Boston United 0-1 Rushall Olympic (National League North)
I’ve got tendinitis in my Achilles. F*ck me it hurts. I’ve not been able to sleep for two nights and walking as far as my lounge to the kitchen to make a brew is about as far as I can hop. But I’m in Boston tonight and ready to brave it even with injury, playing through the pain barrier as the Pilgrims host Rushall Olympic in the first ever league meeting between the two sides. (They did meet in the FA Cup earlier this season in a game which Boston won 1-0 at Dales Lane).
Ian Culverhouse’s men are ‘pottering’ around the middle of the table with chance to break into the playoff places. Liam McDonald’s Rushall ‘hovering’ at the top of the drop zone, their first season in the National League North has been tough, without a win in five they were beaten by Redditch in the FA Trophy on Saturday as Boston also went out after losing on penalties at league lower Coalville Town.
It’s 5pm, I still can’t walk well but if I leave now, I’ve got plenty of time to make the 70-minute journey East and down the A52… I’m trudging nicely with an ETA of 6:15pm before hitting traffic… A road accident has me stuck on the single carriageway, blue flashing lights and cars doing U-turns. I’m not moving with my clock going up and up… Suddenly ETA says +7pm... I was banking on getting to the ground early for some pie chips and gravy.
I’ve got no choice, I’m circling back and going through the village of Bottesford, but Sat Nav is trying to redirect me back down the A52, I’m going bananas shouting at my screen as it just freezes, out with my phone and google maps takes me north to Long Bennington which is completely the wrong way I need.
I’ve thought of ditching it as I head down the A1 back towards Grantham and finally some parity, back on the A52 and heading east, by now I’m working on getting my ETA down from 7:15pm, not to mention a five-minute walk over the road from parking my car, which tonight will probably take me longer due to having only one fully working foot.
No sooner have I switched off the engine having parked up do I have laptop bag and coat in my arms, hobbling across Wallace Way in pain but knowing I need to get my ticket and input the teams ahead of the 7:45pm start. I’m bouncing like a kangaroo across the A16 as I up my pace with twenty minutes until kick off. Past Costa to my right and through the gates and ground entrance doors to the ticket office collection point, my names not even on the list tonight, I don’t care as I take a free ticket regardless and tell the girl ‘if the guy who’s ticket I take comes in, let me know and I’ll pay for him’.
Inside alas, I’m hobbling up the stairs where I notice a few friendly faces, I tell them of my drama and my painful injury that's noticeable to them, it’s then I learn even Rushall have only just turned up. “They must have been in the same traffic as me” I’m given ten minutes extra as the kick-off is delayed thankfully, until 7:55pm.
Inside the modern arena the crowd it feels is slightly lower than usual, Rushall have a head count of 17 away fans who've headed East and they look to be well wrapped up, cold, sparsely separated on the terrace opposite me as finally the away side comes out to warm up.
I talk to one of the scouts who says, ‘Boston shouldn’t have allowed Rushall to delay kick off.’ His argument is ‘they should have left earlier’, but mine is “if they were anything like me, they did, just unfortunate.” He wonders how it will play out with them having a shorter sharper warm up routine. By the time Rushall have finished their shuttles and star jumps and drank some energy drinks before heading down the tunnel, Boston are well and truly back indoors sat in the warmth for a good five minutes or more, not sure who wins the psychological pre-game advantage stakes? Perhaps we'll tell at kick off?
The start is after all, not helped by the delay, predictably slow, laboured, both sides you feel aren’t at it… Even the crowd is quiet tonight. Boston without striker Jimmy Knowles (injured) and winger Keziah Martin (on international duty for Bermuda), Rushall’s league top goalscorer Danny Waldron also missing. They seem set up to frustrate the away side, they take their time with throw-ins and goal kicks, there’s no real rhythm to the game, then an innocuous challenge for the ball as Jai Rowe’s foot is high on Hudson in going up for a header on half way. Less than ten minutes gone and Emily Heaslip controversially sends the home team right back off, to the displeasure of the Boston support.
You feel that decision would kick start Rushall into attack but their game plan continues the same to frustrate and annoy with no real target man to aim for. Boston by now a man down are into defence mode but coping, neither side is keeping the ball well, neither side is testing the goal nets, the officials are busy, the crowd becoming irate.
As half time heads in we’re discussing if they’ll be a ‘levelling up’ decision to come and no sooner do we agree that ‘this game won’t end 10v11' is Rushall’s Moore sent off for something again most innocuous in the middle of the park. This time the decision is one that lifts the crowd and Boston immediately should score from the resulting free kick as Mooney smashes against the bar an attempt from close range, when he probably should have scored.
That chance on the stroke of half time is the only real effort of the half and as we discuss ‘what might come’ during the second half of ten a side we ‘expect’ the tactical battle to continue with the ‘hope’ of things ‘opening up’ thanks to some more space provided by the card happy referee. Ian Culverhouse first to play his own cards as he offers striker Jacob Hazel a debut, the recent signing from Darlington coming on to start the second half, but it’s the visitors who press and look to seek advantage. The lively Adan George going close before left back Lewis Hudson crosses low, his drilled centre missing everyone bar perhaps a nick along the way, and eventually through the fingers of goalkeeper Cameron Gregory to rustle into the side netting and open the scoring.
It's bittersweet for Hudson who in the first half was pantomime villain due to a bit of play acting, some squealing aloud and a few choice words with fans. He’s had a good solid game despite his antics and with their lead in tact, Rushall’s Olympians grow in defence and they start to look the more formidable team on view.
It’s been a frustrating evening for Boston, Manager Culverhouse makes another couple of subs but the game plan from the away side has their hosts at arms length. There’s cries in the crowd of ‘rubbish’ from the home support who as the board goes up on 90 for four minutes injury time, are already starting to leave.
It wasn’t a fancy show of overwhelming skill or technique. But for Rushall, young Kai Adan George was a tricky threat down the left, a busy bee from Birmingham City and a technical nuisance that Boston struggled largely to deal with. He's only 21 and has joined from Alvechurch where he's already scored five goals this season, he worked hard and shown good feet with a positive running game lasting well past ninety until being subbed to waste a few seconds.
Defensively the Pics were solid, Hudson at left back and young centre half Luke Badley-Morgan in particular, a former Chelsea Academy star on loan from Stoke, tall, leggy, comfortable on the ball and enjoying the art of classy defending on a night when defenses were on top.
In midfield, Sam McLintock, once a Pilgrim, a player who I like watching too, swooping balls across the park. Whilst in opposition Keaton Ward, a player who has replaced McLintock at Boston, somewhat, did well, beside Martin Woods who limped off with injury, not a great night for him but I do think the Pilgrims midfield duo isn't the issue.
Brad Nicholson and Dylan Hill also putting solid performances in across the backline, proof that Boston’s best players on the night were solid no nonsense defenders, when they needed the most, a bit of artful craft in attack.
On a night where things from very early doors did not go to plan. A good side I would have said, would still have had enough to get a point, and take their medicine and move on, but Boston weren’t good enough for even that, which was really disappointing. Their lack of firepower has been noted this season.
Rushall have shown enough in the two games I’ve watched them so far, to suggest they can stay up. They might be relying on a few loanees which isn’t ideal, but if they can hold their heads above water this season, they’ll be stronger and better equipped the next.
Boston United: Cameron Gregory, Jai Rowe, Michael Bostwick (Sam Essien 83), Tom Leak, Brad Nicholson, Jordan Richards, Martin Woods (Ethan Sephton 59), Tom Edge (Jacob Hazel 46), Dylan Hill, Kelsey Mooney, Keaton Ward.
Rushall Olympic: Jake Weaver, Alex Fletcher, Harry Craven, Luke Badley-Morgan, Lewis Hudson, Alex Moore, Sam McLintock (Tyrell Skeen-Hamilton 90), Jourdain Masidi, Sonny Singh, Callum Sullivan, Kai Adan George (Andre Carvalho-Landell 90).
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 21st November 2023, Jakemans Stadium, Boston (att 1,170).