Ride a black and white swansong

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

22 March 2003

Burnley 1 Grimsby Town 1

A sunny day, chasing the clouds away, with around 250 Town fans behind the goal to the right (as seen on television). The players, from both teams, ambled around, catching some rays, with Burnley players seemingly taking a mid-afternoon medicinal perambulation. Town, feeling frisky, used green and orange bibs in the pre-match kickabout. Now that's confidence for you.

Town lined up in the regulation 4-5-1 battle formation as follows: Coyne, McDermott, Ford, Santos, Gallimore, Oster, Coldicott, Groves, Hughes, Campbell and Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Chettle, Bolder, Livingstone and Soames. Campbell returned to the leftish midfield position, with Coldicott taking up Pouton's role, whatever that is these days. The Burnley supporters silently seeped into the ground, almost unnoticed, while the Town fans sniggered at the errors in the programme. A big full-face photo of Mark Lever was accompanied by three paragraphs eulogising Kevin Donovan. And why is it only official matchday magazine editors who have spotted the remarkable similarity between Boulding and Danny Butterfield? It's the clothes that give it away - they wore the same coloured shirt and shorts last year. Must be the same person; it's too much of a coincidence. Or is it simply that they were next to each other alphabetically in last year's squad?

The pre-match festivities were seemingly based on the personality of the Burnley mascot, who got a huge build-up. So what? Then up struck Carmina Burana, which sent the Rick Wakeman lookalike into a frenzy of 70s nostalgia. Ironic, given that aftershave is used after a shave, it being a literal word. Perhaps it was memories of all those shaves he didn't have. Apart from spotting celebrity lookalikes in the crowd, that was it, unless you were as fascinated as the Burnley stewards by the entrance strategies of the away support. Why did everyone use the centre left turnstile?

First half

Town kicked off towards the Burnley support and immediately dampened the ardour by passing the ball around slowly and methodically, until it reached Gallimore, when method went out of the window marked 'whacko!' and he wellied it upfield. Even then the ball was not lost, as Campbell won the header and Town got a throw-in. Hurrah, points make prizes. To the huge delight of those present wearing black and white spectacles, real or imagined, the Burnley players didn't seem particularly bothered. Oh sure, they wanted to play pretty football, tippy-tappying the ball around, trying to score a perfect goal for the end-of-season video compilation, but getting stuck in wasn't priority one, all other priorities rescinded.

Five minutes had got behind us before either team got round to shooting, and a surprise it was too. People had paid good money to sit on a wooden plank and they didn't want those people over there kicking a ball about fussing and generally causing a nuisance, did they. It was a lovely day and just right for a picnic in the park. What's disturbing the peace and tranquillity? We had sandwiches to eat, books to read, songs to sing and friends to hail heartily, and some heartily hail.

It had been a sauntering opening from both sides, with Town a bit more up for it. Defending deeply and in packs, Campbell especially looked lively and alert when trying to break forward. Mansaram was proving a difficult man to mark, simply because it is impossible to predict what part of his body the ball will bounce off. And while you are mentally digesting that image of Mansaram, the return of the human octopus, Burnley wasted a supreme chance. Flipping the ball from left to right across the face of the penalty area, it was tapped into I Moore, on the centre left of the Town box, with his back to goal. Unmarked and free, he decided to perform a double lutz with twist, dragging the ball backwards between his legs and turning, all in one movement. He managed to drag the ball out of play, when just controlling the ball and turning around would have presented a virtual open goal. Still, we enjoyed it.

There were several 'nearly' moments from Town, which all faltered on the altar of Mansaram's mind. He was completely unable to run in the right direction when Oster made a couple of incisive first-time passes. And I do mean run in the right direction, for the passes were perfect while Mansaram ran at right angles away from the ball. But it was a sign that Burnley's defence was not rock-solid. They held a very high line near the halfway line, giving plenty of opportunities to chip the ball over and behind. Such morsels are clung to by the hungry hippos of hope.

Coldicott, Stacy: back to Conan mode. "Seek and destroy," said Groves, and he did. He was everywhere, making some excellent blocks and tackles and even starting some attacks too. A bundle of confidence and energy, he actually added to the team. The midfield worked beautifully as a unit, hunting in pairs to crowd out the Burnley dribblers (Little) and twisters (Blake); a thick monochrome wall was cemented into the 18-yard line; and Burnley, for all their shimmies and shakes, couldn't get through. There were occasional crosses, some of which remained in play, but little by way of action to keep the home fires burning. And there was little from Little, which is always a bonus.

Town had sporadic forays into Burnley's box, mainly through corners and free kicks. Within the first 10 minutes a bout of head tennis caused a trifling amount of alarm and concern in the Burnley defence. Stand up, something's going on. Mansaram was suddenly sent free down the centre right, behind the defence, bearing down upon goal. He cut in, awaited the defence, then lifted the ball against Beresford's chest, and out for a corner. Oster fizzed it over, through the centre and a wodge of bodies to just beyond the far post. The ball hit Mansaram's knee and went out for a goal kick.

This was all going swimmingly; huge expanses of time were taken up with nothingness, a void, the Town defence a black and white hole into which the ball was sucked and never seen again. Hughes and Coldicott were ferocious ferrets gnawing away at the ankles of Burnley players, snapping, crackling and popping the ball off their toes. Oh sure, Burnley sometimes had shots, but so weak and wide that they have asked that, for the sake of their families, the individuals are not identified and the details not be released.

Mansaram - back to Mansaram. Weird man, Mansaram. He controls the ball like someone reading instructions from a manual, all done in easy-to-follow steps. Sometimes he seems to be awaiting body parts ordered over the internet and the courier hasn't arrived yet. At others he turns like he is still tightening the bolts on his limbs; Mansaram Meccano man. Mostly infuriating, but fleeting moments of genius, like the two occasions he dribbled down the right and crossed into the box, behind and over the advancing Campbell. He had a shot once, dribbling, dobbling, bobbling and a dobbin bobbin of an effort. And another one: with Campbell and Oster screaming for a pass, he sliced a shot just over the bar at the back of the stand, disturbing a couple of irate drinkers. "Did you spill my pint?"

Shall we shout, or should we scream? Oh Galli, Galli what have you done? Back to Mr Grimsdale again. Twice he managed to set up Burnley attacks when he fell over the ball in comic fashion, cloth cap askew, braces twanging, tripping over his oversized boots. Fortunately nothing serious flowed from the attacks, just a cross into the crowd and a side-footed shot well wide and well weak. But the fear was that Burnley would remember him from times past and decide to attack him.

Just after the half hour mark, a defining moment. Burnley exerted some pressure, but Town forced them to keep passing back to their centre-backs on the halfway line. Suddenly, Davis sprinted forward and a pass was laid out to him, right in the centre, 25 yards out. Davis shaped to thwack a piledriver into the top corner, but Stacy surged forward and threw himself at the ball, blocking mightily. The hills rumbled and shook at this collision and the Town support rose to acclaim Coldicott, who remained motionless, clutching his leg. Play continued with the ball being flipped out to their left wing, and a flat cross was fizzed into the near post. Little sauntered unmarked into a position about seven yards out and flicked a header just over the angle of near post and bar.

Coldicott was still still. Groves frantically called for the stretcher, which was eventually brought out by some very lackadaisical blokes in tracksuits. And still Coldicott didn't move. Some Burnley fans jeered and slow handclapped, which riled the Town support, who rose up and even started chanting for Coldicott. Eventually, Stacy was wrapped up in a blanket and taken away on a stretcher. A great shame in many ways, for in the context of this game he was the leading light, the numero uno, the putative man of the match. It looked a very serious injury, and it took about four minutes to deal with it. Bolder came on in a straight swap.

The game continued in the same pattern. Burnley pressed, but without much conviction, and Town broke away, almost doing things, but never quite. One of the Burnley players decided to fall over in the area near Santos. No penalty. Little bumped into Hughes, fell to earth and caught the ball, expecting a free kick. The referee gave Town a free kick for handball, booked him and advanced 10 yards for dissent. Marvellous, less fat too. Half time - let's get to half time at 0-0, then we'd be happy.

The game meandered along, without incident, without interest, until a couple of minutes before half time. Town had a throw-in near the halfway line on the right - a completely boring position, so people took the opportunity to tune in radios, phone up friends and generally prepare themselves for the half time festivities. The ball was lifted over the top, down the right, and Davis lumbered after it, with Campbell scurrying after him. Again no danger; a humdrum backpass and welly upfield would follow. Boring, boring...oh. Davis stumbled and bumbled about in true Titus Bramble fashion, allowing Campbell to kick the ball away and race off towards goal. Beresford half advanced and started to flap as CAMPBELL poked the ball under him and into the centre of the net. Here we go again, as happy as can be, that little travelling knot of Grimbarians leapt around like it was a Tuesday night in Rotherham. Yes, we were that excited.

This goal energised Town, for they swarmed all over Burnley for the remaining minutes. Gallimore and Campbell linked down the left, with the scurrying Scotsman crossing low to Mansaram, at the near post, ten yards out. Mansaram allowed the ball to run across and run up his left boot, spun and mis-hit a volley into the ground, the ball rolling gently to Beresford's right. Worth an "ooh". A minute later Campbell again scampered down the left and crossed dangerously. A corner resulted. Town were passing and moving - and even Gallimore advanced upfield to join the fun.

There you are, it's half time now. An odd game so far, with Burnley playing the role as scripted by Town fans - they turned up for a kickabout. Marvellous. The only fear was that their manager, who looked 20,000 leagues less happy than your average Town supporter, would give them one of his legendary rollickings at half time and make them try for at least 20 minutes. Only Gallimore in the defence had looked remotely ropey, with Santos a big man again and Ford concentrating. Just before half time Ford did cause a flutter or two when he decided that it was the appropriate moment to show off his ball skills with a double drag-back and lay-off to Santos. The fact that Ford was the last defender and he had two strikers virtually standing on his toes is of interest to historians only. Anyone else to mention? Well, Oster flittered and flattered, trying too hard to do the spectacular thing, and Mansaram was all over the place. The rest were just very professional and disciplined. With Town where they are, they satisfied rule one - run around a lot.

Stu's half-time toilet talk

"How's your mother?"
"It's such a shame about Stacy - he was doing so well."
"Watch out for those taps!"
"I just love the curve on your flowerbed."
"I can see Campbell, or is it a mirage?"

Second half

Burnley made a change at half time: the ineffective midgetman Blake was replaced by A Moore, and Burnley suddenly had two wingers. Oh, bum.

And they started off at a fair old lick. Clearly fired up by their manager, they flew into tackles and generally played like a team who had a reason to live. For the first 10 or so minutes Town were just pegged back. Straight from the off, the ball was played behind Gallimore, and Town never really managed to clear it. Whenever it went near Oster or Mansaram they fell over, or Mansaram ran off towards Todmorden. The pressure was incessant, and the home crowd even made some noise - discernible and clear, it could even be described as support, rather than a low background hubbub.

After about 48 minutes Burnley twisted and turned around Gallimore, and the ball was pulled back and crossed immediately. The ball flew through the middle of the penalty area and Burnley kept possession, flicking the ball from right to left, from left to right, in, out, in, out, they shook Town all about. It was coming. You knew it, I knew it, everyone knew it.

And here it is. The ball was crossed in from the Burnley right and Santos scrambled it away with his shins. He chased the ball out and out, racing up to their left-back, about 25 yards out, who crossed back into the centre of the penalty area. I Moore stretched forward and steered the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net. Sit down, relax, it wasn't that moment. Play that funky music black and white boy - the linesman had his flag raised in the appropriate fashion, making the appropriate decision, for us.

Fall back on your chair, exhale and breathe slowly. Town were still leading, close, but they're not right. Ah, rescind that statement. Inhale and breathe quickly. Burnley were still encamped in the Town half and managed to win a corner on the Town left. The ball was flung high to beyond the far post, where Davis rose like three Ben Chapmans and firmly headed down back towards goal. The ball bounced through the six-yard box, and A Moore, with his back to goal, stooped and flicked the ball back into the right-hand corner of the net as Coyne dived at him. Ah, I can see Burnley supporters now - they are they ones jumping up and down. As was Coyne, furious at his defence for leaving someone unmarked in front of him, and for allowing the ball to travel so far, so slowly.

The goal forced Town to change their mindset, and there were what you might call attacks. Always down the Town right, always on the break, always promising, never delivering. Oster, the frilly knickers under Town's ball gown, kept drifting into space on the halfway line and giving his marker a very difficult afternoon. So difficult that the Burnley supporters voted him man of the match. True. Funny how it seems from different angles. Anyway, Oster this, Oster that, inside, outside, where has he been? Behind you, Mr Diallo. No, in front of you. Oster was forever autumn, a beautiful sight, the sadly ending evening of his Town career (again). Always probing, always seeking to flash a crossfield pass to Flash. Mansaram was almost there, but never quite.

There was another long hold-up when A Moore crumpled in a heap following a scramblette in the Town half. He never regained footballing consciousness and was immediately replaced by Grant, which was a boon to Town, as A Moore had caused no end of problems to McDermott. The presence of two wingers had stretched Town apart; the seams were bursting out all over, like June.

Another rubbish penalty appeal from Burnley was waved away with ill-concealed contempt by the referee. They just tried too hard to hit the ground when running, especially near the mobile Ziggurat, Santos. Pfft, these little people, will they not learn?

The rest of the game was cut-and-thrust stuff. They tried to cut through the Town backline; Town thrust forward down the right; and it was Town who created the chances. Burnley just crossed or fell over. Pedants would claim Burnley had some shots; but only if you count low crosses, thwacks and slices as shots. Coyne had to catch a few dangerous low crosses at his near post, punch a couple of corners, and in one case dummy a punch, allowing Santos to knee the ball away for a corner. Well, who among you would say he missed that punch, eh?

Oh, hang on - there was a good chance for Burnley, when they dinked the ball over the top sending I Moore free, who burst into the area, cut inside two Town defenders and dribbled a mis-hit shot from about eight yards. The ball ran under Santos's legs towards Coyne, and another Burnley player nipped around the back and kicked it against Coyne's arms for a corner.

And that was Burnley. They surged, swooped, sauntered, spun and put Town under some intense pressure, but nothing else got near Coyne. Just the usual moments of minor panic seeing an attacker briefly free inside the area, then falling down. But nothing to worry your pretty little head about.

Back to Town. Oster - it was always Oster - turned on the halfway line, beat his marker, did a stepover, looked up and saw Mansaram free just outside the penalty area in the centre. As one would expect from a man of distinction, he passed directly to Mansaram, who cut back across the box and briefly had a huge, gaping, wide and very inviting goal in front of him. From the edge of the area, right-footed, Mansaram curled a shot a couple of feet over the angle of the keeper's left post. Campbell, Hughes and Oster raised arms and looked disgruntled. A cracking chance spurned.

Wait - another minute, another chance and even better. Lovely old-style passing and movement down the right involving Oster, McDermott and finally Mansaram saw Doncaster's finest export since Dame Diana Rigg twist and cut infield. He made a beeline for the by-line and then did something unusual. He looked up. Then he did something even more unusual. He passed to Groves, unmarked, 12 yards out, right on the centre. Groves swung his right foot and managed to spoon a delightful chip out of the bunker and into a safe position to the right of the hole. The ball ballooned up, curled way past the right post and bounced eight yards wide of goal, Beresford clutching it as it eventually returned to earth. Perhaps it was the gloopy pitch that caused this horrendous miskick? Let's be nice and blame Groundskeeper Willie.

There were more Town attacks in similar vein, Oster seeking to send Mansaram behind the defence, almost succeeding. But not. In one curious moment Campbell burst down the centre-right chasing a through ball. Beresford sprinted out to the edge of his area and stopped right on the line. He caught the ball and Campbell leapt up and down claiming it was clutched outside the area. Perhaps a little note of criticism to Oster should be smuggled in here. Chasing a long ball over the top, Beresford raced out of his area and whacked the ball clear for a throw-in. Oster had looked favourite to win the ball, but slowed down as Beresford approached, stopping and turning his back. Now, if he'd carried on he would have won the ball, but let's not get injured, eh, little Johnnie boy? Who knows what tomorrow brings.

Oh, another penalty appeal down the other end. Excuse me while I complete a rather stagey yawn will you? Burnley had brought on Mr Pap, the Greek man with an inner ear imbalance, who can't stand up for falling down. It got to the stage where he fell over in the box and the crowd and his team-mates didn't even bother appealing, having long since given up on the referee.

Oster! Groan, go on; his final game for us (this season) wouldn't be an airy fairy tale, for he dribbled down the right, cut inside and mis-hit a low shot expansively wide from the edge of the area. The Town fans got a little bored as the game wore on and started to heckle the Burnley mascot: "There's only one Mighty Mariner." Err, yes, that's right. Is that good?

It's 4:52, the game going (Arthur) Gnohere, and five minutes of added time. Would Town do it? Again? Ooh...maybe. For in the added time, during which Livingstone was brought on for Mansaram (who walked off so slowly he was in danger of being treated as a landing zone by the circling pigeons), Town dominated. Corners, free kicks. The game right underneath the hopeful Townites, trying their best to suck the ball in. Gallimore managed to get himself booked for prevaricating at a throw-in, then having a silly little spit-spat with a Burnley player. A corner, on the right, flipped over, headed clear, to Groves eight yards out. Three defenders ran over, and Groves pinged a ferocious left-footed drive, which lightly kissed at least two defenders on its way towards goal. Beresford instinctively held up his hand and caught the ball on the end of his nose. A new member of the self preservation society there, for it would have knocked his block off if he hadn't caught it.

But it's not over yet. More corners, all taken very badly by Oster on the right, were cleared, retrieved, and more corners won. Pressure, pressure - will the Burnley well blow? A final corner, crossed, Ford, 12 yards out, swung his right foot, the ball skimmed of the underside of the bar and into the net -.but the referee had blown his whistle as the ball entered the penalty area. Game over, Groves and players all delighted, jumping around in front of an equally delighted away support. Delighted, but soon dismayed by the Stoke result. Goodbye to the blue sky between us and them.

An odd game, then, with both teams happy and unhappy. Town could have won, but nearly lost; a linesman's flag saved one moment and a firm referee at least three others. Just think: if some of the clots we've had recently had been refereeing, they'd have caved in to the demands for a penalty. Drawing is better than losing, but losing midfielders by the bucketload isn't helping matters. There were several plusses, like the re-emergence of Campbell as a human being, and Hughes' solidity and tactical awareness. Mansaram is a pest to opponents, and the defence, mostly, looked fine. Pity that Galli had a bad day, lucky that they didn't capitalise upon it. What do we care about that? Town didn't lose, so there you are. What did Brucey say? Points make prizes.

Nicko's man of the match

Stacy gets a third of a man of the match, for his excellence and return to form, but overall the usual suspects (Santos and McDermott) are edged out by the quiet man of rock. Yep, he may look like he should be a keyboard player in soft rockers Air Supply, but Richard Hughes was efficient, intelligent and overall more than just OK.

Official warning
Mr F Stretton

Despite his ending of the game in controversial circumstances (at least in this household) he had a storming match, never buckling under when the baying Burnleyites brayed. He was firm, fair, and kept the game flowing nicely. He was quite good, so 8.32. I'm shocked and stunned at such a high mark. I shall go to the doctor first thing on Monday morning.