COLUMN: Boston United’s play-off semi-finals - the stuff of fantasy and despair

Carl Piergianni.
Carl Piergianni.

Boston Standard columnist Pete Brooksbank was among the 3,000-plus fans who witnessed Boston United’s play-off dreams ended by the agony of a penalty shootout on Saturday. Here he explains how he is coming to terms with the defeat by re-watching Chorley’s stoppage-time equaliser on repeat, and why people should ‘fantasise’ about Carl Piergianni...

It was 4.10pm last Wednesday that the week began to unravel.

United fans were in fine voice.

United fans were in fine voice.

En-route to Chorley for the first of two play-off games, we arrived at the back of a queue of slow moving traffic that turned into a queue of static traffic that turned into a queue of people-walking-their-dogs-down-the-outside-lane kind of traffic.

The clocked ticked on. Kick-off would be missed. Then the first half. Then the entire game.

We ran out of drink. The jokes got worse. I timed a bladder-relieving trip on the verge to coincide with a sudden hail-laden squall that sent everything back into my leg as a fine mist while a load of bus drivers on a training vehicle looked on, amused and appalled in equal measure.

Just before 11pm, having missed the game, and after moving half a mile in seven long hours, we arrived at a mostly-closed service station where the wet suits were quite literally cheaper than a coffee and a panini.

Chorley went wild after winning on penalties.

Chorley went wild after winning on penalties.

We sat there, hungry and annoyed, listening to Dennis Greene cackling away on speakerphone at our misfortune.

And then, in what will surely prove to be one of my least prophetic statements, I turned to my friend and said: “Well, at least Saturday can’t possibly be as bad as this.”

I’d like those words engraved on my headstone.

I can’t actually tell you the number of times I have now watched the video of Adam Roscoe’s implausible overhead kick that levelled things up in the 95th minute of the second game.

Twenty times. Thirty times. Forty. A hundred. Who knows? I certainly don’t. Probably not a hundred – even I’m not THAT tragic.

All I know is that I’m addicted to the footage. It is Boston’s very own play-off snuff movie, morbid curiosity drawing me in like rubberneckers passing a motorway pile-up.

It’s a misery kick I find impossible to resist.

It’s often said that during moments of high stress, generally the really bad ones, time seems to slow down to an action-replay crawl.

This was certainly the case as Roscoe connected with the ball.

On the video, the goal happens with almost brutal speed. But in my mind – where the moment is now permanently seared along with all my other terrible memories, like that Bon Jovi gig at Wembley - I remember the shot travelling on its lethal, laser-guided trajectory in slow motion.

I remember it hanging in the air for what seemed like a very long time - certainly long enough for everyone in the ground to understand that something really bad was about to occur.

It was without doubt the best goal I have ever seen at York Street and, sure enough, it has now gone viral.

“This is the best 95th minute overhead kick golazo equaliser you will see today!” bellowed the Daily Mirror’s sports feed, the barely-credible hit on a continuous loop, over and over and over again, shared and retweeted and e-mailed for everyone else to gawp at.

Trying to articulate how much the goal hurt is difficult. Even now, writing this a full three days later, I cringe.

Telling the story, I try and laugh it off. You have to try, don’t you? Except suddenly I’m back there, in those seconds afterwards – hearing the awful silence of the Town End and the distant frenzy of Chorley fans – and I begin to tail off and gaze off into the distance with the glassy-eyed stare of someone who has witnessed the terrible things people do to other people in the Conference North play-offs.

It was, I think, the most harrowing moment I have ever endured as a fan of this crazy little club.

That may sound like a bold claim, particularly given those grim days in courts and tribunals, or that day at Wrexham, but 95th minute equalisers possess a visceral, gut-wrenching immediacy that packs a punch no amount of paperwork can hope to match.

With one swipe of his foot, Roscoe seemed to drain the energy from an entire stadium.

Players and supporters alike sagged, united in horror, perhaps feeling, like me, that what happened next was inevitable.

As extra time ticked down, I worked out that it is 19 years since one a team I support won a penalty shoot-out. The wait goes on.

Perhaps it will never end. A bit like how I felt at that Bon Jovi gig.

So, what are we left with? What positives can we extract from this upsetting state of affairs? Plenty.

Memories of a sensational performance from Carl Piergianni, who had the kind of game scouts fantasise about, and who is one of the best players I have ever seen play for the club.

Memories of a raucous Town End, rekindling the terrace’s heyday as it enters its twilight years.

More generally, memories of an outstanding season, from a group of outstanding players, coached by an outstanding manager.

We’ll even forgive him his hats.

And soon we can look forward to next season, when we’ll be renewing rivalries with FC United of Manchester, hopefully be putting spades in the ground in Wyberton, and contending for the title with a team constructed, not with cash, but with hard work, good scouting and the kind of patience great teams need to flourish.

There is much to look forward to.

But right now, it’s too soon for any of it. That goal still stings too much.

Still, at least I was there to see it.