Sometimes it’s the little things that really thrill you; the little nuances that went unnoticed the first time around. It might be the joke in a film you finally got on the second viewing, or a song on an album you came to appreciate years later. Or maybe the mini garlic kievs you only discovered on your fifth trip to the buffet.
Such pleasures can be derived from football too, and if you were present here at the Jakemans when Jay Rollins stabbed the ball past Ross Durrant a week and a half ago you might know what I’m on about.
People rarely remember how winning goals happened that late in a game – they’re normally too busy hugging their mate or spilling coffee over themselves to fully comprehend what just happened. It’s in those moments the finer details get forgotten. So if you haven’t already, go back and watch the YouTube video of that Rollins winner. Take another look. The fact it was scored two minutes into injury time is one thing, but its intricacies demand closer inspection.
Go back and appreciate that raking cross-field pass from Jordan Keane from just inside United’s half. What looked at first glance to be an aimless, desperate upfield hoof turned out to be nothing of the sort. Keane had spotted Karl Hawley free and found him beautifully. It was a laser-guided pass.
Then watch how Hawley controls that pass. The ball threatens to squirm away for an instant, bouncing up into his thigh. Hawley, who probably does this stuff for giggles in training, is soon back in control of it.
At this point, he is the only United player in sight and is facing a bank of three Ferriby defenders, with a fourth sprinting back to cover. This is not the overwhelming counterattack you’d expect to end with a goal. Ferriby want their point, after all.
Moments later, Rollins arrives in shot, jogging to the edge of the Ferriby box. As he does, he’s already pointing to the cavernous gap that has suddenly opened up behind Ferriby’s Jake Picton, who appears blissfully unaware of the looming danger.
Rollins’ lateral dart keeps him onside – barely – as Hawley skips inside for perhaps two or three yards. Rollins now starts sprinting hard. Picton is stranded, and he now knows it. Hawley, who has seen Rollins pointing at the space, waits until his teammate begins his run behind Picton and places a pinpoint ball between the legs of Simon Russell. He means to do it, too. It’s a sublime moment.
For a moment, you think Hawley’s ball is slightly too heavy, but it’s perfect. Even if he had anticipated it, Durrant has left himself too far to travel, and now Rollins is all alone inside the Ferriby box and does what any striker does in that situation: he thwonks it in. The Town End erupts.
It is a beautiful goal, satisfying in a way no cheap-and-nasty 40-yard screamer could match. But it’s a goal whose beauty is only really revealed when you take the time to look back at the little things we often don’t notice in real time. Who knows how many of these goals have been lost in time, in games never recorded on camera?
Right, okay, so the fact Ferriby went down the other end and nearly made it 2-2 is neither here nor there. And yeah, Boston followed up that win with a dismal 5-2 thumping at Blyth. And then they went and lost to Bradford on Monday. Things are not going as well as expected at the moment – and there’s no point denying it.
But amidst all this disappointment, there are little things to cling to. Results clearly need to improve, but the dynamism of the Ferriby winner is promising. Rollins may not turn out to be the answer to United’s quest for an out-and-out striker, but with that goal and that little burst behind the Ferriby backline he demonstrated why he swept up in last season’s awards – and why this United side is better for having him back.
Hawley, too, made a case for playing in a slightly deeper role. How the jigsaw fits, and what can be changed, rests with the manager, who is no doubt lying awake at night mulling them over. United have problems, but they’re not all bad problems. Well, apart from the disciplinary record, which has degenerated to point where I’m starting to wonder if Boston’s internal punishment for a red card is a fortnight’s all-inclusive in the Maldives.
Anyway, enough about our league struggles. It’s the FA Cup today. Normally at this point I’d say ‘enjoy the game’, but I think the last time Boston supporters actually enjoyed the FA Cup was 1996, so let’s just try and get through this as best we can eh?