Monday, 8 April 2013

Chester FC 1 Boston United 0

And all that below segued nicely into Saturday. While the National racegoers stumbled down bleary-eyed to the Premier Inn’s buffet breakfast in last night’s shirts, slackened ties and stained shoes, I was already out and about in glorious sunshine exploring Liverpool. 

Unfortunately, it was only half nine and I didn’t have to catch my train down to Chester until half twelve, so there was plenty of aimless marauding about, staring up and down the muddy Mersey and hunting for places of interest related to The Beatles.

Eventually I just decided to head off to Chester, venue for Boston United’s latest match. It wasn’t about us at all, for Chester, formed just three years ago, stood a couple of favourable results away from a third successive title. From the bankruptcy and extinction of Chester City, this phoenix club has taken flight with the tremendous speed and altitude of an AFC Wimbledon. In fact their trajectory is better than that of Wimbledon and they’re essentially back where they started. 

At the start of the season, having come up from the Evo-Stik League, there were plenty of their fans who said they’d p*** this tinpot league. This was widely scorned - little did they know of the strength and perils of the Conference North. Nobody just turns up and strolls to this title. 

However, they have p***ed the league and seldom has there been a worthier champions. Their slender win over us raised them to a mammoth 103 points and Lewis Turner’s well-taken header was their 100th league goal of a glorious season. You can’t really argue with such dominance even though we can take some credit from being the only team to beat them - 3-2 at York Street back in the days when we thought something good could come from this campaign. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my day out in Chester, whose Romanesque beauty is almost on a par with York. I got plenty of opportunities to take in the splendour of the main thoroughfare’s Tudorette architecture and unusual  dual-level shops as I wandered up and down looking for a chippie I’d had recommended (by the power of Google no less). Turned out I was reading my map wrong like a pillock. 

Sated by cod and fried potatoes, I set out on the long walk to the stadium, with my overnight backpack turning the three miles into a stupidly arduous trek. Chester’s ground is right out in the middle of nowhere (Wales), plonked carelessly in the midst of an industrial estate and cluster of retail parks that had neither watering holes nor fast food outlets.

Still, at least they can fill the place at the moment. 3,685 was the audience, including 130 in the away corner. It was obvious that many in this largest attendance of the season had never set foot in the place in their lives, but how it made you nostalgic for the Football League days when we enjoyed crowds such as that. 

We were vastly outnumbered but just as loud as the home thousands. We also had a beach ball which lasted  about five seconds before deflating and a giant plastic banana that nobody dared wave around for fear of being arrested by the Politically Correct brigade. 

The vocal Chester fans were so far away from us that we simply couldn’t hear anything and the remaining 3,500 in the ground couldn’t be arsed to join in until news filtered through with about 10 minutes to play that Brackley were leading closest challengers Guiseley and the league would indeed be settled today. 

There had been a nervousness about the home side in the first half, perhaps a little startled that the finish line was in sight and they were still winning. United matched them and the forward line of Spencer Weir-Daley, Marc Newsham and Greg Mills clicked nicely. A good opening came when Mills, recently acquired from Worcester, forced a fine save from home keeper John Danby. 

In the week, manager Dennis Greene was presented with a contract for next season that we had all hoped for, but the chances of Tom Ward hanging around in his plans took a blow after a couple of defensive misjudgments that central defensive partner Nathan Stainsfield had to mop up. Personally I’d keep them both but I think one will be going. 

Early in the second-half and Chester finally shook off their malaise to take the lead through Turner’s planted header from a Nathan Jarman cross. It was difficult to see a route back from there to be honest and so it proved.

But with the champions-elect retreating further and further back, Boston poured forward in a final 15 minutes of sustained pressure. There was much build-up and too many aimless long balls, but a Ben Fairclough ball fizzed right in front of Weir-Daley and Newsham in the six yard box. 

And despite our continued vocal support to the end, that was as good as it got. Hundreds of fans gathered behind the sponsorship hoardings in the four minutes of stoppage time and there was an explosion of joy at the final whistle with the obligatory pitch invasion.

Refreshingly, not one Chester fan ran over to goad us and those who spoke to me on the quickstep back to the station were magnanimous and complimented both our team and support. I wish them well in the Conference next season, I truly do. Maybe they’ll p*** that too...

Next match: The Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley.