Back In Boston
Boston United 2-1 Kidderminster Harriers (National League North)
I’m back in Boston. Just seven days from my first ever visit to the Jakemans Community Stadium, I find myself travelling to Lincolnshire again, to cast eye over the Pilgrims who since last Tuesday’s win against Alfreton, are starting to turn the corner in the National League North.
I didn’t get chance to go to any games over the weekend, but that’s not to say I didn’t get my football fix. On Saturday I watched Connor Wickham score from the halfway line for Forest Green in the FA Cup verses South Shields, but that wasn’t the highlight of the game, which for me was instead seeing BBC pundit Chris Waddle sporting a mullet, just like old times, the grown back re-enactment of his iconic 80’s hair style thirty something years later, made me even sing aloud a couple of lines of Diamond Lights in joy.
On Sunday I hardly moved from the sofa, was really impressed with Arsenal at Chelsea, staying locked on Sky Sports, in between cooking a roast dinner for the family, I watched Newcastle looking like a team to be taken seriously in the Premier League with a 4-1 win at Southampton, who in turn had to finally let their likeable Manager Ralph Hassenhuttl go. After a mini-blip, Liverpool and Mo Salah were back to doing what they should be doing with a 2-1 win at Tottenham, although I really question Antonio Conte’s tactics, and how he sets up with caution at Spurs own attacking expense. I ended the evening watching Conte’s old lady friend Juventus beat another of his ex flaunts Inter Milan 2-0 thanks to a largely terrific performance from Filip Kostic, who had two assists and a goal ruled out, anyway that’s enough about the big leagues, back to Boston, and Tuesday’s travels.
After making at least four U-turns last week, I’m opting to continue on the A52 tonight, regardless of what my underwhelming German sat nav says, from my home in Nottingham, no let-up in Grantham, straight through the one way system, although navigating the town’s awkward route and unclear signage by eye is more difficult than I imagined in the dark, once up the Somerby Hill though I’m past the Prince William of Gloucester Barracks and on the straight and narrow towards the coast, the sky is clear, the moon big and bright, in the East, follow that and I’ll be ok.
At least I know where I’m going this time, as I take the back route through Kirton End and Wyberton, parking up in the same place as I did seven days ago, before walking over to get my ticket from the collections desk inside the stadium.
I’ve plenty of time as I walk out of reception with my ticket, the Kidderminster Harriers bus is parking up in the car park, so I walk over to the Costa where I nip to their toilet before ordering an Americano to take away.
I sit down briefly on a table next to some old guy in a Kidderminster body warmer, he’s talking to a couple about the clubs struggles in dealing with naughty young fans who like to pyro party and the cost in not just finance, but reputation, their misdemeanours have on the club. It seems he feels sadly powerless to stop them.
Kidderminster are currently sitting mid table in the National League North but have lost their last two games all be it against promotion contenders in Scarborough and Darlington.
Boston in twentieth drew at Peterborough Sports on Saturday, I have the away side as favourites but expect a close, keenly fought and tightly contested encounter.
Walking over towards the turnstile I marvel up at the unusual floodlights which I really do admire, curved looking down on the pitch as they sit perched above nothing more than a construction site behind the goal, an uncompleted stand which has not yet even started, I don’t know when it will?
The ticket fails to scan on the reader as I attempt to walk through the turnstile but regardless, the steward lets me in, I’m through the entrance underneath the stand to view the vast green pitch and up to my seat, a couple down from where I were last Tuesday, Radio Lincs are here along with LCR 103.6 fm, it’s with them I get the pleasure to listen to commentary this week, as they’re sat directly behind me.
It’s another healthy thousand plus crowd for two non-league teams of long standing history, Boston in orange and black, Kidderminster red and white, the match kicks off and ding dongs for two minutes before Amari Morgan-Smith and Jean Leroy Belehouan go up for a header together, crashing their pallets against each other’s foreheads they fall straight to the ground, credit to the Referee Ben Tomlinson who immediately stops the action, the physios racing on in numbers, the game stopped a good five minutes with concerns to Belehouan of Boston who seems to have come off worse.
Dusted off, both play on as we endure a continued stop start opening with plenty of early free kicks for fouls, Boston win a succession of corners before Belehouan takes a seat on half way, he has to come off, not fully recovered, before Kiddy captain Shane Byrne feels a niggle, twenty minutes gone, two subs used and not a lot of football played at all.
The switch for Boston see’s Lebrun Mbeka, who started in midfield, move back to centre half, and the home side start to look the more comfortable of the two in possession.
Sam McLintock, a young Rolls Royce in the Pilgrims midfield, is purring, placing the ball wherever he likes, often with little back lift, the front two of Scott Pollock and Jake Wright remind me of a diminutive duo of the past, I can’t think which though, Robbie Keane & Defoe perhaps? Romario & Bebeto? Not quite? But they excite me in a way that I’m glad to see two similar styled strikers under 6ft partnering each other up top, harrying the Harriers defenders, pressing and probing, always looking to get in behind.
The Referee has seen some shenanigans in an umpteenth first half corner for the home side which results in him giving Boston a penalty on 28. I’m not sure why it’s given but the home crowd behind the goal certainly appreciate it. Scott Pollock fires it straight down the middle to put the Pilgrims ahead.
There’s no doubt they deserve it too, but Kidderminster strike back within five minutes, right back Joe Foulkes who’s been arguably the away sides best player on the night, puts a peach of a delivery into the box and debutant Tom Nixon, on loan from Hull City, himself playing right back but for Boston, puts through his own net.
At half time a roar goes up from the old guy in front of me who’s won on the team sheet raffle, “It’s the first time I’ve ever won” he cries, I tell him “You’ll probably spend your winnings all back on the club”.
I’m impressed with Boston who try and play it around a bit, their centre half duo Mbeka and Ben Pollock are again solid as they were last Tuesday, Mbeka actually loses more headers to the Kiddy strike duo of Morgan-Smith and Ashley Hemmings than he did all night against Matt Rhead and Tom Denton last week, but he oozes class, he provides assurance and gives confidence that the back line is well marshalled with him.
I revisit the story to why he was sent on loan to Guisely and hear that Mbeka was sent off early in the season, after which then Manager Paul Cox, sent the player packing before he got sacked and replaced by Ian Culverhouse, who by recalling the defender has struck gold, his return improving the fortunes of the side ever since.
On 53 minutes a through ball by Tom Solanke who’s also played well in the Pilgrims midfield, finds Scott Pollock who’s running in on goal, he takes two touches and although the goalkeeper gets hands to his shot, he can’t help it from going in, Boston have the lead, the crowd in jubilation, this time will they stay ahead?
The match at times threatens to boil over, but never really gets to melting point, a couple of bookings for Kidderminster players are largely through frustration, Jake Wright for Boston plays always on the edge, fans hearts seemingly in mouths, one word from him, one misguided tackle, and the Referees at this level are prone to showing him a card. “Sub him before he’s sent” a fan shouts.
For Kidderminster’s endeavour, it’s in the final third they struggle to offer much hope for their small travelling army of fifty or so supporters. Yusifu Ceesay down the left looks to be their most creative outlet, fast and direct, Keziah Martin is technically gifted, but never really looks to penetrate the opposition defence from midfield.
A couple of scares as Boston goalkeeper Sam Long slips when clearing a ball, before regaining under pressure from an attacker, recently called up for the Scotland U21 squad, he’s on loan from Lincoln City and looks confident for his age, just nineteen, he then drops a deep cross before pouncing on it late on, to the relief of the home fans who gasp with hands over their eyes.
Despite Long's efforts to entertain at the expense of his own fans, the last few minutes however belong to Boston, Pollock blazes over his hat trick opportunity before Referee calls time without much real fight from Kiddy in attack, the sounds of Sweet Caroline blast out of the tannoy as the home team huddle together, you feel it’s a big win, now unbeaten in three and up to nineteenth, I feel at home they’ll be a match for anyone this season, as Kidderminster trudge off, I can’t help feeling I expected more from them.
Scott Pollock has already eleven goals for the season, the former Hashtag United star is still only 21, and having signed this summer from Northampton Town, I expect to see him back in the football league before too long. His partnership with Jake Wright is accommodative of each other, the duo a nuisance in attack, hard working with plenty of pace and keen eye for goal, a strike pair that sniffs when to create danger.
Boston’s defence looks strong, led by Lebrun Mbeka who by now you’ll know I’m in love with. In midfield I see elegance in Sam McLintock, aged 21 he only signed from Telford in October, but already looks like a cracking piece of business, a player with a lot of potential, one who plays beyond his young years.
Special mention to Jordon Crawford who came on for the last ten minutes and ran around like an absolute nutter, the sort of thing every fan wants to see, your hard work certainly not going un-noticed, quite a popular figure within the stands and rightly so.
For Kidderminster Harriers, Joe Foulkes on loan from Walsall at right back swung in a couple of lovely crosses and at nineteen looks like a prospect to keep an eye on. Spanish winger Yusifu Ceesay was a real handful with pace and power all be it lacking end product, Keziah Martin was technically probably better than anyone on show, whilst Tom Owen-Evans at times, although not enough, shown glimpses of class in the centre of the park.
On recent performances, I only see Boston United heading one way, and that’s up, maybe even towards the heights of their failed playoff push last season, but I wonder on their pitch, at home, in front of their own fans, where they are allowed to play, they’ll certainly take points, but can they do it away from home on those not too neat surfaces as much? Can they do it on a cold Tuesday night in Chorley for example?
For Kidderminster, they’ll be ok, they have decent players and decent backing, are a team made for the level and even perhaps the one above, although I don’t see them as promotion fodder from what I’ve witnessed at the Jakemans, they only look a couple of additions away from being a really good side in the division. They have been unlucky recently to face some teams in form, one of which Boston, are perhaps starting to take off?
Boston United: Sam Long, Tom Nixon, Jean Leroy Belehouan (Will Atkinson 16), Ben Pollock, Keenan Ferguson, Lebrun Mbeka, Tom Platt, Tom Solanke (Jordon Crawford 68), Scott Pollock, Jake Wright, Sam McLintock.
Kidderminster Harriers: Tom Palmer, Joe Foulkes, Krystian Pearce, Tom Leak, Caleb Richards; Shane Byrne (Zak Brown 19), Keziah Martin, Ashley Hemmings, Tom Owen-Evans, Yusifu Ceesay, Amari Morgan-Smith (Ethan Freemantle 82).
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 8th November 2022, Jakemans Stadium, Boston (att 1,316)