BROWNE ON THE BALL: A freak match, a frustrating match, but one to consign to the past

Carl Piergianni saw red for this challenge at Harrogate. EMN-140225-155006001
Carl Piergianni saw red for this challenge at Harrogate. EMN-140225-155006001

“We’re planning to finish the game with more than seven men,” joked Dennis Greene when asked about Saturday’s trek to Harrogate Town.

The Boston United manager was, of course, reflecting on last season’s trip north to Wetherby Road, where the contest came very close to being abandoned.

In one of the most bizarre matches the Pilgrims have ever been involved in (and they’ve had more than their fair share), the away side had both Carl Piergianni and Lewis King sent off within the opening 18 minutes.

Injuries to both Rene Steer and Jamie McGhee - after United had made all three substitutions - saw United playing with a four-man handicap and trailing 4-0.

And then, as the contest reached its final few minutes, Stefan Galinski dropped to the floor clutching his hamstring.

The defender twice needed treatment and had he been unable to carry on - which appeared evident - referee Mark Ackerman would have been forced to postpone the contest due to United being unable to field more than six players.

In a bid to allow the game to reach its natural conculsion, Galinski sat on the halfway line allowing play to go on around him, but not without those home fans booing him, and labelling him a ‘cheat’.

Of course, the reference point for such situations in this country is 2002’s Battle of Brammall Lane which saw Sheffield United versus West Bromwich Albion abandoned after 82 minutes.

The Baggies were leading 3-0 against the Blades, who had seen three players dismissed.

And when two further players left injured the contest came to an early and bitter end.

On that occasion the score was allowed to stand.

You could understand the frustrations of those Harrogate supporters on that day, fearing a 4-0 scoreline and three points against a team which appeared at the time to be a play-off rival would be wiped out, although heckling a man who lay hurt will always be a step too far.

As Harrogate looked to push on and add to their tally the two benches fell out.

Greene claimed the two bosses agreed that Galinski would remain planted on the turf as long as Town played keep-ball.

Harrogate manager Simon Weaver denied any conversation had ever taken place after his team had attempted to push forward.

As the final whistle blew - Ackerman sensibly opting not to add on the stoppage time which should have been totted up - Harrogate claimed the points but neither club came out looking or feeling like a true winner.

There was a bitterness to both managers’ post-match interviews.

Frustrations like those seen on that day can nag, they can build up and they can cause resentment to grow.

But this week Greene was able to joke about that match and his hopes of ending the contest with a full complement, admitting that getting one over Harrogate is not on his agenda - getting the points to help his side into a top-five position is.

“It won’t be a grudge match. It shouldn’t be a grudge match,” he added.

“There have been enough changes to their team,and ours, since then.

“We’re going there looking to win a football match.”