Boston United 2-2 Chorley (National League North)
It was my birthday on Friday, and it was supposed to be celebrations with the wife at the swanky newly refurbished Bulls Head in East Leake. My recent foot injury though put pay to any fun we could have, night cut short, back by ten, I'm sleeping on the sofa, alone, foot elevated on a pillow. RICE... Rest, ice, compression, elevate.
It's still no good on Saturday morning but I've got a game which no one else can cover so I'm hobbling over to the car, before switching on the engine and listening into the Premier League's early kick off between Manchester City and Liverpool along my travels.
It's an hour's drive from West Bridgford, plus some, as traffic around the A52 builds up at Gamston, fans in red scarves at bus stops, Forest have a rare Saturday 3pm kick off against Brighton to enjoy.
My enjoyment is driving down the sunny roads towards Lincolnshire, we're just over 50 miles door to door and today I'll be at the Jakemans watching two playoff contenders play. Chorley in fifth who I've seen once this season, beaten at Rushall Olympic 5-0, are playing Boston in eighth who I last saw this season, beaten at home on Tuesday, by Rushall Olympic, 1-0.
I've arrived in good time, little after 2pm as the sun glistens above a Starbucks opposite the Jakemans Community Stadium curved floodlights touching the blue sky. The pain unbearable in my foot as I stop, take a breather, and look at my phone, where I notice Liverpool have scored a late equaliser to thwart Man City.
Eventually I'm at the doors to the ticket collection point, then through the turnstiles and up to my seat. The two teams already out, Boston warming up in black tops whilst Chorley have a nice little jade number going off.
"Traffic not too bad today" I'm asked by a fellow scout who got my gripe on Tuesday night. "Well, I've made it in time... And the players look to be here on time too". The A52 has been its usual 60mph pace today after an accident on Tuesday made me, seventeen away fans and the Rushall players late.
I say to the scout besides me "should be a tight one this". Chorley unbeaten in their last six, whilst Boston are knocking on the door. A win for the Pilgrims can see the hosts jump above the Magpies to as high as fourth in the table.
Boston have signed winger Deji Sotona from Doncaster on loan whilst they give a first start to Jacob Hazel in attack.
Chorley have had a few good results of late but no real 'point of attack' as goals have been spread around a bit. I'm keen to know who'll be their focal point today? Jack Sampson is their number nine, but he doesn't get many goals. Since I saw them last (just seven games ago), they have had ten different scorers.
The crowd slowly packs in as the players finish their warm-ups, go back in their locker rooms to reset, get out, take in the buzz, start battle and true to form, the away side begin well. They look 'up for it' and pass short, sharp, mindset is good and Justin Johnson down the left is giving Jai Rowe at right back the spin. He's started really well like a non-league Jeremy Doku whilst young Joe Nolan in midfield, who has a brother apparently at Manchester United, he plays like Johan Cruyff, confident with suave, turning in tight spaces. They look the business, and you can see how they've climbed the table of late. But a corner won against the run of play has Boston take it quickly, Jai Rowe blasts home on the angle a super strike to send the home crowd into cheers.
We talk of corners as Notts County Manager Luke Williams recently did an in-depth interview on why his club take them quickly and short, it's a stunning analysis which focuses on not giving your opponent chance to rest and reset, he also explains that until the ball goes dead from a corner, it's still a corner, and whilst it might come twenty passes down the line, Notts create more chances from corners than any other side in the country.
Maybe Ian Culverhouse was watching? All his sides set plays are quickly taken today and it's from those which catch Chorley off guard. Boston end the half the better side, and grow in confidence with their deserved lead.
The second half continues the same, Chorley dangerous through Johnson on the break look the better 'footballing' team, but Boston have more energy, are now more game, they have something to cling onto, a neat move which starts with Jacob Hazel pressing the opponent defenders, and ends with Keaton Ward tapping in from close range, gives a lead extension which looks enough to win this match.
And that's how it stays for long periods of the second half, by now Chorley are passing it between their back four with little interest in getting back two goals, it all looks a foregone conclusion, especially when substitute Carlton Ubaezuonu blasts wide from four yards. It's not their day, let's get out of here, head west and get home, we can go again next week.
But football's a funny old game. As Boston drop deep a late scrappy goal by Joe Nolan on 87 suddenly has the home side more nervous. Tails up of the Magpies. They smell blood, and as it looks to have all been too little too late, a foul on halfway, ten seconds short of the allocated five minutes of injury time gives Andy Preece's side one last chance. They stick the ball on Boston who actually clear for a throw in, Referee not content to blow up during this 'attacking phase' deep in to added on of added on time, the throw in to the box somehow falls at the feet of Ubaezuonu who doesn't make the same mistake of missing from close range twice. You can hear a pin drop as the nine or ten away fans on the far side cheer. The Chorley lads are running all over the place punching the air, as Culverhouse kicks over a bottle of water, the hordes of Boston fans leave disappointingly for the exit.
My immediate shine towards Joe Nolan a twenty-one-year-old centre midfielder of elegance, a player who's hip swerve and quick feet set the tone for Chorley's passing style, he got an all-important late goal to give his team a chance. He's a good player next to the solid Mike Calveley in the middle of the park.
Dutch journeyman winger Justin Johnson out left, as he did when I watched him against Rushall, started on fire, but soon whittled out of the game, if he can put those sporadic occasions of brilliance up, more consistently, he could arguably be the best, certainly most dynamic, wide man in the league.
Another wide man I liked, Billy Whitehurst the mop haired scruffy right sider with socks rolled down his ankles. A bit of Jimmy Bullard's about him. He came off the bench and was more than game, feisty, up for a battle, with a touch of end quality too.
For Boston, on his home debut Jacob Hazel led the line really well. He had a say in both goals and although he's yet to score for the Pilgrims, there's no doubt it won't be too long before he does. He’s a proper ‘number nine’ who starts the press and knows his job. He’ll get goals as long as he gets the service.
Chorley started the better team, Boston though had full control with longer periods of dominance, until they dramatically let two points slip late on, they should have been sitting fourth and above Chorley in the table, instead they're tenth and two points below them, the Magpies stay fifth, it's a point that both sides might have been happy with before the match, but after it... There's certainly one team who'll be regretting it not being much better.
Boston United: Cameron Gregory, Jai Rowe, Michael Bostwick, Tom Leak, Brad Nicholson, Keaton Ward (Zak Mills 90), Dylan Hill, Jordan Richards, Deji Sotona (Keziah Martin 76), Kelsey Mooney (Jimmy Knowles 64), Jacob Hazel.
Chorley: Matt Urwin, Jack Moore, Mark Ellis, Harvey Smith, Adam Henley (David Moyo 81), Joe Nolan, Mike Calveley (Billy Whitehouse 64), Jack Hazlehurst, Ollie Shenton (Carlton Ubaezuonu 58), Justin Johnson, Jack Sampson.
3:00pm Kick Off. Saturday 25th November 2023, Jakemans Stadium, Boston (att 1,289).