Boreham Wood 2 Whitehawk 1 (Play-off Final, 9th May 2015)
I’d been to Boreham Wood before, but it was a chance to see the place with a decent crowd that saw me making a snap decision to drive to this corner of Hertfordshire, on the fringes of NW London.
Despite their good form, Boreham Wood don’t exactly pack the fans in. Their average of 327 saw them ranking 16th in the Conference South, although their opponents Whitehawk can hardly lord it over them, with their 258 putting them dead last.
Play off finals usually draw rather better, even if the traffic jam upon entering the town turned out to be for a retail park rather than the football. Even with 2000+ at the game, parking was incredibly easy for some reason, and I strolled in along an eerily quiet street, past the backs of the truncated shells of houses that make up Albert Square, on the set for Eastenders.
Since my last visit, Boreham Wood had replaced a covered terrace down one side with a pretty decent stand for about 1000 people. A central sign picking out the name of the club gave it a little flourish, raising it out of the ordinary. Less good was the fact that a large central section was cordoned off for segregation. Surely they could have shut a smaller section of seats. It’s a big game for this level, but it’s hardly Leeds v Millwall.
With no fighting possible, or obviously likely, the more boisterous among the home crowd found that letting off flares at various intervals would suffice in the bad boy stakes. One was rather needlessly thrown into the Boreham Wood penalty box shortly after the start of the game, and the weary stewards attacked the threat with all the vigour of clearing up a knocked over bin.
There wasn’t much attacking threat on the pitch for most of the game. No doubt the committed would be caught up in the tension of it all, but for the neutral, things of interest were few and far between.
Thankfully the game perked up, eventually. The home side planted a free kick from the edge on the box low into the far corner for the opening goal in the 67th minute, and from then on Whitehawk had to stop sitting back. I couldn’t really say they were laying siege to the home goal, but they got a lifeline with 8 minutes left, with the award of a penalty.
With the scores now level, they looked most likely to win, and really should have done with a minute to go. From close range, the ball was somehow skied high over the bar. Most thought it so high that it must have been a defender’s clearance, but the subsequent goal kick made it clear someone was going to have a sleepless night or two thinking about the miss.
With the game a little more lively now, at least extra time was a bit more welcome. However, when Boreham Wood’s Junior Morias, a player with more than touch of Adebayo Akinfenwa about him, turned and fired in to put Boreham Wood 2-1 up in the 91st minute, I heard at least one person say “why couldn’t have done that one minute earlier?”
There would be no comeback this time though for Whitehawk and their knot of commendably noisy, but nevertheless slightly annoying supporters. It was just a case a waiting for that final whistle. One Boreham Wood fan didn’t quite wait long enough, and reacted to a free kick with a one-man pitch invasion, before sheepishly turning back. His embarrassment wasn’t helped by struggling to get back over the wall, and the number of people laughing at him. At least he didn’t have long to wait before he could go on for real.