea.

On the Tuesday morning, I again found myself on Lincs FM talking about the decision. Unlike last time, I wasn’t freezing my balls off outside the American Embassy after interviewing Julian Dicks. I explained why Drury had to go to the people between the Humber and the Wash in the comparatively normal surroundings of the our office atrium. 

I commended Newton’s decision, saying we were slipping backwards like a learner driver trying their first hill start. I questioned the inconsistencies in team selection - mainly why Tom Ward, so strong so often, was always on the bench - and tactics - where had all the width gone? I have’t heard it, but Lincs FM apparently used the whole interview.

Greene couldn’t have done much better on his first appearance. 24 hours later, United beat Gloucester City 4-0 at York Street to ease slightly their relegation fears. Drury must have squirmed when he heard the news. 

So on to Brackley on Saturday to see what, if anything, had changed. The Northamptonshire is quaint enough but it isn’t exactly blessed with good transport links. There was no train station, so me and Hallgarth took a train to Banbury and then a rural bus service (paying £6 for the privilege!) to Brackley. 

St James Park (yes, another one) isn’t the best ground in the league and, given their rapid rise to third in the table in their first season after promotion, one end was a construction site as they scrambled to build a new terrace to meet the stricter Conference ground regulations. The two JCB diggers positioned behind the goal gave a pretty surreal backdrop, but everyone was friendly and glad to have us. 

About 50 Pilgrims fans travelled and most were positioned in the one end open to us. We were in a more upbeat mood and very vocal. Amazing what can happen in a couple of weeks. The terrific eighties megamix blaring over the tannoy before kick-off inspired us to run through our repertoire of old player songs, from Mikel Suarez to Paul Ellender. 

United were twice saved by the linesman’s flag in the opening period, though we were in a poor position to see if the decisions were correct. There certainly didn’t seem to be any loud appeals, just a wake-up call for our defence. 

Otherwise, United enjoyed a lot of possession and seemed to be capable of things which were lacking last time I saw them at Solihull... like passing and crossing. Greene would have been satisfied with the way Boston had matched their high-flying opponents. 

Now to go out and score. We moved round the ground to what was essentially an open patch of concrete, next to the mums selling 50p cupcakes for the under 13 team fundraiser. It was harder to make some noise, but we soon had plenty to cheer. 

Two minutes after half-time, Marc Newsham escaped his marker on the left, swapped passes with Ben Milnes and then teed up Ben Fairclough to slam the ball home via aid of a deflection. We jumped around as best we could given the lack of stand. 

Ben, if you’re reading, when we sing “One decent Fairclough”, we do mean that you are the decent Fairclough and that your namesake Jordan, who was quickly ushered out of the club last season after some shocking errors, is rubbish. 

Brackley chased the game well, but couldn’t find a way past Dan Haystead, who had one of his best performances of the season in goal. Nathan Stainsfield, out of position in midfield, was deservedly man of the match. 

In the last few minutes, it was Spencer Weir-Daley, who has been in invigorated form of late, who made absolutely sure of the precious points. Ian Ross delivered a corner and, with a little deflection, Swizzy forced it into the net. Job done.

Greene did all the right things - he demanded all the players went over to the fans at full-time and then after the whistle, he came out of the tunnel to wish us a safe journey home. I shook his hand firmly, looked him in the eye and said: “Keep it up!” 

Next Match: Basingstoke v Maidenhead in the Conference South on Tuesday evening with Mr Hallgarth.