The Bolton Bulls wheelchair basketball club provides wheelchair basketball to people of all ages, disabilities and gender from all over the North West of England including Bolton, Bury, Blackburn, Wigan and Stockport.
Since the Bulls had back-to-back games with Lothian only a week apart, I'm going to lump them together into one match report to give the illusion that this is somehow carefully planned out and I'm a competent writer.
It of course has nothing to do with the fact that I'm lazy and don't like writing match reports when we lose (Spoiler alert).
The Home Leg: 16th March 2014 - Bolton Bulls 26 - 43 Lothian Phoenix
I was well prepared for our invaders from beyond the wall; sword in hand, I WAS READY. But apparently, this isn't Game of Thrones and they weren't Whitewalkers, so sadly, that was no use at all. On to basketball then…
I have to be honest with you dear reader, I'm running out of ways of saying "played well but came up short". My thesaurus is particularly well thumbed on those pages. The plays simply didn't come together the way we'd hoped and that made for a torturous first half where the Bulls didn't even break double figures. Lothian had no such troubles, playing to their strengths and giving themselves a good lead. Half time: Bolton Bulls 7 - 23 Lothian Phoenix
After a somewhat tense half-time break the Bulls got their groove back and out-scored their opponents in what is traditionally an awkward quarter for our bovine-themed ballers. It wasn't enough to swing the game in their favour, but scoring improved, and they were only 3 points worse than Lothian in the second half. Oh, and I confused everyone by scoring for the second game straight. They didn't realise I could play basketball. Another loss, but there was a small amount of optimism in the air for the away trip. We would have our revenge (Spoiler: we wouldn't).
Full time: Bulls 26 - 43 Lothian Phoenix
The Away Leg: Lothian 56 - 15 Bolton Bulls
For reasons that should already be obvious if you've read the header just above this sentence, I'm going to spend as little time as possible talking about the actual game here. This bit will be less a match report and more a "what we got up to in Scotland" report.
This was my first overnight road trip with the Bulls so it was a very different experience for yours truly. Frankly, I don't like leaving my house for anything less than hot sandy beaches and drinks with little umbrellas in them, so I was a little apprehensive to begin with. We set off with Iron Maiden's "The Clansman" playing in my head (Yes, I am padding this out with in-jokes that only my best-friend Ryan will understand).
A handful of hours and some coffee and sandwiches later we arrived at our hotel for the night. This being a Bulls away trip there was a team meal to be had in the evening and being athletes we all made incredibly light and healthy food choices. For example, I personally plumped for the mixed grill and followed that with a hot chocolate fudge brownie (I could burn the calories off during the game, ok?). We eventually got turfed out the bar area despite pleas that Match of the Day hadn't ended. Off to our rooms we went to catch the rest of MotD, and in my case, stay up till around 2am texting my other half. (She won't thank me for putting that here, but the ear-bending I'll no doubt receive is still less painful than re-living the match as I'm about too).
So, the match then. Well, the score's up there, and that's the only time I intend to mention it. Why? Because it's an anomaly. The Bulls actually played rather well and the general consensus was they didn't do a lot wrong. The problem was that there were some barn doors that day that went very much un-hit. In other words: the shots were not dropping. Personally, I blame Scottish gravity; I believe it to be somehow different to the rest of the world. (This is a joke, obviously.) I don't think I've ever seen a team play so well and go so unrewarded as a result.
I'm told it's almost tradition for the Bulls to lose in Scotland, but as a first experience for me, it certainly stung a bit. Oh, and since everyone was pulling for me to score this week, obviously I crumbled under pressure and didn't. To put a cherry on this particular cake, we discovered a puncture just as we were about to set off home.
At least I can add "Kwik-fit car-park" to the list of things I've seen on my basketball travels which was previously only populated with: Motorways, sports halls and one very specific Little Chef.
One game remains. If we win I may actually include a report of the actual match in the match report. If we lose it'll just be 500 words on what I had for breakfast.