Boston United 2-2 Scarborough Athletic (National League North)
I've had a hat-trick of postponements due to the recent wintery weather. Nuneaton v Basford, Kings Lynn v Fylde, Stratford v Redditch, all annoyingly falling foul to January Jack Frost.
But I'm optimistic about this one, the temperature is rising and the sun is out, I'm walking the dog by the River Trent, taking in sights such as the City Ground, Trent Bridge Cricket Ground and the War Memorial Gardens of Victoria Embankment.
It's lovely outside as I walk to Wilford Toll Bridge and back. I pick up the wife from her gym near the Nottingham Forest stadium before heading home for a quick bacon sandwich and cuppa ahead of my road trip to Boston, a now familiar stomping ground of mine.
It's a little after twelve as I make my move down the A52. I'm onto the A1 at Grantham as despite my reluctance, Sat Nav always tells me so, I'm heading south past signs for London before being redirected off, down a single track country road which I've previously fallen foul of… it's got a road closed sign still up from my first visit to the Jakemans earlier in the season, I'm now doubling back on myself, fuming because I didn't trust my gut to head straight down the A52.
I end up in Grantham town centre, which I tried to avoid in the first place, where I'm now stuck as cars are queuing up to get into a McDonalds drive-thru. I've no time to wait as patience is wearing thin so overtake a row of three souped-up hatchbacks all attempting to turn right, parked carelessly in the middle of the road, holding up everything behind them for their cheap lunchtime fast food fix.
Finally heading east and away from burger rage by now the cloud covering the sky as Walsall host Leicester in the FA Cup live on my car radio via TalkSport, I'm through the villages of Threekingham and Donington before crossing the A17 heading for Kirton End and Wyberton where I pull up after 90 minutes drive at my usual spot just off Wallace Way.
It's the first time I've been here in daylight. Usually opting to work midweekers in the dark it's nice to actually see the stadium without the need to be lit up by those funky floodlights they have installed.
I'm crossing the A16, passing Costa, the cloud above making it all look very grey and dim, as the odd fan in front crosses my path I walk through the car park to main reception, and get a huge whiff of deep heat, not sure where it's coming from, I suspect the physio is close by.
I'm through the glass doors where I collect my ticket next to a small but modern looking club shop selling replica kit and scarves. The woman on the counter saying "you're new here aren't you" as I explain "I've been a couple of times this season".
Through the turnstile gate, zapped in on arrival, I head straight to the kiosk and although I'm tempted by the stunning pie, chips and gravy on offer, I've promised the wife fish and chips tonight so instead opt for a tea and a twix at the cost of £2.
Out towards the playing surface and up to my seat in the press area, the calm before the storm is interrupted by some playing kids whose parents have corporate passes. The little bleeders are running up and down aisles in front of the hospitality boxes like it's a soft play centre shouting and screaming, credit to mum who comes out with a glass of wine and tells them to 'calm down'.
BBC Radio Lincs is here, as always, the head commentator Dave Remnant telling me there’s around seven new faces in the Boston squad since my last visit, as I look around the mostly empty arena with an hour to go before kick-off, pitch looking spot on, the grey structured three side stadium under the grey skies brightened only by the vast green surface and touch of yellow and black of the seats beneath my own elevated pew.
It's my first viewing of Scarborough today. Or Scarborough Athletic as they've more recently become.
Another one of those Phoenix things, rising through the ashes of financial failure, Scarborough FC dating back to 1879 are non-league staples, they won the FA Trophy three times in the 1970's and became founder members of what is now known as the National League, they were the first ever team promoted (rather than elected) to the football league in 1987, when Neil Warnock, remember him? Led the Seadogs to the Conference Championship.
After twelve years in the football league followed by a further seven in the fifth tier before back-to-back relegations, in 2007 Scarborough were wound up with debts of £2.5m. Enter Scarborough Athletic, formed by a supporters trust, starting in the Northern Counties East League they have since slowly risen again to prominence.
In fact, Boston are similar in stature, both teams flirted in the football league, facing eachother in the Conference during the early noughties, both have since fallen from grace, both optimistic that with new stadiums and new funding, their futures are both bright.
But whilst Scarborough currently sit in the playoff places in fifth, Boston's form has not been great, in recent weeks slipping down the table, they've had more players than a crap nightclub's VIP section.
Manager Ian Culverhouse likes a tinker, but I get the feeling fans aren't happy, the club are only out of the relegation places on goal difference, four new players start today, top scorer Scott Pollock is on the bench, he's been attracting interest from the league above.
Only Darlington in the National League North have scored more than Scarborough, whilst no team has conceded more than Boston, who themselves score plenty, the visitors are also known for letting in a few too, today we are guaranteed goals, and it seems as soon as the sides are out, the scoreboard starts to tick over.
66 seconds in fact, is when goal number one is scored. A corner put into the area, headed in by unmarked youngster Ciaran McGuckin, the Rotherham United loanee just 19 years old given the freedom of the Jakemans’ to put his temporary home ahead, Tiernan Brooks the Boston goalkeeper on loan from Notts County, on debut, is asked to retrieve the ball out of the net for his first touch in Pilgrims grey. He had an equally miserable time doing much the same at Hednesford prior to this latest move.
Despite being behind, Boston knock it about well, and their response is immediate, a first corner for themselves on eight minutes is crossed into the box where skipper Luke Shiels heads towards goal, the keeper Cracknell gets hands on it but can't keep it from crossing the line, 1-1 and little wonder how the club's don't do clean sheets when they can't even defend simple set plays.
I count three debutants for Boston who look slightly the better team going into the half time break, all Jo Cummings needs to do is usher the ball out of play but he's unstuck near his own corner flag, McGuckin robs him and runs through to smash home Scarborough's second as the home fans exodus their seats to grab a pie, a coffee or a beer. It's more than the away side deserve 45 in, but I'm sure Manager Jonathan Greening and the travelling army of 100 plus will take it.
The former Manchester United midfielder has a problem though, his two-goal hero McGuckin fails to come out for the second half, replaced by a defender in former Boston left back Ashley Jackson, the intentions look like 'settling for' as Scarborough go early at shutting up shop.
It's a risky move which allows Boston to start the second half in full control, dominating possession they look to level and should have done so through another recent signing, Tre Mitson, who heads a cross straight into the keepers arms. It's the first header he's won all game, the fans frustrated with his performance, are now getting restless with their centre forward who doesn’t look a patch on those he’s replaced.
Enter Ian Culverhouse. Not the popular TalkSport game created by Max Rushden but the Boston manager (who the game was named after) who I said likes a tinker… He brings on three strikers in addition to the two already on the pitch… and the gamble pays off as one of those, Jake Wright gets in to smash home low a leveller on 79.
The game opens up late on as both sides go for the win but the later it gets the more each agrees to shake on a point. I tell a fan who I were chatting to at half time "It could have been worse" upon the whistle, she's now focusing on the next one, stating "the big game is Tuesday" as Boston face Kettering, a point and a place below them in the table, 21st in the top relegation slot.
Scarborough playmaker Kieran Glynn is short and slim in centre midfield with lovely feet, he looks for that dink over the top that strikers relish to run onto. The Seadogs midfield has another creative player with guile, in Luca Colville, whilst Bailey Gooda from full back gets forward well down the right, you can see why Scarborough score so many goals, the defender linking well with winger Ryan Watson with freedom. Their on-loan centre forward Ciaran McGukin looks like one to watch for the future. A 6ft 2in Northern Irish international with certainly an eye for goal.
For Boston, I hear he's not been playing well of late but I say to a fan, “they should build the team around Sam McLintock” who's passing range is as good as I've seen at the level, thread of the needle stuff when it needs to be, he can switch play comfortably and knock a good forty yard ball to feet. The slide rule balls he plays are made for strikers like Scott Pollock and Jake Wright to run onto.
Of their new players, Lirak Hasani shows glimpses of fast footwork whilst Zak Goodson is busy in attack, but it's the old guard I'm most impressed with, the experienced Zak Mills has a solid game at right back, Jordan Burrow comes on and wins more headers in the fifteen or so on the pitch than Mitson does for the whole ninety. Luke Shiels is announced man of the match as the radio commentator Dave states to his listeners ‘he’s the sort of name you see on a team sheet and feel at ease with, knowing he’ll always give 100% and hardly puts a foot wrong”.
With Scott Pollock eyeing interest it looks like Boston Manager Ian Culverhouse is preparing for his star striker leaving with new loan additions but speaking with some fans it seems these “temporary fixes” are not working, but playing at the Jakemans is an attractive proposition and Boston do have pull, they have good enough players to score goals already, it just seems keeping them out is more of a problem.
For Scarborough, they’ve hit their own sticky patch and have won just once in five, like Boston they can’t keep them out, but the stability they have in selection is the difference in league position.
Tuesday is key for both teams as Boston face a relegation six-pointer in Kettering away, whilst Scarborough host fourth placed Brackley who are four points above the Seadogs. If both teams come out of these testing games, relatively unscathed, then they’ll probably be where they need to be come the end of the season, should they not, well the pressure to get there, will be starting, like the weather, to get that bit warmer.
Boston United: Tiernan Brooks, Ethan Sephton, Tom Platt, Luke Shiels, Tre Mitford, Zak Goodson, Billy Chadwick (Jordan Burrow 62), Sam McLintock, Zak Mills, Jo Cummings (Jake Wright 62), Lirak Hasani (Scott Pollock 68).
Scarborough Athletic: Joe Cracknell, Kieran Weledji, Kieran Burton, Lewis Maloney, Bailey Gooda, Ryan Watson, Michael Coulson, Ciaran McGuckin (Ashley Jackson 46), Alex Wiles (Emmanuel Ilesanmi 81), Kieran Glynn (Simon Heslop 74), Luca Colville.
3:00pm Kick Off. Saturday 28th January 2023, Jakemans Stadium, Boston (att 1,726).