Boston United 1-1 Curzon Ashton (National League North)
Formed in 1963 the Nash, from Ashton-under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, are in their ninth year in the National League North.
That's nothing on Boston United of Lincolnshire's 14 years in the same division but both clubs are currently in the playoff picture and looking to finally go one better with Curzon seventh going into the game and the Pilgrims tenth, knowing victory can leapfrog them over their visitors for the day.
The dog has been dropped off at the mother in law's and I'm out on the road nice and early, it's so sunny down the A52 I'm reaching for my sunglasses in the glovebox moving the windscreen visor down as I head towards Grantham and further East, green fields, blue skies, a beautiful winters day of eight degrees and thankfully not a lot on the road.
I've arrived at 1:45pm and walk across the Pilgrims Way past a Costa where I smell roasted coffee beans on the go, I'm heading straight for the double glass ticket office doors and sign for my pass before marching straight towards the turnstile and under stand kiosk for a tea, twix and sausage roll.
I've hardly looked up towards the sunny skies, tunnel vision towards my end destination, I've been here before and it all looks the same. I love coming here but the novelties gone a bit. That feeling you get when you arrive at a new ground and just have to sniff around and see what's what... Not today. I'm grabbing some grub and heading straight to my seat.
I'm sat directly in front of the BBC Radio Lincs commentator and am joined by a couple of scouts who regularly do games here, the stands filling nicely, three sides of people, one open end of wasteland, the sun lights up the surface over the far side but here I'm in the shade, sunglasses back in my laptop bag, the music playing through the PA is that of a regular playlist as I do a head count of Curzon supporters ahead of kick off and I'm impressed that 34 have made the three hour plus journey from West to East.
To a rapture of applause Boston walk out in regular amber and black but my eyes are drawn to the away sides bright pink shirts. Very fetching as they attack to my left but it's the home team who are doing most of the early enforcing, it's stop start and bitty but a good match with two sides both wanting to win, the Referee having to keep on top of things however is quick to calm down the tension as Jimmy Spencer goes in on Jacob Hazel who's not happy. Boston defender Michael Bostwick has his eye on the Curzon number nine, it's a battle I'll be watching closely throughout.
Spencer is a lovely player, now in his early 30's he's one I remember as a youngster at Notts County linking up with the likes of Callum McGregor and Jack Grealish during the 'great escape' season of League One saviour. He's had plenty of league matches, not quite at McGregor or Grealish's level and is now a lethargic number nine with a bit of non league attitude. Centre half Bostwick is making sure he leaves something in on him as he comes often racing forward for the loose ball.
Spencer aside, Curzon lack quality in the final third and it's Boston who do most of the pressing, following a good spell for the away side the Pilgrims are back on top and a right wing cross from Sam Smart is headed downwards and in by Jimmy Knowles.
That goal gives Boston a deserved lead at half time and they continue to press forward in the second half.
Hazel who had a couple of sniffs in the opening 45 is running through again but can't get clear whilst Rowe forces a good save by Knowles. It seems that there's only one team looking like winning the game as Boston play most of the match in their opponents half but a rare attack from the visitors produces almost a carbon copy of the home sides goal, a right wing cross by Richards from a free kick is headed home downwards by Matthews and suddenly it's all square.
That goal lifts the away side who alas start doing things that bit quicker until goalkeeper Knowles decides a point is a good result on the road. He slows things down when in possession late on and in the end both teams settle for not losing, rather than trying to win.
The two goals aside it's actually a game of little incident, the biggest moment perhaps when the lineswoman switched sides in the second half due to getting abuse off some fans, that led to the Referee heading off down the tunnel for a couple of minutes probably for a piss and to read the rulebook, and the PA man stating to all "Boston United will not tolerate any forms of discrimination". A nice touch as the assistant ref who moved sides then got a round of applause by a warmer, friendlier set of fans in the seated section. After all... Football is 'her game too.
Sam Smart is direct and nippy down the right and it is he who causes most problems for the visitors until he's substituted a minute before the away team equalise.
Keziah Martin has a good game on the left of a midfield three whilst Jai Rowe at right back has his best game that I've seen him play, often marauding down the flank with a lot of positivity in his play.
Curzon Ashton are workmanlike and solid whilst not having any stand out stars to get excited about. You can see Jimmy Spencer is a top footballer but not particularly great on the day. Jordan Richards from right back perhaps their best player of the match. He wore 19 as did his opposite namesake who played in the Pilgrims midfield to slightly less effect.
Two teams eyeing up the playoffs and two that will be contesting with each other for many more weeks yet. Boston for large parts the better side but as I've seen before their flakiness leads to conceding late goals and they tend to slip up too often in matches they should have won.
How Ian Culverhouse's side might rue these points dropped by the end of the season? Curzon will be happier than the two in taking a road point, they have a chance themselves to be there or thereabouts come May, a lot I suppose will be down to their home form and keeping players fit going into the final quarter of the campaign. Don't write either off but there's a lot of football still to be played.
Boston United: Aaron Chapman, Jai Rowe, Michael Bostwick, Tom Leak, Brad Nicholson, Keziah Martin, Jordan Richards, Deji Sotana, Sam Smart (Kelsey Mooney 82), Jacob Hazel, Jimmy Knowles.
Curzon Ashton: Cameron Mason, Marcus Poscha, Devon Matthews, Alex Kenyon (Hayden Campbell 63), Jimmy Spencer, Will Hayhurst (Jamie Allen 79), George Waring, Stefan Mols (Miles Storey 79), Jordan Richards, Adam Barton, Rhys Hughes.
3:00pm Kick Off. Saturday 13th January 2024, Jakemans Stadium, Boston (att 1,600).