Boxing Day football falls on a Saturday this year so technically it may not even be Boxing Day at all. The Bank Holiday is on Monday when tired footballers in some leagues will have it all to do again. You can already hear the excuses being lined up. The Ryman League doesn’t quite do that although most teams fit in a fair few games over the festive period. And, today, drawn by warm weather and an absence of rain, some 474 people made it to the Pilot Field to see Hastings United edge out Walton Casuals 1-0.
This far down the period the ‘Match Centre’ provided online for a game only gives you the goals. So that’s “W Medlock, 76”. We don’t get the FIFA16 approved match stats of possession, corners, fouls, shots, saves and the like. All would show a dominant Hastings performance. Which shows that sometimes you should ignore the statistics and watch the game. The game, particular in the second half, was played almost entirely in Hastings’ attacking third. But Walton had parked a fleet of coaches and the home side could not break through. Cross after cross was easily dealt with and the visitors in orange more than matched their hosts in claret in terms of actual stand-out chances. Woodwork was rattled, balls cleared off lines, marginal offsides wrecked counter attacks. It was close and Walton will feel they could have taken at least one point back home with them.
The goal was scrappy. A well-drilled shot was parried and William ‘Billy’ Medlock was there to toe-end it in. Some refs might have called it a lunge at the keeper but our man in black was consistent in mostly letting hard stuff go and so the goal stood. In the final fifteen minutes Walton had a couple of good free kick opportunities and Hastings repeatedly got to positions when a decent shot could have ended the game, only to get stagefright and pass the ball around instead. Both teams could probably have done with a bit more confidence but in the end Hastings will be pleased with a win.
This was all entertaining. I took along my son who inquired, genuinely, why the players don’t listen when the crowd tell them to shoot. The home management team were dressed as if it were an arctic day, the away boss dapper in shirt sleeves. The chips were good as well. I didn’t persuade my boy that he might want a Hastings scarf to go with his Arsenal kit but, as we were leaving, he did add The Us to the teams he supports, which is at least a start.
On the short drive home we listened to Five Live and the Sports Report theme tune. A boy next to me began trilling along. It doesn’t matter if today was Boxing Day or not but the traditions of a game the day after Christmas, parents and children enjoying the match together and a jokey singalong to that theme tune are ones to be cherished.