By Adam Shergold
The first two articles in this series featured Champions League ties but Adam’s opted for a game a lot closer to home. This game from last year was pivotal in Boston’s promotion back to the Conference North. Look out for the wonderful show of appreciation and respect between the two sets of fans after the final whistle. You can follow Adam on Twitter @adamjshergold and read more from him at his excellent blog More in Hope than Expectation which describes the joy and anguish of following Boston United.
I fully expect my favourite match to look out of place on this page. There’s no delusions of grandeur here, no international superstars and it most definitely was not watched by millions. The attendance is only in four figures, the players involved all have tedious day jobs and the camera work in the video below is frankly awful. There was silverware at stake, yes, but it was arranged by Unibond, not UEFA.
It’s a selection which features my team, Boston United, at a crucial moment in last season’s (ultimately successful) promotion push. The team’s return to the Conference North, achieved through the play-offs, ran parallel to the last year of my undergraduate studies at York, so the joy of United’s success nicely counterbalanced the stress of finals.
I thought long and hard before choosing this particular game. My main criteria was that it must be a game I attended and there’s certainly been plenty to choose from, as I’ve followed the side home and away for quite a few years now. The 2-0 win at Hayes which secured promotion to the Football League in 2002 would have been the obvious choice. I was there, of course, but felt an imposter having not attended many matches that season.
There were five years in the Football League, when grounds were visited which actually had proper stands, seats and people to sit in them, but away days typically ended in defeat and demoralisation. More recently, I’ve gained great satisfaction from seeing an 89th minute winner at Buxton, a surging comeback at Guiseley or a scrambled equaliser at Telford but they all somehow seemed run-of-the-mill. This needed to be a game which was at the same time crucial, dramatic and glorious.
Boston were stalking Guiseley at the top of the Unibond Northern Premier and this penultimate game of the season, at a sun-bathed York Street, was must-win. Losing was unthinkable if automatic promotion was to be gained on the final day away at Marine, and the lottery of the play-offs avoided. The fact this was our biggest game of the season – FC United enjoyed far-and-away the biggest crowds in the division, as well they might – only added to the spectacular sense of occasion.
And come they did. With their red and black flags, their green and gold protest scarves, their awesome repertoire of songs and their smoke flares. But the Boston public came too – 2,500 to be precise, by far the largest attendance since the dizzy heights of League Two. The hardcore in the Spayne Road terrace were bouncing. I was in amongst them. The scene was set.
FCUM were playing only for pride but hadn’t read the script. Just four minutes in, Jerome Wright lined up a 30-yard free-kick. The ground held its breath. Wright dispatched the set-piece into the top corner with the technique of a son of Sao Paulo, not Wythenshawe.
The next 60-odd minutes were a kind of purgatory. We were playing the creative, passing football (by non-league standards) but the chances, for some reason, just weren’t coming. The players seemed shell-shocked, suddenly paralysed by fear with the finish line in sight. The travelling support delighted in our stasis. We tried to lift the players but FCUM held firm – Mark Ayres and David Chadwick at the back might as well have been Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Our energy ebbed away, the ground fell silent but for the sounds of nails being chewed. Time ticked down.
In a flash, the sterling work of our management duo of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst was becoming worthless, the freezing nights of winter stood on terraces at places like Stocksbridge Park Steels, Ashton United and Kendal Town seemed pointless. All that time and money.
But, suddenly, from the most unlikely source came salvation. Less than 20 minutes remained when Lee Canoville, our centre-back, ghosted to the edge of the penalty area as Jamie Yates flicked in a cross from the left. By his own admission, Canoville would clear the stand nine times out of ten but, with impeccable timing, he swivelled and lashed the ball into the net. And with his left foot. The relief which surged around the ground is indescribable.
Bodies recharged, United swarmed forward again and, seven minutes later, Anthony Church connected sweetly with Spencer Weir-Daley’s ball to find the roof of the net. The scenes of celebration at this invaluable goal will remain with me forever – I had the bruises on my hands for weeks afterwards from swinging on the rafters.
The noise was now deafening and as we finally found the courage to sing “We are going up,” Weir-Daley rolled in the third. Danny Davidson, who like Weir-Daley had been outstanding all season, added a fourth in stoppage time.
Hundreds spilled onto the pitch at the final whistle, the players were mobbed and there was a wonderful moment of mutual appreciation with the FCUM fans. Just two-and-a-half years after the club was rescued at the eleventh hour from extinction, this small, forgotten corner of Lincolnshire had experienced another finest hour.
P.S. Boston blew their chance at automatic promotion the following weekend. In a cruel but accurate reflection of the team’s last few years, they produced a flat, nervy performance in a 0-0 at Marine. It was another seven days before the champagne could be uncorked, with a 2-1 play-off final win at Bradford Park Avenue.
If you would like to be involved in the ‘My Favourite Match’ series, read this post to find out more.
Much of it was made up of home grown players who are now household names such as: Danny Blind, Frank & Ronald de Boer, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars, Clarence Seedorf, Edwin van der Sar etc there were also players acquired from abroad like Jari Litmanen, Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu.
After seeing that a number of other blogs have thrown their pages open to contributions from others, I’ve decided to do something similar. A number of fantastic series have been posted including My Favourite Footballer by The Equaliser, Sporting Heroes by Talking Sports and My Favourite Goal by GhostGoal. I’ve really enjoyed reading and contributing to these features and thought it would be intriguing to host one of my own. ‘My Favourite Match’ seemed the most logical idea.
It can be any game from any era and it can be your favourite game for any reason. Perhaps it was a high-scoring thriller with both sides racking up the goals. Maybe it was a cup shock where a team defied all the odds in a once in a lifetime result. It could even be a one-sided affair where the victorious side simply demolished the opposition. It doesn’t have to be the team you support and it can be a national side or a club team.
I will (presuming I can find highlights of the game) post a video of the highlights under the article and links to people’s Twitter and blogs so I can promote your own work too.
There’s no time limit on contributing to the series and no restrictions on word length. It can be a short description of why that game was your favourite or it can be a detailed tactical breakdown of the game’s key moments.
The response on Twitter has been great so far so I’ll try to leave it open for a few months and try to put a couple up each week.
You can get in touch with me via the comments section, via Twitter @liamblackburn or via email firstname.lastname@example.org . If you send me a comment, tweet or email with your idea first I can get an idea of which matches people want to cover and hopefully avoid duplicates.
To get the ball rolling I’ve done a piece on My Favourite Match – Juventus 2 v 3 Manchester United 1999