Boston Town vs Boston United. Pre-season friendly.
9 July 2005
Whenever possible I try to attend local derby games, however this is made difficult by the fact that few local rivals play in the same league and when they do the matches are usually arranged for Boxing Day and New Years Day fixtures, limiting the amount of derbies it is possible to attend. However, pre-season friendlies often allow mis-matched local ‘rivals’ to play each other, and this summer I was pleased to spot the fixture of Boston Town v Boston United.
One of my best mates Steve comes from Boston and his brother (Mick Lyon) who now coaches ladies soccer in the USA used to play for United, famously in the FA Trophy final at Wembley. As Boston was holding it’s ‘Party In The Park’ festival that weekend too and we could get some free accommodation at Steve’s sisters a trip to the home of Bateman’s Beer looked like a sure fire winner.
Boston Town were founded in 1964 and now play in the United Counties League Premier Division. The club never had the easiest of relationships with neighbours United, but these days the relationship is so good there is serious talk about the clubs ground sharing a site at Tattershall Road, allowing The Pilgrims to sell off York Street, probably for housing as it is in a very central location in the town.
Town have never beaten United, and have only played them once competitively, an FA Cup 3rd qualifying round tie in 1970 which gave them their record attendance of 2,700. The club made rapid progress through the Lincs League being champions in 1965 and the following year were champions of the Central Alliance League. Further success was had in the Midlands League as champions in 1975, 1979 and 1981. In 1989 they were Central Midlands League Supreme Division champions and have twice won the United Counties League Premier Division, champions in 1995 and again as recently as 2001.
Their best season in the FA Cup was 1976-77, when they lost 3-1 away to Barnsley in the first Round Proper. In the Trophy their biggest scalp was a first round defeat of holders Stafford Rangers in 1979-80. In 1994-95 The Poachers reached the semi final of the FA Vase, losing 2-0 to Taunton Town. Players to have progressed to the Football League include: Julian Joachim (Leicester City, Aston Villa), Ricky Greenhough (York City, Chester City), Jamie Rodwell (Rushden and Diamonds), Neil Mann (Hull City), John Cockerill (Grimsby Town), Les Moore (Lincoln City) and Harry Godbold (Lincoln City).
Ground Capacity 6,000. Covered Accommodation 1,000. Seats 400.
The ground is rather off the beaten track and is a bit tricky to find being right on the edge of town. It has a large car park which has possibly the most uneven surface imaginable, fit only for 4x4s and tractors. The turnstiles are to the left of the large club house, and take you through to an end behind one of the goals. This area around the turnstiles, club house and tea bar is covered and affords the only shelter at this end of the ground. The clubhouse does look out onto the pitch and you could watch the game from behind the goal inside the clubhouse if you really wanted to.
Along the touchline to the right of the clubhouse is a long wooden stand divided into three sections the middle of which is seated. The ‘floor’ of the stand is a dirt embankment which presumably counts as terracing! The many supporting pillars appear to be old telegraph poles. At the far end of this stand a length of about 15 foot of roofing appears to have collapsed / been dismantled, and while the stand is ‘characterful’ it is pretty shabby. Likewise the stand behind the far goal, which is ‘seated’ in as much as it has a stepped succession of benches is in a poor state. The whole structure is wooden, and has seen considerably better days. The perimeter fencing is also in a poor state of repair in places too! The dug outs are situated along the touchline to the left of the club house end. They are quirkily asymmetric, the Away dugout being rather larger and longer than the Home dugout. They are wooden and have a ‘home made’ look about them!
The clubhouse is of a reasonable size and the staff good humoured. Disappointingly the range of beers on offer was very limited, and contrary to Steve’s expectation they did not stock Bateman’s but only John Smith’s keg bitter. (Decent beer, and lots of it, was to come later that day at the CAMRA tent at the ‘Party in the Park’.) Despite Boston being somewhat north of Birmingham, the snack bar is of the burger rather than the pie variety which was another slight disappointment.
Tattershall Road was charming enough on a very hot summer afternoon but is probably less enticing on a cold wet November evening. If Town and United do develop a new stadium between them it can only be good for the area as Boston is very isolated and has potentially a large catchment area for fans. United’s own York Street is hardly state of the art, so with Town as a ‘feeder’ team for United and facilities that might encourage decent crowds to attend on a regular basis, then The Pilgrims could secure their Football League status with greater certainty.
Approach Boston on the A52 Grantham-Sleaford Road and then turn left into Brothertoft Road, then go along Argyle Street to the bridge, go over and left to the ground which is three-quarters of a mile on your left.
This was a typical pre-season friendly, with the attendance probably just short of 1,000 and the League side doing just enough to assert their status without humiliating their hosts. The first half saw an extraordinary occurrence – a Jason Lee hat trick. I’ll repeat that – Jason Lee scored THREE goals in 45 minutes. Admittedly the first took a wicked deflection and Lee really didn’t know too much about it, and the third was a penalty, but the second was a tremendous header from a cross by our man of the match Danny Thomas.
I can also report that Jason Lee no longer has “a pineapple, on his head” in fact he has no hair at all. Skinner & Baddiel eat your heart out. 3-0 to United at half time, wholesale substitutions after the break and despite Darryl Clare, top scorer in the Conference for 2 of the past 3 seasons being on for Lee he failed to score and United added just one more goal from Austin McCann to run out 4-0 winners.
Out & About
Boston sits in the heart of the fens and subsequently the scenery tends to be somewhat on the flat side. In the centre of Boston is St Botolph’s church, with it colossal church tower known as ‘The Stump’ (apparently the biggest church in England). It is possible to climb up the 365 steps of The Stump where the views over the flat landscapes around stretch for miles in any direction. As The Stump is the only tall structure in the locale, it has a grim reputation as being the site of all too frequent suicide attempts (attempts being 100% successful). Admittance to The Stump is usually curtailed for a while after each suicide, until the church needs to raise money for a new stained glass window or some such, at which point admittance to The Stump is reopened, and the grisly cycle starts again … point being, if The Stump is not open if you go to Boston, best not to ask why.
Also worth a visit is Maud Foster Mill, the tallest working windmill in England, high over the town; and Boston Guildhall, the Pilgrim Fathers were imprisoned here in 1607, they have exhibitions and information about the town history.
Since you ask ...
Boston is worth visiting just to sample the Bateman’s bitter, although Bateman’s is available in good ale houses outside Boston like most beers its best sampled where it hasn’t had to travel too far. Visit www.bateman.co.uk/Pubs.htm for a full list!
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