Boston United 1-0 Hereford (National League North)
Two juggernauts of the English non league. Mention Hereford without mentioning Ronnie Radford, Newcastle United, Edgar Street, 1972, mud, fans running onto the pitch, the FA Cup, Ricky George or John Motson and you're far from a true football fan.
Boston United were founder members of the Alliance Premier League in 1979 when it became footballs 'official' fifth tier, eventually the division went on to become the Gola League, GM Vauxhall Conference and the National League which we know today, these clubs are stalwarts of the mid-lower echelons of English football and in their orange and in their white, they'll both be on show in sunshine that is bright, on this crispiest of November days.
Ok, Hereford might be a phoenix formed in 2015 to rise from the ashes that the bulls before them left. Since the modern 'Unitedless' era they have three back to back upward step championships ahead of peaking in the National League North where they have sat since 2018.
Boston, since reaching fifth level football in 1968 haven't been below the division they are in now, and have even flirted, like (the old) Hereford did, with football league status. 'Gazza', Julian Joachim, Jason Lee, some famous names of pilgrims past.
I'm driving down the A52 past flat fields, one of which is full of hunters carrying guns searching probably for rabbits and other edible vermin, before I'm diverted by a road block, towards Kirton which is not my usual last leg. It's a pretty village with a church which I cut through onto the A16 where I see floodlights in the distance. To my left a grassroots Saturday game taking place at Wyberton Sports and Social Club.
I've parked up on Wallace Way and scurry over towards the ground where I'm in the queue for tickets. Collected and through the gates I'm up to my seat a good forty five minutes ahead of kick off.
The players are out, stretching on the green surface the skies are blue but it's cold as I'm joined by a radio presenter who parks half his equipment on my desk.
There's a stand for silence and the last post played ahead of kick off. Boston do a superb job with military personnel present as two of them lay reefs on the half way line, the crowd packed in to this three sided modern home all paying their respect with a moment and more to reflect.
I'm asked by a scout besides me what I think the score will be. "1-1" I say as Hereford are above Boston in the table who don't score that many goals on past performance, he goes 1-0 thinking the home side will edge it.
And he's right, as they're the better team, early doors Boston are the aggressors, front foot, they're quicker to everything with an intensity about their play. Hereford aren't bad, far from it, but they can't get a grip on possession, the hosts winning a succession of corners which has the home team radio commentators saying 'they need to score whilst on top'.
That goal doesn't look like coming as in fact neither team really test the goalkeepers, then from nowhere, Jimmy Knowles sets his sights and strikes right footed from twenty and more yards. The keeper hasn't moved as the ball nestles Into the net, mid to high to the unreachable left shoulder of Curtis Pond. "What a goal" shouts Radio Lincolnshire.
It's brilliant by Knowles who's looked busy and direct. The former Mansfield forward still only 21, full of confidence then shortly after unleashes again. Even further out this time he blazes inches wide.
It's a half time lead more than deserved by the team who seem to want it more. And credit Boston, they continue where they left off, on the front foot during the start of the second 45, a free kick by Martin Woods crashing the crossbar from all of thirty yards most certainly the highlight.
But Hereford aren't out of it with only one goal in the game to level, it's tight, edgy and the latter stages see's them more prominent in attack, their best chance in the last minute of injury time when Cowley's header from close range is brilliantly tipped around the posts by Cameron Gregory in injury time. Boston surviving a late scare with the Bull's goalkeeper in the opposition box for the final few seconds play.
Match winner Jimmy Knowles had his best match under my eyes and I was really impressed with a player who I felt on the day, really had the bit between his teeth.
Knowles along with strike partner Kelsey Mooney are both young, direct, hungry, at times a bit naïve but you wouldn't change that to unravel their positivity when in possession of the football. They both love running at defenders and that's refreshing to see. Not yet a dynamic duo that are singing on the same hymn sheet, sometimes their passes to each other will go astray, but they possess similarities and with more games together could become a real partnership of improved menace, the only problem with 'strikers' at this level is if one does well, or if one indeed does badly, within a few months they'll probably be on the move.
Hopefully not moving anywhere for Boston is Goalkeeper Cameron Gregory who was talked about a bit around me during the game, his kicking can be at times unpredictable but his shot stopping unbelievable, he made one last minute save that secured two points, which an inferior goalkeeper would have most likely conceded. He's the confidence behind a defensive duo in Micheal Bostwick and Brad Nicholson who I'm liking more and more every time I watch them play.
Left footed Nicholson probably had his best game under my watch, Bostwick a no nonsense defender with experience who signed in the summer from Stevenage, hasn't put a foot wrong in any of the games I've seen from him.
Commendable mentions too, for midfield trio Woods, Ward and Jordan Richards, it really was Boston's day and those through the spine of their side stood up and done their Manager proud. It was the battles won in those key areas, that were the difference on the field of play.
Not so many Hereford players could take the same accolade of doing their boss Paul Caddis proud. Centre half and captain Nathan Cameron at least shown grit and fight to defend in only the way he knows how. He was solid and no nonsense, right back Aaron Skinner likewise. Lassana Mendes and Aurio Teixeira in midfield had technical ability. Mendes tall and leggy with a fine touch, Teixeira little and nippy with a bit of guile, but for large parts out of his depth and forced to play a head it and scrap game which he's far from suited to do. It certainly wasn't a day where the key cogs in Hereford's midfield shone. Star signing Yusufu Ceesay down the left another with glimpses, but not near enough end product to trouble Boston's backline.
Hereford are ok. Their fans, a hundred plus who travelled the 3 hour drive to Boston, were brilliant, they didn't stop signing and I feel with them behind their team they'll probably get more points at home where they'll be stronger on average as Edgar Street is an old fashioned proverbial 'tough place to go'. They drop from tenth to seventeenth in the tightest of tables whilst Boston now boast above them in ninth. The pilgrims journey is an upwards trajectory towards the playoff places... On this form it could end in a bright and juicy season for the boys in tangerine.
Boston United: Cameron Gregory, Jai Rowe (Dylan Hill 62), Brad Nicholson, Michael Bostwick, Tom Leak, Keaton Ward, Martin Woods (Tom Edge 81), Jordan Richards, Keziah Martin, Jimmy Knowles, Kelsey Mooney.
Hereford: Curtis Pond, Aaron Skinner, Adam Livingstone, Aurio Teixeira (Jamie Tolley 80), Yusifu Ceesay, Alex Babos, Jason Cowley, Lassana Mendes (Ethan Freemantle 65), Oliver Southern (Tom Pugh 46), Nathan Cameron, Kyle Howkins.
3pm Kick Off. Saturday 11th Novembers 2023, Jakemans Stadium, Boston (att 1,505).