Before I start this blog post properly, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank my mate James Morton for not only giving Josh and I a lift from Nottingham to Boston and back again on Wednesday night. But for also providing us with accommodation for the night from his own pocket so we didn’t have to sleep rough for the second year on the trot. You are a true gentleman of modern times and the world is better off for your existence.
Now, let’s crack on…
Thanks to what can only be described as an absolutely exemplary performance on Wednesday night, we found ourselves 2-0 up after the first leg of our play-off semi with North Ferriby. The scenes following first Grant Roberts’ and secondly Zak Mills’ goals were absolutely bonkers and will remain etched in my mind, hopefully for a very long time.
I don’t know who exactly is responsible for these play-offs being played on a Wednesday and Sunday, but they can think again next time. The amount of money I’ve had to pay out unnecessarily is not welcome and is actually just one of many inconveniences caused by the nonsensical fixture planning. £42 for an open return to Hull (and that’s bearing in mind I split my ticket at Derby), plus arranging for a hotel, paying for food and drink for the night and the taxi I’ll have to get from Brough to Ferriby in the morning (though admittedly not a large fare). What a load of bollocks.
Due to the way the fixtures have been laid out, I stayed at Josh’s place in Birmingham as I thought it’d be easier than faffing about, catching replacement buses from Stafford due to rail works. Again, more expenses that I didn’t want to incur, and guess what? I didn’t get my ticket checked, so I’ve wasted a tenner there. You can see why people are willing to chance their arm at making journeys at no expense, can’t you?
Friday night consisted of a pint in a pub in Stirchley (grim) and an episode of Snooker Mavericks on the TV. Even for a relative social recluse, I must admit I didn’t find it overly thrilling.
Saturday came around and after watching Josh attempt to use a hoover and witnessing an Audi victory in the DTM through Edoardo Mortara, we set off towards Hull.
Now, I’ve never been to Hull. I don’t like Yorkshire. Never have and never will. So it’s no surprise I’ve never been. I’d heard a lot of bad things but I thought I’d give it the benefit of the doubt and go there with an open mind. We’d booked a hotel for £30. Immediately, you probably have an image in your head of what you’re likely to get for that kind of sum and let me tell you, you’re probably not far off.
Hull Paragon Interchange isn’t actually such a bad station, it’s very dated and is in need of a good scrub, but I’ve seen much worse. After all, I’ve been to Gainsborough. The early signs weren’t too shabby, but even if the station was a two platform job with a bench perched in the middle, it couldn’t have prepared me for what I was about to witness.
We took a right, then a left out of the entrance and ambled towards the main road. Josh had his trusty Google Maps up on his phone so we had a general idea of where we were going. Gone are the days of hand-drawn maps. Once on the main road, I soon realised there were a hell of a lot of kids knocking about, maybe it was was a nappy night at a club? Most of these kids looked like they were on harder stuff than most of the regular drinkers at the surrounding pubs!
We walked past ‘The Lair’, which appeared to be a Hull City supporters bar. We wouldn’t be very welcome in there. We kept going and, honestly, poverty just filled my peripheral and immediate vision. I know the North has often been neglected but fuck me… did they bomb Hull in the war? If not, why not? And if they did, why didn’t they do a better job and just flatten it altogether? ‘Grim’ doesn’t describe the place accurately enough. It’s honestly like going back in time. Despite the things I’d heard, I don’t feel it was enough warning.
Chavs on bikes rolled past us. It’s a good job I’m well versed in looking like like a serial killer, or we’d probably be mince meat, lying in a back alley by now.
‘I actually think this has surpassed Gainsborough on my list, you know…’ I said to Josh.
‘What, your list of worst places you’ve ever been to?’
‘Aye. It’s fucking awful… look at that, for fuck’s sake!’
I was pointing at this:
Behind those walls lay a series of tower blocks, creepy looking, desolate car parks and the type of feral scum you could expect to find ‘chillin” outside your local McDonalds. I watched on, straight ahead as some poor bloke jogged into the concrete jungle. Who knows if he ever got back home again, he was only trying to keep fit. Maybe he’s doing it so he can be confident of escaping the chavvy dregs next time they chase him, eh?
On we went, until we finally found the street our hotel was on. We took a left, into somewhat nicer looking surroundings and I began to relax a little. We found the hotel with a strange looking, chubby geezer stood outside the door. He grunted at us, which only made me all the more keen to push the buzzer and try to gain access to our destination.
Once inside, it didn’t take long for me to realise that we really were getting what we paid for. I’ve had a look around around prison as a warning when I was 9 or 10 and, hand on heart, it was more welcoming and pleasant than this place. I stood on the spot, waiting for the reception window to slide open. Sure enough, it did just that and I started talking.
‘Hi, we’ve made a booking.’
‘OK, what was the name?’
‘OK, it looks like this has already been paid so let me just check…’
We may or may not have paid for this already.
We looked around the room. 1970’s and awful. That’s all I have to say. Josh reminded me that it was listed at just £30 and that we can’t really have expected much. When Josh is suddenly the voice of reason, you know you’re in for a long night. I didn’t expect much, but this was worse than ‘not much’.
We left and went off in search of food and drink. We’d found a pub called the Green Bricks, which we eventually found on the other side of the city centre (which by the way was also worse than I had bargained for). It’s just one massive construction site. A maze of orange safety barriers and knuckledragging, delinquent locals. Have you ever heard the Hull accent, by the way? It’s enough to make a cat want to skin itself alive.
After grabbing a Maccies, getting ripped off for a couple of Buds at the pub and losing heavily at pool, I suggested we head back.
We woke up the following morning, you’ll be glad to hear. We weren’t kidnapped during the night and all of our possessions were secure. Josh was the first to tackle the atrocity that was the shower.
‘Tell you what, you won’t wanna change the temperature in there. It’s a case of “lukewarm, lukewarm, lukewarm, SCORCHING!’
Challenge accepted, I pushed the bathroom door open and strolled in. It was a basic set-up. A shower with no screen, just a 180 degree curtain on a broken rail. There was no shower gel, so I had to compromise and use the chocolate orange handwash. It did a job.
After checking all of our possessions and shaking them out for cockroaches we made our way downstairs. I had planned on getting the hotel receptionist to check our forms again to ensure we had actually paid, but the reception didn’t open til 5pm. We dropped our keys in a box on the wall and left. We shan’t be returning.
After a stroll into Dull city centre to grab breakfast, we paced towards the station. No inflatables were attainable as Poundland was shut.
Once on the train a crusty old woman was claiming to the ticket inspector that the bloke at the kiosk had sold her a ticket from Beverly to London for the 28th April. She wanted to go to Nottingham and was furiously suggesting that the bloke had made a mistake. The inspector gave up. 1-0 old, senile woman.
We had a 15 minute wait until Aston showed up, so we arranged a taxi and then sat in the sun, mocking the Hull accent for a good 10 minutes. ‘Nerr smurkin’ at the stershun’ and so on…
Once we’d had our fill of mockery, the taxi showed up. Bang on time too! We hopped in, full of optimism for the day ahead. Apparently, the club had informed Ferriby that we’d be taking between 700 and 1,000. Those of us travelling knew that’d be still quite a way off though. We all reckoned there’d be at least 1,200.
The taxi took us through the village of Brough; an absolutely lovely place, to be fair. A couple of pubs almost adjacent to one another looked brilliant. Proper village beer garden types, just how I like them! It’s a bit of a shame we decided to drink in Ferriby really. However, once we arrived at the Duke of Cumberland, we were greeted by an already decent following from Boston. Bear in mind that this was about 11:45 in the morning!
A large chunk of our support showed up here. 35 had decided to book Sunday lunch, plenty of others settled for the beer and a decent number elected for buying their booze from the Co:Op next door. Sensible, considering the money saved. Carl Piergianni rocked up in the car park with his missus and got a solid ovation from the fans, as did Tom Denton. Chants of ‘Denton, you’re a cunt’ rang out in front of the pub and as he drove back towards the exit of the car park, some complete degenerate thought it’d be wise to throw their pint all over his car.
‘Well, there’s his motivation to put a performance in, eh?’ I said to Josh.
‘Aye, watch him go and score 4 in 4-3 aggregate win now…’
Smoke bombs were let off, inflatables thrown in the middle of the road… you know, just general dumb shit really.
After a short while longer, the 100-150 Boston fans began stumbling towards the ground. When we got there, the queue was ridiculous, as expected. I’m not saying this out of any kind of bitterness but if Ferriby were to go up, their ground really isn’t ready for the National League. If they couldn’t cope with our numbers sensibly, I dread to think how they’d handle Grimsby’s numbers. We queued for a few minutes, then I spotted Tom (Hallam) at the front.
Still a good 50-75 yards from the turnstile.
‘HALLAM! PAY FOR TWO AND GET ME IN?’
He nodded and waved me over. What a lad. I handed over my £12 to him. Josh and Aston followed, not ever so far behind.
Our support had already taken over our usual corner of the ground, singing, shouting and bouncing around. Flags were already hung up, it was just missing Josh’s ‘VENI VIDI VICI’ flag.
A very small portion of our support, 25 minutes prior to kick off.
We managed to squeeze in, but if I’m being totally honest, it was dangerous. The number of people packed in and who were slowly getting pressed against the front fence and crush barriers was rising by the minute. It was rapidly proving to be an example of what was to come, with Ferriby’s stewards showing nothing but total incompetence all afternoon, in stark contrast to Stalybridge’s the previous week.
As time went by, the heat in that little pocket terrace was getting unbearable. Hallam had sweat pouring down his face, I wasn’t exactly in any better condition either. It was uncomfortable but that’s the price you pay for being amongst the few who want to make a noise. A smoke bomb was let off by another knuckledragging cretin to my right, a couple of them were thrown on the pitch, inflatables followed, a couple of our fans went crowd-surfing, it was just mental in there.
I took a second to look around the ground as we neared kick off. No matter where you looked, it was a sea of amber and black. 700-1,000? It looked around 1,500.
The noise we generated early doors was fantastic. Sadly though, the referee set the tone for his performance after just 11 minutes…
Piergianni was adjudged to have fouled Tom Denton in the penalty area, despite the fact Denton (quite possibly the most disgusting player in the league) had his hands all over Pidge before dragging him to the floor and ending up on top of him. Penalty to Ferriby. Are you sure, ref? In any case, Liam King buried it to Spiess’ left and boos rang around the ground. You couldn’t hear the Ferriby cheers, of course.
3 minutes later we saw our 2 goal lead nullified through a Denton header. Typical. We’d not been at the races whatsoever and after just 14 minutes we were already being left to rue the missed opportunities we’d had on Wednesday night to make it, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8-0. Realistically, it could have been 8 and it wouldn’t have flattered us. We were THAT good. This game though, we looked a shadow of that.
I knew we wouldn’t get to play the game how we wanted. We’d gotten that 2-0 lead from the first leg and maybe psychologically we were already in the final? Either way, we were now sucked into Ferriby’s style of play, hoofing the ball up top at every opportunity and playing right into their hands, which I’ve witnessed so many times when visiting their place. It’s just oh so predictable.
We got through to half-time still 2-0 down and decided we ought to make a move to the end behind the goal we were to be attacking in the second half. It took us the entirety of half-time to get down there, but we managed it. There, we bumped into Matt, his young lad, Neal and Pickwell. Matt went on to tell us about how he’d been in main stand during the first half and it’d threatened to kick off in his section, where Jack (his 4 year old lad) had been pushed over by Ferriby tag-alongs (not fans). Why do bandwagon jumpers always have to ruin it for others?
The second half wasn’t much better. We had a couple of half-chances from set pieces but never really had their goal under serious threat. That was perhaps the most annoying thing. We never truly looked like scoring and re-establishing our lead in the tie. Our on-loan centre-half Nat Brown was fouled and left on the floor with a head injury, the ref once again proved to be totally inept and Ferriby played on, Danny Clarke perhaps inevitably putting away their third, giving them an aggregate lead just 9 minutes after the break. More boos rang out for the ref. In the first leg, the ref was quite simply unable to cope with the occasion, this ref seemed fully aware of what he was doing and for possibly the first time ever, I can say with total honesty that I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever if he was being tipped off. His performance was THAT bad.
From that point onwards, it was a slow, painful death. We’ve had a real issue this season with conceding early on and never getting back into the game. This time we conceded two and we honestly never looked like getting back into it.
It all kicked off in the main stand again, with kids pushing about and getting getting a bit forceful. As ever, the stewards did nothing. Totally useless. In the dying stages, police showed up and a helicopter was flying above the ground. Apparently, there’d been an assault either inside the ground or just outside. The strange thing is, the police apparently saw something but no victim had actually come forward to report anything. 2 Boston ‘fans’ were held in cells overnight.
Eventually, the final whistle put us out of our misery. I stood there, with my elbows resting on the railings and my head resting in my hands. United don’t do knockout games, we haven’t done for years and years. I watched on as fans filed onto the pitch. Fans of both persuasions. A few of our lot took their final opportunity to abuse Denton again, others shook players’ hands, possibly for the final time. Piergianni won’t be with us next season as he’s going travelling. Realistically, Dayle can play at a higher level, so he won’t be with us either. How we’re going to replace him, I really don’t know. We did very well to replace Ricky Miller with him but are we going to be so lucky again? The league will be so much harder next year with Darlington’s zombie incarnate coming up, Altrincham and Halifax dropping down and one of either Ferriby or Fylde staying down. This league gets stronger and stronger.
Josh and I hurdled the ad-boards and strolled across the pitch. His dad was stood at the opposite end.
‘Come on boys’, he said with his arms spread to give us a sympathetic hug. ‘What a load of bollocks that was! What a shite league this really is. It’s just full of these tinpot clubs, battling with another bloke’s money.’
After a short while sat on the turf behind the goal, we made our way back to the Duke of Cumberland and waited for our taxi to Brough. Josh said very little all the way through to Birmingham. I think we traded about 6 sentences in around 3 hours. Possibly partly down to his cold, partly down to the fact we were both pissed off. Play offs are harsh, but we love them. We must do, otherwise we wouldn’t get up for them and buzz over them. I shook hands with Josh for the final time this season and reminded him ‘I’ll see you on Sunday, mate.’ We’re off to Silverstone for the Blancpain GT Endurance race. Let’s hope Audi deliver.
I got back into Stafford at around 21:15 that night and pretty much went straight to bed.
To take influence from Partizan Beograd’s ultras: Love Boston, hate yourself.
I’ll be back next season. T’rar for now.