Congratulations everyone! You survived Christmas, you made it through Jools’ Annual Hootenanny – and all the mince pies have now been eaten. Your reward for all this epic endeavour is the first home game of 2019, a game which sees the Pilgrims up against old adversaries Altrincham – although the Boston side Alty will be facing today is quite different from that which won the reverse fixture back when everything wasn’t damp and miserable.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE: And Boston were very, very good that day. They earned their win thanks to a combination of an exceptional performance by the makeshift centre-half pairing of Spencer Harris and Toby Lees (remember him?), and two excellent goals from Adam Marriott and Nathan Arnold. None of the latter three are still with the club. A few others who were also involved that day have been moved on too. But while today’s opponents may be as confused by all the new names as the rest of us, last Saturday’s 2-2 with Bradford proves that for all the mid-season surgery we’re still a competitive – if annoyingly inconsistent – team. But ugh: that Bradford equaliser.
The sight of the shirtless McKenna skipping with excitement did confirm a couple of things: firstly, that for all their erratic form, Boston United are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the league’s best teams. And secondly, the rest of us need to join a gym.
GETTING SHIRTY: Wheeling away towards the main stand, Bradford’s Ben McKenna – the villain in this sad Christmas tale – ripped off his shirt and threw himself to the ground before being engulfed by ecstatic teammates. For Boston fans it was the moment they had feared but had expected. Avenue threw everything at Boston in the final few moments, and with the Pilgrims defending so deep they might as well have been standing on the Town End there was a certain gut-wrenching inevitability about the goal. Still, the sight of the shirtless, gleeful McKenna skipping with excitement at having salvaged a point for the league leaders did confirm a couple of things: firstly, that for all their erratic form, Boston United are more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the league’s best teams and make them have to earn their points here. And secondly, the rest of us need to join a gym.
BUM NOTE: Of course, McKenna’s dramatic equaliser doesn’t really stand up to much post-match video scrutiny. A closer examination of the 94th minute strike reveals an initially tame shot headed squarely towards the grateful arms of George Willis – right up until the moment it strikes the flying, flailing derrière of Lewis Gibbens, at which point it skews past the helpless United keeper and pathetically dribbles into the net at a speed normally associated with Grantham’s traffic jams. Course, it’d hardly be fair to get all haughty about such a miserable equaliser after Max Wright benefitted from an even bigger deflection when he put the Pilgrims ahead. In fact, aside from the penalty, the game’s goals were all a bit weird. George Willis will probably never want to watch back Lewis Knight’s free kick (although Craig Elliott might insist that he does), but the United keeper more than redeemed himself with a string of excellent saves to cap off an impressive run of form over the Christmas period. He is certainly turning into one of the finds of the season, no mean feat when the ever-resourceful @bostonutdstats account pointed out there are 40 other candidates to choose from.
LUCK OF THE DRAW: Tuesday’s game at Alfreton saw yet another late equaliser deny the Pilgrims. All these late goals are becoming quite the annoyance. Frustrating? Yup. But Boston are at least becoming a difficult side to face, and if Craig Elliott can find some kind of solution to that nagging issue up front there’s every prospect of the club embarking on a late surge into the playoffs. Another striking option might avoid all these late goals too – another outlet up top may well take the pressure off late in games where we’ve basically had no choice but to defend for our lives. Easy enough to say – prising a reliable goalscorer away from a club mid-season is always a tricky ask, so little wonder it’s proving to be an annoyingly persistent head scratcher for the Boston management. Jay Rollins returning from injury will certainly be a help and give Elliott extra options, but it may well be the case that outside assistance is required to give Boston that little extra edge. And that may be all that’s needed in this utterly ridiculous league.
Anyway. Enjoy today’s game, and a very happy new year to you all.
This article originally appeared in The Pilgrim matchday magazine. Boston lost this game 1-2 in front of 964 fans.