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Tuesday 28th December 2022 ko 15:00

National League North

BOSTON UNITED 1 (Elliott 72p)

BRACKLEY TOWN 3 (Ndlovu 20 90 Armson 31)

Armston penalty saved 69

Att 2,138 (46 away)

Entry £16 (seat-main stand)

Programme £3 (superb)

Teamsheet/raffle £1

Boston United and I go back a little way. As an Oxford United fan York Street seemed to be where our failing club seemed to send players that didn’t quite fit in. There was Simon Weatherstone who did well for the Pilgrims, his brother Ross who didn’t and aging striker Phil Gray who manager Steve Evans commented “He (Gray) had an ambition to play for Boston, I however had an ambition to send him back to Oxford”

In the end the two clubs’ paths did meet- Oxford United got relegated to what’s now League 2 in 2001 and Boston were promoted into it in 2003, and the least said about manager Steve Evans’ role in getting them there the better! I’d seen Boston during their promotion season, and then enjoyed the steep terraces of York Street for Oxford United away games for the next two seasons. And the real curiosity of this tale is that the ground does still exist.  Railway Athletic FC of the Boston & District Saturday League are renting it presumably until the place is redeveloped.

What did for York Street was two-fold, firstly the lease ran out, and the club fell into financial difficulties and when they were relegated from League 2 in 2007 they went into a CVA which prompted the National League to push them down another division, to the National League North. Even if the lease on York Street could have been extended, the club argued that the lack of space of ancillary income streams made a move essential.  The club ended up being taken over by Chestnut Homes- and all too often the takeover by a building firm spells doom but in this case ended up giving a lifeline to the beleaguered club. 

Chestnut Homes idea was, and is to use the stadium as a centrepiece to “The Quadrant”- a mixed development of commercial and residential properties on the A16 to the south of Boston- I promise if you’re travelling here from the south, you’ll never miss this place! What you see here is a long way from being the finished article, and as that Oxford United fan, I am well used to seeing a 3-sided ground, so in time there’ll be more than just the few takeaway outlets nearby. 

There’ll also be more parking around the ground too- not that parking in the nearby estate was any issue, but from the get-go both Robyn and I found ourselves comparing Boston’s new home with another new build in the same division we’d visited a week or two earlier- the York Community Stadium.

On one hand, York’s is bigger and all-seater, but there was a lot to like here. For one thing terracing is an option here, but it was fact that the stadium is for Boston United only that enthused. Seeing reference to Boston United heroes like Paul Bastock and Paul Ellender in the fabric of the place anchors the ground to the club’s past. We never had that when Oxford United moved, it took a year or two to even have “Oxford United” on the front of the place! And to be clear about it, I do prefer Boston’s new ground to York’s, mainly due to the little things, unobtrusive stewarding, the cute teamsheets that double as raffle tickets, and the floodlights that evoke those at Safford City, but here can be seen for miles around. 

The problem Boston have though is similar to York’s- they see themselves as being a National League Premier outfit in waiting and this game against top-of-the-table Brackley demonstrated the point well. I’m well aware Brackley are well resourced and I also wonder why so few travelled to watch a side doing so well? The game was typical of Step 2, all the skills, but not the consistency to keep doing them for all of the game. 

The fact that the visitors won, and were the better the side was enough to see Boston part ways with manager Craig Elliott after the Christmas holiday and as I write this I note that Steve Evans has just been sacked by Gillingham- please heaven no!

But the Boston Community Stadium does offer a new start for the club. It will never, ever, be York Street but that’s gone now, and this does represent a fair compromise between modernity and acknowledging the past. And as any groundhopper will tell you, there are no end of new builds that fail to even try to do that.