Boston United 1-2 Banbury United (National League North)
I’m off to one of my favourite football grounds tonight. I’m not sure why I hold the Jakeman’s Community Stadium so high on my list of all-time best locations? A new venue that has only been with us since 2020 when Boston moved out of the fabulous but decrepit York Street after 67 years. Perhaps it’s the quirky looking curved floodlights that draw me in from afar? The three-sided arena is impressive but still awaiting to be finished as behind one goal is an empty builder’s yard awaiting the go ahead from club bosses to get it all complete.
Perhaps it’s the journey I take? Through Grantham and across the A52? Which I really like? The flat country roads of sheer darkness only lit by the moon peering through the sporadic clouds as I follow a tractor and other slow moving vehicles down the single carriageway. The canny parking spot I’ve found off Wallace Way? It could be the ease of entrance and exit to and from the venue and the smile I get off the girl behind the ticket office window when collecting my pass or is it the food that is sublime in the under-stand kiosk which lures me in with its sizzling smell? I just enjoy going to Boston… A sleepy Lincolnshire town, nothing around it bar the smell of sea air and soil then suddenly those stadium lights appear and they always get good crowds too.
Steven Gerrard’s Al Ettifaq in the Saudi Pro League played in front of less than 700 at the weekend. A team that included Jordan Henderson, Gigi Wijnaldum and Demari Gray, players being paid millions to be there… Well Boston will double that crowd tonight for lads on less than £200 a week. A cold Tuesday night in the sixth tier of English football. And that’s with Banbury, the away team taking a total of 23 supporters.
It's 5pm and I’m on the road, mixing it up tonight, my sat nav always encouraging me to avoid the congestion at Grantham and hit the A1 for a couple of junctions, only issue is the road I’m told to go up is not yet complete… Luckily, I’ve been here before, back through the back end of Grantham and East up the A52 again.
It’s dark and cold but not too snappy, I seem to always get Boston around this time of year and I’ll be back on Saturday, and next Tuesday, to do it all again.
I’m walking over the traffic lights on the A16 with a few fans in front of me, Costa to my right you cut through the car park to see the modern grey structure it feels like a football league venue, league one or league two it would not look out of place.
There’s a queue for my ticket but after signing in at the desk I walk around to the turnstile of the West Stand before grabbing a tea and a Twix for £2.80.
The concourse is ground level but under the stand and as you walk out through the entrance you’re pitch side touching distance to the chalky white lines that look slightly faded on a green immaculate wide surface with a smart roofed terrace in front of you, orange painted walls with Boston United in black writing at eyeline view.
That terrace sweeps around to the left and behind the goal whilst to my right a fence no more than six feet high with a few billboards plastered on it.
I’m up to my seat in the press area where an elevated view has you perched at a lovely level. The radio commentators in attendance as we ready to do battle.
I did the same match between the two sides last season but only two players remain from that day in December when Banbury won 1-0. Andy Whing has since been replaced by Mark Jones as the Puritans Manager whilst I’m surprised that Ian Culverhouse is still at Boston. He’s been through more players than Katie Price.. It seems whatever he tries to do, Boston are always scrapping in the lower half of the table which for a side of this size and stature is punching well below their weight.
Banbury, who are below them, aren’t the force they used to be under Andy Whing. Last season they played some beautiful stuff but not tonight. The start is half paced with neither team looking like they want to take responsibility, but Kelsey Mooney has other ideas, he’s already caused defensive panic and is spinning his marker with pace and trickery before being brought down inside the area, with just three minutes gone, Martin Woods converts from the spot.
Mooney is a real handful, he’s too hot to handle and the Banbury centre halves don’t like trying to stop him, they stand off and give him time to turn and run. The Pilgrims number nine suffered an ACL injury at Leamington last season but looks a good bit of business for Boston, who are unrecognisable from the side I watched last year.
Neither team I feel are as good as when I last watched them in fact, both feel in their comfort zone and it’s a match that I could probably do justice in playing myself aged a month shy of 45. No real fast-paced pressing or stand out quality, unforced errors are allowing Boston in again, they through Mooney force a good save by Harding who parries his header from a corner over.
That save, the best piece of action bar the goal in a half where Banbury might have had two themselves on the break. Odabeyi hits fresh air with only the keeper to beat and does well to reach the corner flag as the ball spins off the outside of his boot, he should have done better to put his side level.
The first half is littered with injury stoppages and a couple of changes are enforced for each side by the start of the second half. Banbury having already made two subs look like they mean more business, told by their Manager to no doubt buckle up and get themselves back in the match.
Boston don’t know whether to stick or twist? They go for five at the back on the hour and that gives Banbury more control in midfield. Lawson D’Ath crossing from the right where Tai Fleming has popped up at the back post, unmarked he fires in from close range to level the score.
That leads to more Banbury pressure and on 79 they take a lead which has probably been coming. A defensive mix up allows the ball to bounce inside the box and sub Adi Yussuf is there to pounce. ‘Taxi For Culverhouse’ is the cry from one Boston supporter in front of me.
The atmosphere had been flat all night, but that goal dampens the mood further towards home supporter depression, I don’t see how Culverhouse can keep surviving not only losses, but displays like this.
The last few minutes see Boston lack ideas, going long when they should have kept the ball, passing it short when they should have gone long, by now Banbury are fighting for everything and containing the opposition through grit and determination which was largely lacking in the first half.
The away side seal their victory upon the Referees whistle before celebrating with their fans who made the journey.
There wasn’t a lot to shout about with two ordinary sides on show but Kelsey Mooney, son of former Watford striker Tommy, looks a twinkle in his dad’s eye and a decent striker with pace and the proverbial good feet for a big man.
I liked the neatness of Finlay Thorndike who also had good feet and Keziah Martin down the left wing had pace, was raw, but infrequently used.
For Banbury, at half time I would have said not a player on the pitch impressed me from their side but a better second half saw central midfielder Emmanuel Maja grow in the game, he put a real shift in alongside Simeon Maye and the two got a control which evidently helped them win the game.
Jack Tompkins got forward from right back well whilst Tope Obadeyi didn’t have his best night, I still see a talented footballer in the 33-year-old former England schoolboy. My only regret not seeing Love Island’s Finn Tapp make it off the bench.
I’ll be surprised if by the end of my week of watching Boston that Ian Culverhouse will still be in his job, but I’m pretty much sure I said the same thing at this stage last season. Boston are now sixteenth on seventeen points three above the drop zone whilst Banbury climb to fourteenth a point above the Pilgrims.
I think the playoffs on current form is a big ask for either club, nothing a managerial change won’t fix and another influx of talented individuals which I think is needed by both teams to make them competitive at the right end. A long hard season for both teams perhaps? They finished 15th (Boston) and 17th (Banbury) respectively last season… If they better those performances this time around, I think they can each take that as a morale victory.
Boston United: Cameron Gregory, Jai Rowe, Ethan Septhon (Dylan Hill 71), Michael Bostwick, Martin Woods (Keaton Ward 41), Kelsey Mooney, Keziah Martin, Jimmy Knowles, Jordan Richards, Zak Mills, Finlay Thorndike (Brad Nicholson 61).
Banbury United: Jack Harding, Jack Tompkins, Simeon Maye, Tai Fleming, Lawson D’Ath, Craig Hewitt (Ken Charles 46), Tope Obadeyi, Aidan Elliott-Wheeler (Adi Yussuf 69), Lee Henderson (Jack Davies 42), Louis Hall, Emmanuel Maja-Awesu.
7:45pm Kick Off. Tuesday 24th October 2023, Jakemans Stadium, Boston (att 1,237).