Christmas Day is a bit like being at an airport, or a beach bar in the Canary Islands: it’s one of the few occasions that you don’t feel remotely guilty about drinking alcohol before midday. And if tradition dictates you should be snoring loudly by the time the Queen pops up to deliver her annual keynote, it also dictates you need to be here at the Jakemans, fuzzy head and all, to cheer the Pilgrims on against our big local rivals *CHECKS NOTES*… Alfreton Town.
DERBY DAY: Okay. They’re not Kettering Town. Or King’s Lynn. Or Gainsborough. But they’re not Lowestoft Town either. Small mercies and all that. And truthfully, does it really matter who your festive rivals are? Quite apart from affording the average fan a chance to escape the oppressive fug of digested sprouts and endless repeats of Kung Fu Panda 2, Boxing Day football has got something a bit magical about it even if you’re not playing that team you hate from a few miles away. Maybe it’s simply because in a sport where traditions are regularly binned in the name of progress, the mere fact that Boxing Day football is still a thing seems cause enough to celebrate. Oh yeah – and Alfreton flogged Tom Denton to Chesterfield in September. How’s that for a Christmas present? Pass me a pint of Baileys.
As the wind swept around the guts of the stadium, it was one of those days you just knew wasn’t going to end well. Not that it began well either. Much like Alan Partridge’s ratings, things started badly and then got worse
DEADLINE DAY: For your team of programme contributors though, the festive football schedule plays havoc with our normally exceptional standards of accuracy and insight, forcing us to file these notes several days in advance. As such, this Boxing Day edition of Terrace Chatter has absolutely no idea what happened up at Spennymoor on Saturday (or even if the game went ahead). Tempting as it is to play a kind of “Choose Your Own Adventure” based on the possible permutations (or pitch-based failures), let’s instead cast our mind back a little further to what happened over in Wrexham in the FA Trophy – although to be honest I’d much rather talk about sprouts.
WALES WATCHING: Returning to the Racecourse for the first time since that famous relegation decider eleven years ago could well have been one of those occasions to get you all dewy-eyed and sentimental. But actually, the contrasts between the two games were so stark as to render any meaningful comparison impossible. Back in 2007, the game was played out in front of a capacity crowd of over twelve thousand. The weather was glorious. There was (or so it seemed) a huge amount riding on the game. Everything about that fixture was blockbuster, from an atmosphere that fizzed and crackled, right down to the generous treatment doled out by Wrexham fans to their Lincolnshire visitors.
KOPS AND ROBBERS: This time? Yeah. Bit different. There were a total of three people on the famous Kop end, huddled together for warmth like penguins in a British zoo. Heavy rain was driven into the eaves of the old ground and the faces of everyone present by the kind of howling wind you normally only see in 1950s dramatisations of Arctic expeditions. This time the crowd barely topped a thousand sullen souls, every one of them gawping at a pitch that gamely accepted an obscene amount of rain before slowly beginning to flood as the game wound to a close. In contrast to the carnival atmosphere of ‘07, Boston fans who normally travel in good voice and good humour looked completely bereft before a ball had even been kicked.
It was impossible to blame them: as the wind swept around the guts of the stadium, it was one of those days you just knew wasn’t going to end well. Not that it began well either. Much like Alan Partridge’s ratings, things started badly and then got worse. United’s capitulation was such that the game was as good as lost before people had downed their first mug of tea. But… but… but. Odd as it may seem, for large spells of the game Boston seemed the better side, certainly the team playing the better football in spite of the appalling conditions. It’s just that Wrexham sat back, allowed the Pilgrims to set themselves up for a counter attack, then executed said counter attack very well indeed. Bah.
FULLY FOCUSSED: And so ends another year of knockout football. Still. Never mind. It wasn’t as bad as our last trip to Wrexham. And at least now we can concentrate on the league, although given our league resembles a malfunctioning fruit machine strapped to a rollercoaster with broken brakes, it’s perhaps best not to concentrate too hard. Let’s just win a few games and see where we are in February.
Enjoy the game, and what’s left of your Christmas. Safe journey and happy holidays to all our guests from Alfreton. And don’t hang about in the pub either – Uncle Buck is on itv2 at 7pm.
This article originally appeared in The Pilgrim matchday magazine. Unfortunately, Alfreton ruined Christmas for 1393 Boston fans by winning 1-0.