Imps Go Down The Pilgrim Way

See what I did there? The road to the new Jakemans Community Stadium is known locally as Pilgrim Way and I was one of those watching as a paying spectator for the very first time along with 300 odd other Imps in a crowd of 1,000 or so, restricted by the ongoing social distancing measures, writes Richard Godson.

I wore a mask entering the ground but such are the bizarre rules that once inside, no matter how close I stood to anyone, I was not obliged to wear it. Those whom the gods wish to destroy……

Living only 7 miles from the new ground, I suppose I had to attend this pre-season friendly and took the opportunity the day before to scope the area and make sure I had somewhere to park. Just as well I did because the car park at the ground is as yet very small and you can’t very well park in the adjoining wheat field, or any of the fast food joints nearby. I decided I needed to leave home by 2 o’clock in order to be there before the spot I’d identified was taken and I was relieved to find it was still free at 2.15 when I arrived. Another minute and it would have been gone. What it would have been like if there had been two or three thousand attending is another matter. The ground is about 2 miles from the town centre next to the A16 from Spalding and while many would no doubt have walked to the game at York Street, fewer will do so now. If they were to land a juicy cup tie, I see serious gridlock resulting.

Credit Richard Godson

The ground itself is most impressive, albeit still missing a fourth stand. The main stand, on the west side of the ground has a pleasing appearance from the outside although it did not have the capacity I had expected when I got inside. A sort of reverse tardis, you might say. Still, Boston are a National League North side with ambitions for promotion and the stadium would not look out of place in the Football League. There are 11 rows of seats with what I assume are hospitality boxes behind. The players’ tunnel is on the halfway line as opposed to behind the corner flag at York Street. Around it is a block of premium seating with the directors’ enclosure situated centrally in the upper 5 rows.

An enclosed media box is situated midway between half way and the southern goal line. To the left of the main stand, behind what may be called the town end goal is the home supporters’ terrace which was probably as well if not better populated than the former. The Boston fans here were vocal with plenty to sing about as it happened. On the east side of the pitch is a covered terrace of 4 steps running the full length of the pitch in which the Imps’ fans were accommodated. Here, you are essentially at pitch level which I know many like. Personally, I prefer a view from a little higher up but it was interesting being able to have a different perspective for a change. These two terraces have low roofs, a consequence of which is that the ball is going to be over them and out of the ground in a trice, as happened a couple of times a day. I suppose a betting man might stake a fiver on the number of times this happens in a given game.

Credit Richard Godson

The south or Kirton end of the ground has yet to get any higher than the footings and judging by these, I would say that whenever it is completed, it is going to look pretty impressive. I heard mention that it will accommodate an academy and what looked like a small training pitch seemed to be taking shape nearby. Another nod to tradition is the presence of floodlights mounted at each corner of the ground, albeit on curved poles as opposed to lattice towers and with a lolly pop arrangement housing the lights.

The pitch itself benefits from irrigation and looked lush, enabling both teams to pass along the carpet and by and large that is what both teams did, particularly Boston who were up for it and made life difficult for a makeshift looking Imps starting eleven which included two, if not three trialists. One, wearing 20 and lining up alongside Adam Jackson at the back had a torrid time trying and largely failing to handle the pace of Pilgrims forward, Elliott who bagged a brace, wrong-footing keeper Sam Long with his first. Skipper Liam Bridcutt was pulling the strings as ever but those around him, with the exception of McGrandles, seemed to lack a yard or so of pace compared with the hosts who looked sharp. I don’t recall a City effort on goal in the first half as several moves broke down before the strike force, led in the first 45 by former Pilgrim Tom Hopper, could latch on to anything. According to reports, none of the trialists are likely to secure a deal but were brought in as cover for injured regulars.

Credit Richard Godson

The second period saw wholesale changes and I was just beginning to think Lincoln could get back into the game when, right in front of me, a shocking, late, sliding and totally unnecessary studs-up tackle resulted in Kyrell Wheatley receiving his marching orders. He had impressed me up until that moment of madness and his removal was certainly felt as he was providing good service going forward and his loss cut off a route of supply to the City attack.

Also introduced at half time was Lewis Fiorini who grew into the game as the second half proceeded. I think he’ll be an asset. I also like the look of Freddie Draper who was industrious and looked strong up front in the second half. Although down to 10 men for most of the half, there appeared to be greater cohesion than before the break. Sam Long pulled off some excellent saves which spared those who put stock in the scoreline some even deeper blushes.

Oh, and it looks like Remy Howarth is now Remy Longdon. At least, I think that’s the case (it is the case – Gary). The Pilgrims also made changes in the second half and among these was Terry Hawkridge who received warm and much-deserved applause from our side of the ground in particular. He was as hard-working as ever and I wish him and all his team mates every success in the coming season. If they continue as they did today, they must be in with a shout for promotion come next May and that has to be good news for football in the county. In the meantime, they have home pre-season games against Norwich City under 23s, Notts County and Grimsby Town to look forward to before their season kicks off a week after ours.

Several significant names were missing from the squad, including Lewis Montsma, Joe Walsh, Regan Poole and Anthony Scully. Hopefully, they’ll be fit for a run out against Gainsborough Trinity in the John Reames Memorial Trophy game on Tuesday evening.

Next Page – Enjoy Graham Burrell’s excellent gallery, the first taken on his new camera!

My apologies for the lack of content over the weekend. I’ve hosted a ‘small’ summer party here this weekend which included two trips to Scunthorpe to drop off and pick up my dog from kennels, a BBQ Friday night for family and lots of drink with the nearest and dearest (including Stacey West stalwarts Ben and Bubs) last night running well into Sunday morning. Normal service may be resumed tomorrow, although it is Fe’s birthday, so who knows? Busy times!! – Gary