For as long as there are football matches, there will be people who turn up determined not to watch them.
Such was the case during Boston United’s season-ending defeat at North Ferriby on Sunday afternoon, during which one Pilgrims fan – having ‘occupied’ the stand where some local children had chosen to watch the game – spent much of the second half with his back to the action, facing down the fearsome mass of 14-year-old Brooklyn Beckham haircuts.
What a hero.
In all honesty, you can’t blame the lad for not wanting to watch what was unfolding on the pitch, because it was horrifying.
To the appalled amazement of the huge numbers of travelling fans, United somehow timed their worst performance of the season (you might argue their worst for many seasons) with the unfortunate precision of, oh, I dunno, a ridiculous 95th minute overhead kick.
Renowned for freezing on the big occasions, Boston successfully provided the kind of afternoon their supporters had only imagined in their worst nightmares.
A club familiar with sudden post-season calamities found a new way to chuck it away, this time via a slow-motion disaster spanning 90 excruciating minutes of what you could only loosely call ‘football’.
They were so spectacularly wretched that their best moment was kicking off without booting the ball into the Humber, which is pretty much where they tried launching everything else.
As United’s players bickered amongst themselves, as puzzled as everyone else as to why they were playing so badly, North Ferriby’s Tom Denton was busy succeeding Adam Roscoe in the role of season-ending tormentor.
Denton, the villain of Wednesday night’s home fixture, is what you and I might call a ‘target man’, but non-football fans would simply refer to as a geological landmark.
Although he subsequently protested his innocence on Twitter, the giant number nine had angered many at York Street with an over-enthusiastic use of his elbows.
On Sunday, now the target of much spittle-flecked ire, he was again proving to be Boston’s irritatingly effective nemesis, winning a nonsensical penalty, nodding in a nonchalant second and generally ruining everybody’s afternoon by being tall.
Looming above Boston United’s defence, Denton is exactly what an electricity pylon animated by Disney would look like: a massive, lumbering tower of faintly comical menace. You could win wars with his head.
Strutting around the pitch, barging people out the way with a dismissive waft of an arm, he is the last person you’d want to encounter in the scrum for M&S Dine In For £10.
Basically, I would love him to be a Boston United player.
Having been roundly abused for his part in Wednesday night’s controversies, Ferriby’s own Mount Doom clearly felt he had a point to prove.
When the home side netted their third goal to take the overall lead, Denton had to be dragged away from the travelling Pilgrims by teammates worried he might end up with a smoke bomb down his shorts.
He turned back to yell at the Boston supporters, who responded in kind.
It might have looked unsavoury – and there were genuinely unsavoury scenes in the stands throughout the game – but Denton’s little war with Boston fans was non-league football at its spiky in-yer-face best.
It would be far worse if neither side cared.
Of course, to widespread horror, it was Denton celebrating at the end, dodging the Boston supporters who ran onto the pitch to advise him they disapproved of his existence as the noise of a police helicopter reminded everyone that the afternoon hadn’t passed off entirely peacefully.
As the ground began to empty, a Boston fan alongside me grumbled something about corrupt referees and sinister FA conspiracies, as if we’d fallen into a wormhole and arrived back in 2002 when too many Boston fans believed the club was the victim of a covert FA operation to make them lose games, despite the team being perfectly capable of losing games on its own.
As conspiracy theories go, it’s a bit like claiming the Moon landings were faked while standing on the surface of the Moon.
The penalty Denton won was indeed a laughable decision, but thankfully, Boston’s players accepted defeat rather more graciously, accurately conceding the better side had won.
And that was that.
Aside from a narrow escape between a Latvian lorry and the central reservation on the A63, there was little to cheer. And when the highlight of a trip is not dying, you know you’ve had a bad day out.
So five years on from Guiseley, a year on from Chorley, Boston are again condemned to another season in the Conference North.
Condemned isn’t really the right word; it’s not the worst of fates, but nor will next season be an easy assignment. In fact, it looks considerably tougher.
From a resurgent Stockport County, to relegated Altrincham and Halifax, to the Class of 92’s Salford City, the league is full of teams capable of supplying plenty more of these bad afternoons.
To the sadness of many, Boston United will have to tackle these sides without the services of Carl Piergianni.
Having established himself as the best Boston defender of the Chestnut Homes era, Piergianni has made the decision to travel the world with his partner rather than spend his Saturdays in Nuneaton getting naked in front of Dennis Greene. Baffling, really.
So there is, again, much work for Greene to do.
Even the idea of a post-Pidge era is depressing. We are just months away from losing 5-0 at Salford City while our former talisman is strumming James Bay tunes and getting dreadlocks on Haad Yao beach. What a horrible thought.
But that’s next season.
Forget Tom Denton. Forget Ferriby. Forget about football.
For now, it’s time to take a break from this football business and enjoy the quintessentially British summertime activities of pretending to like tennis and moaning about the Glastonbury line-up. Well, until the European Championships anyway.
And Carl: good luck on your travels. You’ve been brilliant. We’ll miss you. But seriously, watch out for Australian magpies. They’re far more dangerous than Tom Denton’s elbows.
This article was originally published in the Boston Standard