The week had brought many interesting things – including my 22nd birthday and a boozy, educational department trip to London – but I’d still been thoroughly looking forward to this match. Firstly because I’d gone without live football the previous Saturday (shock, horror) and had been forced to watch Final Score, which is hardly the same. Secondly because it seemed ages since I’d seen United in action (it had, in fact, been 18 days. Hardly a lifetime).
Solihull were unbeaten in 17 matches, a run which had seen them rise from relegation candidates to the brink of automatic promotion. This was a formidable achievement in any division, but particularly in a niggly annoying one like ours.
A tough assignment for the Pilgrims, then, and me and Andy were under no illusions as we boarded the Rover Sauna for the latest of what are becoming pleasantly regular away trips. He assures me that the heating will be switched off in time for the summer. Maybe he’ll treat us all and replace it with air conditioning.
And to compound matters, the week had been rather eventful. The departure of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst to Lincolnshire neighbours-to-the-north Grimsby Town had cast a pall over my journey to London on Tuesday morning, but optimism had been restored with the announcement of Lee Canoville and Jason Lee as their (temporary) replacements. The whirlwind of journalistic debate and tequila shots in London meant I hadn’t been able to mull over how far our season was now FUBAR but Andy and I agreed that all was not lost.
Scott and Hurst have come in for a lot of criticism from certain sections of our support in the last few days, with some suggesting that they were essentially flaunting themselves to Grimsby when Neil Woods was dismissed the other week.
Personally, I beg to differ and, frankly, I can’t do anything but wish them well in their new role. Some football supporters have short memories and it’s worth remembering that when the duo arrived at York Street, we’d just escaped relegation to Unibond Division One south on the final day of the season. To leave us, 20 months later, second in the Conference North is nothing short of phenomenal. Is it really any wonder bigger clubs came calling? Thanks for the memories and good luck.
Anyway, the Jason Lee Canoville era began in the quaint surroundings of Damson Parkway, Solihull, where a misdirected defensive clearance gives air traffic control headaches at the adjacent Birmingham International Airport, and the board had recently installed 250 new seats after suddenly realising: “Shit, we might actually be going up to the Conference.”
I did like the log cabin effect in the clubhouse, where the sloping roof was covered in replica shirts from all over the world. Now, I’m pretty certain Solihull have never played Man. United or Brazil, and I don’t recall their European campaign against Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus, but there was a fine collection of strips which are best consigned to the fashion dustbin. Personal favourite was a dark blue Stoke City away shirt from god knows when which had the word STOKE emblazoned across the front in size 66 font and ClipArt drop shadow. Presumably, they couldn’t find a sponsor that season.
And in tribute to the planes rumbling about through the mist on the other side of the perimeter fence, I’ll describe the match in planespotter style.
The players emerged as the 14:55 BMI flight to Malaga prepared for take-off and United welcomed club legend goalkeeper and local window cleaner Paul Bastock back into the starting XI. Bazza clearly wasn’t content at merely 625 games for United so, at the age of 85, had come back for some more. His distribution remains laser-sharp and had the flightpath been slightly different, he might have been able to kick one of his booming goal kicks off a plane fuselage.
By the time the 15:16 Easyjet flight from Dublin had received permission to land, United had asserted their superiority on the game. Jamie Yates, Ryan Semple and Spencer Weir-Daley regularly found themselves manoeuvring in acres of space and, but for the paucity of some deliveries, United might have opened the scoring. Adam Boyes came closest in the first-half with a glancing header which narrowly went wide, while the striker also turned Weir-Daley’s low ball past the post.
Having waited for the 16:01 to Riga to pass over, David Gray and I tried to do a personalised version of this. It failed miserably. Obviously people in Boston don’t have a great knowledge of early 1980s electronica or my improvised lyrics are just too hard to remember. Either way, I expect it to be sung at Telford so learn the fucking words!
“When I see you Boston I go out of my head/And I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough/
All the things you do to me and all the ways you play/I just can’t get enough, I just can’t get enough/
We slip and slide as we fall in love/And I just can’t seem to get enough
[Bounce and twirl scarves] Du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du, du“
United’s dominance continued after the break, but, as the 16:24 Lufthansa flight to Dusseldorf was taxiing, our best chance went begging. Home goalkeeper Jazzy Singh (who later yelled at a ball boy for giving him the ball too quickly) blocked Yates’ shot but the ball fell to Weir-Daley six yards out. I was already celebrating but the net inexplicably didn’t bulge. Junior English came from nowhere to clear the ball off the line.
It wasn’t looking like our day and, just after the 16:35 to Moscow had rumbled past, Solihull took the lead. English saw his shot deflected onto the bar and, with Bastock helpless, Matt Smith pounced to score from close range. Bugger. It was their first good chance of the game.
United surged back and had their lifeline within three minutes. Yates crossed and Phil Midworth handballed in the box. But, Weir-Daley, usually so reliable, fired his penalty at Singh, who blocked. Weir-Daley looked skywards and the 16:54 to Ibiza would have seemed a good idea to him. Not our day.
Next Match: Not sure but plenty of local fixtures this week.