Boston United 2 Barrow 1 (9th August 2014)
A three hour drive to a game never seems so bad when it goes through parts of the country rarely visited for other games. A trip to Boston certainly fits the bill. The countryside may be pancake flat, but the A1 is a route that’s nothing if not varied. From a 3/4 mile tunnel to a dubiously excessive 8 lane superhighway between Huntingdon and Peterborough, to more narrow sections where a service station near Bedford has an Esso garage abutted by the “Adult Pitstop” sex shop, as if people travelling to the north regularly feel the need to impulse buy some porn mags and the odd bit of bondage gear.
A half an hour delay, due to traffic rather than any impulsive purchases I hasten to add, meant I arrived in Boston far later than planned, and even then I found myself battling the awful traffic in Boston, as well as a pay and display car park machine which wouldn’t accept a pound coin – and as always in such occasions, the coin it won’t accept is the only one in your possession that will take you up to required price.
And that was a shame, because despite only hearing bad things about the place, Boston, on this sunny afternoon at least, looked a very nice little town. Plenty of old buildings, and the echo of seagulls, gave it a bit of character. My plan had been to get there about 1.30 and have a bit of a wander, maybe stop for a beer, and to climb the 200 steps up the tower of St. Botolph’s Church in the centre. The last of those, with about 40 minutes until kick off, I just had time to do.
Handily the ground is right next to the town centre, and also has four big traditional corner floodlight pylons as a homing beacon. In fact the place seems to be the quintessential “4th division” ground, if you ignore the face that the 4th division exists under a different name these days, and Boston have only even had five years in the football league, and the last of those was seven years ago. Every small town should have a ground like this.
I entered through the turnstiles on the Spayne Road side of the ground, a fully covered side terrace for 2000 people, which offered a good view of the game, and probably the best view of the rest of the ground. Opposite was the main stand. Seating around 1500, it was starting to show its age somewhat, with faded seats and a whiff of slack maintenance, but still very much the stand of a pro club.
To the left was a partially covered terrace, much higher than usually found at non-league clubs, or even most lower division league clubs for that matter. The steepest covered section only runs for 2/3rds of the width of the pitch, but is still pretty imposing. The tower of St Botolph’s, or “The Boston Stump” as it’s known, is visible beyond, about a quarter of mile across town.
The opposite end is one of those characterful stands that looks better from afar. It’s a covered two tier affair, with a paddock at the front and seats behind. 1/3 of this stand is given over to away supporters. The terracing at the front is very shallow, but is adequate when crowds are low. The middle section is given over to temporary seats, which look a bit ugly, but probably offer almost the best view in the stand. At least some do. A row of eight seats in one block had been taped off with police tape, as if someone there had recently committed some kind of elongated murder.
The seats above look like they would offer a good view, and probably a number of them do. Unfortunately pillars and steelwork for handrails and stairs conspire to block the view of at least one of the goals from seemingly almost every seat. From the side terrace, the gap between this stand and the main stand offers a view of the Maud Foster windmill, blades spinning purposefully in the breeze.
With it’s 6500 capacity, four sides with cover, and town centre location, it seems like almost the perfect traditional small town ground, yet the club are seeking a move. A bland modern alternative on the edge of town will provide the extra non-matchday income so vital to clubs these days, and bizarrely may even attract more support, but it’ll be a shame when a ground such as this is gone. In somewhere like Belgium it’d look at home as the ground of a small top flight club, albeit maybe tidied up slightly, and it’s a shame that grounds like this, of which very few are left, appear to have no future.
On the field, both clubs here for this game were probably looking forward with a bit of optimism. Both are looking to rise up through the leagues, with Barrow the pre-season favourites. Backed by a noisy following, they certainly started better and had fair few half chances as well as couple of very good ones. They hit the crossbar with one header, and had a headed goal ruled out on half an hour. Before Boston scored two minutes from the break, their only two chances of note had been long range efforts.
The goal was also from distance, and appeared to slightly deceive the Barrow keeper before flying in the inside the post.
If Barrow felt a little aggrieved at half time about being behind, it wouldn’t have taken long after to make them feel worse. A good lofted crossfield ball set up a one on one, coolly clipped past the Barrow keeper to double the lead.
It also increased my remarkable tally of “goal shots ruined by someone getting in the way” that I collect with ease, with the raised arm of a woman already anticipating the goal totally obscuring the goalscorer. Thanks, luv. Still, at least I saw it properly.
That was in the 53rd minute, and from then on Barrow completely dominated the game. It took the just 3 minutes to pull one back. An unchallened run to the box resulted in an all to easy through ball, which was turned in from an angle. It allowed my 2nd ruined goal picture in 3 minutes, with the ball obscured by a defender as the net bulges. Neither the Boston fans, nor the celebrating Barrow fans, would have had too much sympathy. A Boston kid sat behind the goal, hands on head in shock, tells the story.
From then on Barrow battered Boston, who barely even managed an attack on the break, yet they had few real chances. The best was probably a header from a corner which hit the angle of crossbar and post, but other than that there was only a late shot from distance which the Boston keeper had to palm away.
The final whistle went with a rare Boston break being taken to the corner flag, which probably wasn’t what they had in mind after going 2-0 up. But three points it is, amazingly Boston’s 7th consecutive opening day victory. With it being unlikely that I’ll ever come back to the place, I was pleased to see a home win here too.