Foggy Scare Draw
Boston United 1-1 Scunthorpe United (National League North)
It’s Halloween and the trick or treaters are out in force. I’ve made a casserole and sunk a quick bowl down before heading out the door to watch Boston v Scunthorpe, a Lincolnshire Derby which I’m told hasn’t been played since the days when both were in the football league. A bit of research remembers the last game between the two in League Two at Glanford Park in January 2005 ended 1-1. The match before that on 2nd October 2004 at York Street, ended Boston 2-1 Scunthorpe.
The sides have played each other more recently of course. Pre-season friendlies and Lincolnshire Senior Cup matches included, when often Scunny will bring their kids or ressies to trial during meaningless minutes, not tonight in this must not lose league battle when both, for a first time in a long time, are on a level playing field separated by just seven points.
These days sitting in step six, both have fallen from grace of better days, Scunthorpe have picked themselves up of late though after making the national newspapers through their previous owner David Hilton. Now back to being run properly through local businesswoman Michelle Harness, the side have had back-to-back six goal wins under Jimmy Dean, beating Bishop’s Stortford 6-1 on Saturday after beating Spennymoor last Tuesday 6-0 and they are doing ok since relegation last year sitting second in the table and closing in on leaders Tamworth.
Boston have been kicking around in the National North for nine years now and after a wobbly start this season are only actually three points off the playoff spots. A much needed 1-0 win over relegation battlers Gloucester City at the weekend, easing some pressure on their marmite manager Ian Culverhouse.
It’s pitch-black outside, the moon is out in full and as I head down the A52 the mist rolling in from the North Sea is scarily whistling over my car thick and grey. I can hardly see the end of my bonnet. TalkSport are talking ghost stories and I’m driving alone in the middle of nowhere… Great.
I’ve pulled up in the suburb of Wyberton and it seems busier than usual. Cars everywhere as Scunthorpe are in town, they take a fair few with them away as their fans look to tick off new grounds in this new league for them. A fella parks up on the side of a roundabout and asks me “am I ok to park here mate?” I reply, “usually you’ll be fine, but because your lot are in town the traffic wardens will probably be all over it tonight.”
I’m walking across the road to the mistily lit modern stadium where I’m through the doors to the ticket office, in a small queue ahead of scribbling my name for a press pass. Back outside I’m through the turnstile and up to my seat where it’s already quite cosy, full of media and radio, the clubs PA doesn’t even have a seat tonight.
I’m taking it all in as the players warm up on field, the moon directly above me lighting the black sky, the fog is still whistling around heavily though. You can hardly see the far corner flag of this golden looking three sided venue. The Referees are out on the pitch talking to members of staff as a fan says to me “surely they can’t call it off”.
The mist makes it hard to see the stand opposite where the Scunthorpe fans are packed in, I’m questioning whether we’ll get ninety minutes played tonight, I’m praying that we get kicked off just so I can get paid.
It’s quite a flat atmosphere but the ground is packed. Scunthorpe fans are singing ‘is this a library’ as the ball goes back and forward, pumped high and away from danger, it’s not pretty down this near side, only god (and those on the far side) knows what’s happening when the ball races down the opposite wing. The puffs of cloud bustling in over the stadium from the sea swirling pitch level to make viewing anything most tricky. But the game is game, it’s a fair scrap and both sides are competing. My all-time favourite Scunthorpe United player is Reagan Ogle who’s mullet reminds me of my dad’s. He even runs like my old man from his right back position. Boston have their own retro defender in Michael Bostwick who clears and clashes and clumps away at anything in his path from centre half.
By half time I’m just relieved to have seen what I’ve seen… Not a lot of high-quality football but at least we’ve made it this far. Time for two Boston stars of recent past, Gregg Smith and Jamie McGhee to be paraded as today’s guest of honours. I worked with them both at Grantham before they moved to the Pilgrims from their home town club, both good lads who did well for the club and worthy of a generous applause.
Everyone is stood up in front of me during the break, so I haven’t really noticed how or why but suddenly the skies are clear. It’s like a parting of the waves? An exodus of fog as the only steam on show is now coming from the kitchen behind the stand opposite. The smell of food lingering around as the packed stand I’m in slowly sits itself down.
It’s more of the same ‘clearing your lines’ and 'getting stuck in' but at least we can see it this half. The battle is in true ‘derby’ style as everyone is on their defensive ‘A’ game with not much showtime for players who like to trick and treat the audience with their Halloween night talent.
Scunthorpe are first to ‘twist’ as they play their cards with a sixtieth minute attacking substitute. Cameron Wilson is brought on for the last half hour and this coincides with their best spell of the game. Suddenly there’s a bit of maintained pressure on the Boston goal and they look like succumbing with goalkeeper Cameron Gregory getting twitchy. On 75 an error by Nicholson is pounced on in the centre of the park and Connor Smith is sent away, racing clear he’s into the box, rounds the goalkeeper, delays, and prods through a number of legs, an opener which has the Iron match reporter besides me jumping up screaming ‘YES’ before nervously looking around like he’s done something wrong.
“Tamworth are losing too… It could be a good day for you guys” I tell him… But Boston have other ideas. They have no intentions of losing this match tonight and they are pressing from the off with Kelsey Mooney and Jimmy Knowles leading from the front with new found aggression, running at defenders, the yellows persistence paying off when Jordan Richards is given time inside the box from a low pass by Zak Mills, he prods home through a crowd to level things up, a huge roar from the home end as all the seats in front of me flap as fans stand to their feet to cheer.
Boston have deserved it, but there’s more spice to come.
The game’s end is tasty and feisty and now end to end, players now pushing and shoving after every challenge, the BBC Radio Lincs commentator behind me is loving it… “This is what the derby needs” he says… The Referee has got it all on and is probably not helping, he’s given three foul throw-ins tonight and has made a few questionable decisions with six bookings in total.
Late on it’s last chance saloon. Scunthorpe have a corner to win it, but it’s cleared, before Boston have a corner to win it, with a scrappy header slowly clattering a post as everyone watches in agony. In the end the away side are relieved not to concede, whilst the home side are probably happy with their point too. The whistle is blown as the crowd stay behind to clap off the two teams who gave everything to ensure they would not lose tonight… And credit both clubs, they didn’t.
Jacob Butterfield is the one that stood out in the middle of the park, I feel alongside Micheal Clunan they have a pairing that is probably the best in the division, you’ll win more than you lose with a strong midfield and Scunthorpe certainly have that. Good intelligent footballers who can mix it too.
In fairness, Scunthorpe are strong all over the park. Goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons kicks well, full backs Ogle and Denton are very solid, I really like centre half Will Evans who they signed from Boreham Wood. With the likes of Connor Smith, Jason Law, Cameron Wilson, they have talented playmakers who can get on the ball and create. Whilst Danny Whitehall didn’t have his best night up front, he offers real threat with a thunderbolt shot and when he’s not on the park Danny Elliott a former Boston striker, is certainly a handy replacement.
For Boston, after his man of the match performance on Saturday, Zak Mills had another good night at right back, in midfield they battled well with Martin Woods solid, Bostwick at the back was brilliant, Mooney much better than on Saturday in attack, the only weak position to note at left back where Ethan Sephton for the third match in a row, was substituted and looked like he’s playing up a level he’s not too comfortable at.
After back-to-back six goal thumping’s this was a more down to earth bump for Scunthorpe who might have known and expected that they would be in a tough game at Boston. Their media guy says ‘we need to pick up more points on the road’ and if they do, they’ll probably pip Tamworth for the title, their problem being, which was my reply ‘you're everybody’s cup final’ and those opponents will often raise their game against them.
Scunthorpe have what it takes to bounce straight back up, no question, and I hope they do, a club who’s been in turmoil for a couple of years, it’s about time they had a bit of good luck with a season of cheer.
Whilst Boston are these days more ‘contained’ with life at level six.. I still think they should expect bigger and better things to come. There’s no reason why in a few years, Boston and Scunthorpe, like Lincoln and Grimsby, can’t all be representing the county of Lincolnshire, in the football league, where I feel they all are suited to belong.
Boston United: Cameron Gregory, Ethan Sephton (Dylan Hill 46), Brad Nicholson, Michael Bostwick, Keaton Ward, Martin Woods, Kelsey Mooney, Keziah Martin (Jai Rowe 79), Jimmy Knowles, Jordan Richards, Zak Mills.
Scunthorpe United: Ross Fitzsimons, Reagan Ogle, Will Evans, Andrew Boyce, Michael Clunan, Jacob Butterfield (Jack Jenkins 70), Kian Scales, Connor Smith, Jason Law (Cameron Wilson 57), Tyler Denton, Danny Whitehall (Danny Elliott 77).
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 31st October 2023, Jakemans Stadium, Boston (att 2,178).