I hadn’t even fastened my seatbelt. “Whey aye ye gan te Blyth like?” said the cabbie in his best tourist-friendly Geordie. “It’s the heroin capital of t’north.” I evidently look like a junkie. “Yous not from these parts like, are ya?”
I tried to explain – I’m a Boston United supporter trying to get to Blyth Spartans. FOR FOOTBALL. Two minutes later: “All these foreigners, like, coming an’ playing in the Premier League. They’s ruining the game like. That Arsene Wenger...” I nodded in fake agreement and glimpsed anxiously at the fare counter.
This was the furthest north I’d ever been on terra firma (I was on a transatlantic jet once which got re-routed over Scotland for some reason, but that doesn’t really count) and it showed in the climate and the general impenetrability of the language. And I thought Blyth looked quite nice, unless the quaint weekend beach huts are actually full of gange.
I always imagined this away day would be a mission but, with the autumn sun shining and a good week behind me, the journey flew by. Sheffield was comparatively easy – Andy P had rode the BUSA wagon from Boston, while Adam H had got up at some ungodly hour to trek from Basingstoke. That I admire.
Croft Park was a pleasant enough ground, with reasonably sized stands on all four sides and a nice little social club next door. Apparently the Spartan Ale was very good, according to Pickwell. Shame about the catering, although since this was definitely connected to a towbar and a car I’m not going to be blaming the club for that. My ‘burger’ was 95% bread roll and 5% meat trace, which was some achievement. I would have gone back but the evidence mysteriously disappeared into my all-too-greedy gullet.
Armed with a good selection of jokes about Sparta and 300, all of which became pretty tiresome pretty quickly, the hundred or so Boston followers took up station behind the goal for the first-half. And United had the better of the first-half, with Jamie Yates forcing the home goalkeeper into a decent save from the edge of the box after some silky interplay with Lee Canoville, Anthony Church and Danny Sleath.
The second-half followed a similar pattern and, like Guiseley, there was precious little to report. McKeown extended his clean sheet record but, a dipping effort from our very own ‘football fwiend’ Spencer Weir-Daley (every time he does something good, we sing his name and he unfailingly responds by putting his thumb up like that bit in The Inbetweeners. Legend) aside, Boston didn’t look much like scoring. I’m starting to think that the two-week break was the worst thing that could have happened to us, as the cutting edge seems to have gone.
Much hilarity came from the Blyth goalkeeper in the second-half which, when you hear it, will indicate just how bored we were. We were adamant he was yelling “Fuck off” and had some kind of unfortunate and very loud Tourette’s problem. In fact he was shouting “No cross” and was just Geordie and indecipherable.
Anyway, as Rob Scott said afterwards, feeling as though a draw at a tricky place like Blyth is two points dropped underlines how far we’ve come.
Shame it’s also tricky to get back from. We ended up stranded in chilly Cramlington for far longer than advisable, roaming around what was essentially a ghost time in search of a pub and then seeking warmth in a Sainsbury’s. Bought four on-the-turn sausage rolls. It was my tea. Fuck my life.
I stepped off the train at Sheffield just after nine which, to be fair, was still some five hours before Hallgarth. Will pray to the goal Gods next week.
Next Match: Sheffield Wednesday vs. Hartlepool United in the Quarter-final, Northern Section of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy on Wednesday, then Droylsden vs. Boston United on Saturday.