BROWNE ON THE BALL: Too many if-onlys as Boston United fall just short of the play-offs

United needed four results and  a10-goal swing to go their way to secure a play-off spot against Telford.
United needed four results and a10-goal swing to go their way to secure a play-off spot against Telford.

Almost. Not quite.

Boston United’s hopes of a late surge into the National League North’s top seven ended last Wednesday night at Alfreton, a draw with Nuneaton Town leaving the Pilgrims’ chances of a top-seven spot more mathematically ridiculous than that blackboard in Good Will Hunting.

Ok, there was still a chance if Bradford Park Avenue lost 137-2 to Kidderminster, York City relocated to the moon, Kim Jong-un accidentally fired all his nuclear warheads at Chorley and/or Brackley were discovered to have fielded an ineligible player for 37 of their matches.

But Craig Elliott knew the game was up.

“League tables don’t lie. I think we just about came up short and I think that’s right, really,” he said moments after referee Barry Lamb drew a comically-bizarre contest to a close.

And the manager’s comments were spot on because, in all honesty, United did not deserve a shot at the play-offs.

Yes, it would have been some fairytale had the mid-season rebuild created a squad which somehow made their way from second-bottom to the National League in the space of five months.

It would be the season to end all seasons, the default story you referred back to as you bored your grandkids at every family function.

But cast your mind back over the past nine months - seven straight league games without a win, an FA Cup scare against Haughmond, that horror show at Blyth, sub-par performances at home to Nuneaton and Darlington, away at Curzon and FC United.

Of course, there were many memorable highlights too - beating the top-two back-to-back among the stand-out, truly exciting performances - but this season has been a case of three steps forward, one step back, repeat and repeat again.

There were too many ifonlys, even during the much-improved second half.

FC United, Leamington, Curzon, Bradford Park Avenue at home all spring to mind far too swiftly for comfort.

Opening up the play-off spots all the way down to seventh place keeps things interesting.

But it also rewards mediocrity, allowing also-rans the chance to sneak a promotion they could well not be ready for.

Circumstances were different for Hyde and North Ferriby, but elevation to non-league’s top flight eventually led to a rot setting in that neither have recovered from yet. And they were both going for it.

I would have loved the excitement of watching another play-off battle with Boston, and I wouldn’t have ruled outthis current collective going all the way.

But in some ways it could be better to end on a positive, an unbeaten four-game streak leads to a summer of positives rather than preparing for pre-season with a hangover from penalty shoot-out heartbreak.

This squad still needs a few tweaks before they are the complete package.

At present they’re an almost-not-quite side. Get it right and next year they could be something totally different.

Quite. Not almost.