BROWNE ON THE BALL: History offers no guarantees for Boston United

Chris Dickinson celebrates netting United's winner against Barrow on the opening day of last season... but it was the Cumbrians who won the title while the Pilgrims had to settle for third.
Chris Dickinson celebrates netting United's winner against Barrow on the opening day of last season... but it was the Cumbrians who won the title while the Pilgrims had to settle for third.

Can you remember the last time Boston United were beaten on the opening day of a league campaign?

I’ll give you a clue, they were 2-0 up away from home and coasting until the opposition handed a debut to some kid by the name of Peter Bore.

Yup, that’s right. The year was 2006 and two strikes from the young Grimsby Town attacker and a goal from Isaiah Rankin cancelled out finishes from Franny Green and Julian Joachim as the Mariners reeled in all three points.

The reason I asked that question is because opening day defeats have been so rare for the Pilgrims in recent years that kicking off the campaign with three points in the bag seems almost as much of a fixture in the town as the Stump, the Guildhall and traffic wardens.

That defeat at Blundell Park was the first of 27 losses in a depressing 49-game season which included a visit to Southwark Crown Court and culminated in at 3-1 defeat at Wrexham, relegation from the Football League and a summer of closing the curtains, hiding under the boardroom table and hoping the debt collectors would forget to come back.

It was so bad that even Paul Ellender - the alpha male’s alpha male - briefly discovered he had tear ducts. Briefly.

But since that summer of doom and gloom, things have been very different down York Street.

The arrival of the Chestnuts coincided with the new non-league era and, on the opening day of each season at least, results have been phenomenal.

Since August 2007, Workington (2-0), Ossett (3-2), FC United of Manchester (2-1), Stafford Rangers (1-0), Workington again (2-1), Droylsden (1-0), Stockport County (4-1) and Barrow (2-1) have all been left empty handed following eight successive victories.

And with five different management teams masterminding those victories, it’s impossible to think of any real link other than the fact the Pilgrims have been quick out of the blocks.

It’s just something we’ve come to take for granted.

But should we?

Saturday’s trek to Stockport County conjures up fond memories of the 4-1 opening-day victory at Edgeley Park two years ago which emphatically introduced the Dennis Greene era (his first match in charge of a squad he had put together rather than inherited) to those fans in the away section.

But please don’t expect history to guarantee victory.

There’s no doubting this is one of the most talented United squads of the past decade, but last season’s third-place finish means that the whole division will now view the Pilgrims in a completely different light.

They’ll be taken more seriously and tactics may change in accordance.

The midfield will be squeezed, the attackers marked tighter and opposing defences will sit a lot deeper.

If you thought the Pilgrims had to be imaginitive to break down opponents at the start of last season then you ain’t seen nothing yet.

All this may sound a bit negative, especially as the first ball of the new campaign hasn’t even been hoofed into touch yet, but the point I’m making is that all those previous opening day successes have been earned - sometimes with a stoppage-time strike, on other occasions with a gritty team display - not expected.

No matter what happens at Stockport, a season never hinges on the first game of 42.

The last time United won a league title they kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 home defeat to Margate in 2001.

Indeed, Barrow, last season’s champions, began with defeat to United 12 months ago.

A season is a marathon, not a sprint - but this squad is more than good enough to be in the running.