The kids are alright

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

26 December 2002

Derby 1 Grimsby Town 3

A still but initially chill day in some wasteland on the edge of town. Around 750 Town fans of all ages, sizes and hairstyles gathered behind the goal to the right (as seen on television) with absolutely no expectation of anything other than midland misery. After watching the warm up (used bright orange bibs today, thankfully ditching the unlucky green) those expectations somehow got lower. I don't see any wobble, where's Barnard? Pouton? Livvo? Who are those guys? A first aider was almost required as someone nearly fainted at the sight of an incredible hulk sauntering in blue. Chettle? A man lost in the mists of time, so long ago, was he just a dream?

As you can tell, there was much confusion on the terraces as we played the game of guess the team. Then guess the position of each of them. No-one won, for Town lined up in a 4-5-1 formation (initially described as 4 - everyone else) as follows :- Coyne, Gavin, Ford, Santos, Chettle, Cooke, Ward, Groves, Campbell, Oster, Mansaram. The substitutes were Allaway, Thompson, Parker, Soames and Bolder. You'll need some clues as to who played where, as there were 5 centre backs, 3 wingers, a fullish back and one striker. Coyne was easy to predict, as he continued to play in goal. The rest drew lots to see who played left back and lithe, speedy Steve Chettle 'won'. Pass the smelling salts. Chettle at left back? Yep, and Gavin at right back. Santos and Ford in the middle. Now midfield was an interesting Heath Robinson contraption. Groves was the rock in the centre, flanked by Ward on the right and Campbell on the left. Cooke was a right winger and Oyster (as the tannoy claimed) was at left wing. At that just left Mansaram, all alone for Christmas. The combined age of the substitutes only just surpassed Chettle's age in earth years. So we sat back, awaiting the inevitable slaughter of the innocents. How well would the Town Reserve team do against the club that used to be Wolves, and now can be again. One always needs something to aspire to.

For those excited by these things, there was a park and ride scheme operating from the car park to the ground. Hop on a golf buggy and a man in bright clothing would whisk you away to a fantastic land of fantastic possibilities.

As the teams were announced, the Derby fans sang "Who are you" at the Town players. Coincidentally, that was exactly what the Town fans were singing.

First half

Derby kicked off towards the Town support and the first couple of minutes were uneventful, giving plenty of opportunities to gaze in puzzlement at the pitch. Just what was the Derby formation? It seemed they had three at the back, with two wing backs. Christie was up front, but in between it was difficult to tell, perhaps they all stood together because of the chill, as their shirts were a little too thin. Whatever, it suited Town perfectly as there was no overt width in the Derby team, leaving Chettle unmolested, for the time being.

After a couple of minutes the ball was played back to Coyne, who took an interminable time to wind himself up to welly the ball down field. Timewasting already? Eventually, Coyne cracked a long punt down field onto Mansaram's head. Well, I think it was Mansaram. Coyne had taken so long eyes had started to wander. Yes, I stick with Mansaram, who, on the Town centre right, just inside the Derby half, flicked the ball on towards the corner of the penalty area. The Derby left back (tall, gormless, hopeless) turned like a three legged ox weighed down by a rusty plough and Cooke was away. From the edge of the area, perhaps 10 yards out, Cooke drove in a cross that seemed to curl away from goal. The goalkeeper managed to parry the ball into the ground and it continued on through the goalmouth. OSTER ran in from just beyond the far post and headed the ball back across the 'keeper and, well, there is only one way to describe it - in. A little corner of Derby that will be forever Grimsby erupted in a huge guffaw. A disbelieving hoot and howl of incredulous joy. Followed 2.43 seconds later by "It won't last".

Derby ran around a bit more, with Gregory pacing the touchline whistling to his players like a demented farmer with a querulous pack of hounds. It was slightly disconcerting to see the movement of Christie (especially) when Derby attacked, always peeling, darting, spinning into spaces between defenders. But we've got Georges. The next effort on goal was, again, Town, following on from some lovely passing and movement down the right, a blur of blue shirted marauders. A corner from the right, curled high and away from goal by Oster to Groves, about 10 yards out and 5 wide of goal. He knocked a loopy header back across goal and the goalkeeper got in an awful tizz, almost catching a defender's head, rather than the ball, as it arced past him towards the top left hand corner. The ball dropped off some part of his anatomy and he managed to fall on it as it bobbled around inside the 6 yards box. All very nice so far, with Town knocking the ball around pleasingly, none of this whack it to Livvo's head nonsense that often sums up away performances.

Ah, but Derby couldn't be so dreary for 90 minutes. Could they? Surely they would realise Chettle was at left back? Ah, here it comes, here comes the fright. A whirling dervish of a move down the centre saw Morris and Christie exchanging passes and spinning, like a wheel within a wheel. The shot was a wretched waste, sliced wide and high from the centre edge of the penalty area. But Derby started to get up a head of steam, probing, thrusting, falling over. Their first real effort on goal was a Christie bicycle kick from about 8 yards out, to the left of goal. This followed a corner, a bit of head tennis, a scramble and the Christie extravaganza, which bounced across the face of goal and into Coyne's arms. Derby weren't actually creating any clear chances, just crosses that drifted into happiness behind the goal, or straight onto Santos' huge head. The greatest danger for Town was Gavin, who kept heading sideways across the pitch, instead of clearing. This resulted in three chances for Derby players to advance on the penalty area. Each time they wildly sliced the shot towards the furthest outpost of the Town support, the ones almost sat in the car park. It was noticeable that the Derby players all struck their long shots the same; a swipe across the ball, trying for power and for a fade away from the 'keeper. Fine by us, as the shots kept swaying away, never, ever, looking likely to bring tears to Town.

Whoah, you lost concentration there, just like the Town defence. Suddenly the ball was played over the top, down the centre right after a bit of slackness from Town. Christie was away, alone, and sprinting. Into the penalty area, towards the corner of the 6 yards box. Coyne stayed on his line, Christie drew back his foot and was about to shoot. The Town fans sank back below their seats in preparation for the equaliser, then rose as one to acclaim the greatest tackle since sliced bread. Santos, of course Santos, had glided back gracefully across the turf, floating, not touching the ground. As Christie prepared to shoot Georges was still 3 yards behind, but he leapt forward and clamped his legs around everything that moved, dinking the ball away for a corner. C'est magnfique. He hovered above the barley and swooped like a hawk upon the poor, unsuspecting fieldmouse, with barely a blade of grass disturbed. A surgical strike, quite, quite brilliant, and fully deserving of the roaring rousing standing ovation. Still Derby huffed and puffed, but were not forcing Coyne into making any saves. Or should that be the Town defenders ensured that Coyne didn't have to sully his shorts.

Ah, spoke to soon. Oster knocked a corner to Campbell, standing outside the penalty area on the centre right. Campbell took too long and was dispossessed, crumpling and claiming a free kick. Play on! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. With just Ward and Gavin back, Derby broke forward in huge numbers, which appeared to exceed 10. A sheet of white came towards us, a blizzard even. Morris was free on their left, with seemingly nothing between him and Coyne. When he got to the edge of the penalty area, he tried to flip the ball inside to the unmarked Christie, but only succeeded in smacking the ball against Groves' thigh. The ball arced gently towards goal, as Coyne was momentarily wrong footed. A minor gulp from the Town fans, as an own goal looked likely. But, fortunately, there was little pace and the ball looped gently straight into Coyne's midriff. What were we worried about? This Derby team looked clueless, and without heart. They were never going to score.

And then they did, just after the half hour mark. The Town defence knocked the ball around in midfield, just inside the Derby half. Eventually the ball was played out to Chettle, who took an age before trying to knock a chip towards Mansaram. Whoops, a Derby player charged down the chip, with the ball rebounding into the Town half, where there was no-one but Coyne, far, far away, a ships smoke on the horizon. Morris, previously comfortably numb, suddenly woke up and exited his own half, pursued by a bear. Santos caught up with him, but back pedalled, and back pedalled, and was now inside the Town penalty area, on the centre left. MORRIS kept on going in a straight line and, from about 15 yards out, curled the ball over and around Coyne into the middle right hand side of the goal. Yes, that's right Derby supporters, we aren't singing anymore. Not at the moment, anyway.

Derby tried to up the pace and Gregory, again, changed the tactics. At one point Barton ran over to Farmer Giles for a natter and was clearly given instructions to stand on their right touchline. It only took Gregory half an hour to realise that Oster was not tracking back much and Chettle was often a solitary, but not sad, figure. This resulted in a series of crosses which produced not one chance for Derby. Santos and Ford headed, kneed, shinned, and occasionally used ESP to guide the ball away from goal. There were moments that the locals may claim were chances, but they weren't. Morris shinned a volley at Coyne from a dozen yards, but the referee had already given Town a free kick. A couple of superficially interesting moves across the face of the Town penalty area brought Derby the opportunity to slice more shots wide. Ah, 38 minutes and Coyne had to make a save. A corner was half cleared to Lee, about 30 yards out in the centre. For once, a long shot was on target, but luckily for Town it was fairly straight and Coyne only had to hop half a step to his left to tip the ball over the bar. Which he did. Town were not a moribund attacking force, just that there were not may clear shots. A Groves header over the bar from a corner, A Gavin header softly to the 'keeper from another corner. Oh yes, the moment that caused 437 of the Town supporters some embarrassment. A neat build up down the Town centre and right saw the ball played back to Groves, on the right edge of the penalty area. Groves' cross shot careered off a defender and spun a foot or so wide of the 'keeper's near post, hit the metal pole behind the goal and ran across the back of the net. Some thought we had scored, they were red facedly wrong.

There were two minutes of added time in the first half, so the referee played three, just to give Derby a few extra opportunities, but they weren't good enough to create anything. And that was the first half. Funny, very funny, from the Town perspective. A ramshackle bunch of misfits, all the wrong players in the wrong positions and they'd played superbly, all things considered. If only the Derby supporters knew that they were playing a mixture of reserves and youth teamers, they'd have been even more annoyed than they were. For they were starting to turn, like an old cream pudding. Each misplaced cross, witless wallop and stumbling tumble was met by a steadily increasing rumble and growl. The principle target seemed to be their number 17, Boertien, who was appalling: just think Lever on a bad day playing as a winger. The boy Boertien looked like someone who won a game of footy in a Christmas raffle We liked him immensely. Despite a few wobbles (and the goal), Chettle had played admirably, sitting deep and not allowing any stray Derby player to get too close and thus swish past him. Santos was continuing his reinvention as renaissance footballer, Mr Calm, Mr Cool, the peacemaker, the steadying influence at the heart of the team. And that tackle. Buy the video just for that tackle. Everyone else was doing their job: Ward, scurrying around as a disciplined defensive midfielder, blocking and not shocking; Campbell too, making some clever, dangerous runs from midfield to support the brave Mansaram, who received a whack in the back, then a kick up the calf in quick succession. But he, and no-one else, ever gave up or watched as a Derby player ran past. They all worked and worked and worked, covering, tackling, shackling. Even Cooke was doing bizarre things, like a triple spin inside the Town penalty area, to dribble the ball away to safety. But it wasn't all defence, there was some good old style Town passing going on. Who'd have thought that at 3 o'clock?

The half time entertainment was a penalty shoot out in front of the Town supporters. Little Derby fans against Little Town fans, with the Derby Mascot in goal. Every Derby penalty was saved, and every Town penalty was scored coolly. Heroes all.

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk

"I was woken up by a non-existent church organ".
"And this lot played in the Premiership. How? - very badly".
"Derby is in Derbyshire, isn't it?".
"Are they our substitutes or mascots?"
"Santos. Do I need to say more".
"Is that Grimsby Town out there or Coventry?"

Second Half

Derby made two changes at half time, they took off Adam Bolder and someone else who was so anonymous and ineffective in the first half I don't even remember who it was. On came Giorgi Kinkladze and Izale McLeod, who older fans thought was a brand of toilet paper. Ah, mmmm, oooo, well, that's interesting.

Kinkladze immediately started to cause a bit of discombobulation with his mazy dribbling, attracting Town players like, well, defenders to Kinkladze (as seen on TV). Derby had a chink of a chance when Kinkladze dribbled across the left side of the Town area towards the centre, then out again. Santos dived across and swept the ball out towards the right, but straight to Morris, unmarked just outside the box. He went past Gavin and sliced the shot a yard or so wide of Coyne's near post. Pfft, pathetic, thankfully. Town continued to raid sporadically, with Mansaram bothering the Rams with his persistence and occasional pace (he was flagging, clearly in pain from his first half battering). I have a vague recollection of a couple of crosses which drifted through the Derby penalty area, as midfielders strained to get forward Mildly interesting at the time, hinting at possibilities. Derby had the ball more than Town, but weren't really doing anything hairy-scary with it. Sure, they crossed, than ran, they fell over. But did Coyne touch it? Just a couple of crosses, no problem.

After about 10 minutes Town made a curious and unpopular substitution. Cooke, very unhappy, was replaced by Parker, still doing a work placement at Town for his GCSEs. Cooke had played fine, nothing wrong at all with his contribution, both in terms of effort and production. What the heck was Parker going to do? Go to right back? No - a man marking job on Kinkladze! And that caused much spluttering and mirth. Famous old Kinkladze was going to be marked out of the game by a 12 year old? Yeah, right. Yes, right, he was. Parker was fantastic, sticking to the Georgian gimcrack like irritating chewing gum to the sole of his gold plated boots. Wherever Giorgi went Parker was never more than a yard away. During a long delay caused by an injury to Campbell (a fine contrivance, as Campbell had lost possession and Derby were off an a heady breakaway) Parker mimicked Kinkladze's every move. Sway left, sway right, bend down, walk to the touchline, back to the middle. A wonderful example of discipline and concentration. If Parker's mum wants to know where he is, for he hasn't come home for tea since he went to that football, he is settling down to dinner in a large detached house in the Derbyshire countryside. Now that's man-marking. Kinkladze rarely touched the ball in the remaining 35 minutes, and certainly produced nothing worth describing. Parker was superb and the management should be lauded for this tactical change which neutered Derby's only creative spark. Start whistling Gregory.

More long shots drifting wide form Derby, who cares if they can't shoot straight. Next up it's Town. A Chettle swirling, curling cross to the far post was headed back across goal by Groves. With four Town players lined up across the 6 yards box the ball bounced beyond them and seemingly out of play. Oster ran after it, kept it in play, spun and chipped the ball behind everyone. Well it is pantomime season. "Behind you!" shouted the more sober Town fans. Ah well, that was our only chance this half and we didn't even shoot. Could we hold on for another 25 minutes? Not half mate. Town broke away down the centre, with Oster receiving a pass in space on the left (Campbell and Oster switched wings in the second half). Oster lost momentum, trying to trick his way past wise old Barton, who hassled and harried Oster backwards. Oster fell to the ground after the merest of glancing touches by Barton's hand. The referee didn't give a free kick, so Oster simply looked at him and enquired, in the style of Oliver Twist "can I some more free kicks mister?" Yes you can young scamp. About 20 yards out, close to the corner of the penalty area. The Town centre backs, all 20 if them, lumbered forward. Oster waited and Santos suddenly made a darting run towards the near post, reciprocating for events leading to his goal last Saturday. The 'keeper was distracted and OSTER wrapped his right foot around the ball and shanked the free kick into the top right hand corner. More chance for laughter, for Oster had brought joy and goodwill to all Town fans. Marvellous. We are singing anymore, by the way.

As the Town fans danced and sung we were oblivious to the game, so most missed the immediate response from Derby, which was a miss. A cross from their left was dropped into the centre of the box and Christie, appearing to be unmarked and about 10 yards out, glanced a header just wide of Coyne's left hand post. Derby made another substitution, bringing on another winger, which resulted in them having a 3-4-1-2 formation, or so I guess, as they had a lot of bodies running around in those vague positions. Perhaps I shouldn't attempt to dignify it with analysis, as they were a bit of a mess tactically, just throwing the ball forward and trying to use pace and sheer weight of numbers to equalise. Crosses rained in from left and from right, deep into the area. Santos head, Santos boot, Gavin head, Ford forehead - no matter how many crosses went in, a bit of a Town body got in the way. A corner from their right was flung high to the far post, headed back across goal and a small Derby player flashed in a shot from inside the 6 yards box. Never fear, Chettle's thigh is here and the ball ballooned off the forgotten man and out for another corner. Oster even began to take to toy with his opponents, disdainfully caressing passes and flicks, even inside the Town penalty area. Santos got in on the act, spinning like a jenny through three "tackles" by Derby players, before laying off a pass to Chettle. Well, class will out.

After about 70 minutes Ward was replaced by Bolder, who, if anything, added to the steel and determination. He clogged well in a Poutononian way, devouring ankles like a hungry Yorkshire Terrier (ah yes, he's another one who is an exception to the rule, isn't he). Each Town defender managed to make a vital block as the ball dropped in the area. Groves headed onto the roof of Coyne's goal as the ball was up and down the area like a confused milkman, and then there was the moment we thought they finally had scored. Robert Lee, standing 20 yards out on the centre left, pinged a slicing right foot shot across Coyne and just, just wide of the top left hand corner of the goal. Oh there were other efforts, but don't concern yourselves with them, the usual humdrum lashings from the desperate, that troubled no-one but the stewards in the golf buggies. With just 10 minutes left, Oster should have scored his third, coincidentally the Town third too. Bolder mugged a dilatory defender on the Derby right, just outside the penalty area, and passed inside to the unmarked Oster, in the middle of the goal, 20 yards out. Instead of advancing into the penalty area and lobbing the ball over the flapping 'keeper, he tried to blast an unstoppable spinning volley into the top corner. He did blast it, but into the top corner of second tier of support. At this the Derby supporters began to ooze out of the stadium, the silent reproach of ten thousand tear stained eyes.

And with this Town made a final substitution, Mansaram finally relieved of duty, replaced by little Soames. Mansaram was booked for walking off the pitch too slowly (a really daft decision, he wasn' that slow, the crowd got to the ref in the end). Sure, Derby flung more crosses in, but that's just boring, what did Town do? Well, Soames turned and hustled the defence a couple of times, once crossing to the near post, which was cleared for a corner, and later managing to force a throw in, thus wasting more time. Ah, that corner. Town were time wasting with 10 minutes left, but so what, not our problem, is it, and it's been done to us a thousand times. Derby huffed and puffed, but only managed to con the referee into booking Santos, when Christie fell clutching his head and squealing like a pig after a header. In the last minute Derby got a corner, which was cleared towards Lee, but Groves got there first and poked the ball forward. Lee slid across and cynically hacked Groves down. The referee allowed advantage and Oster (I think, or it may have been Campbell) drove forward towards the half way line. Derby had left only a couple of players back, and both were flapping like a gnu. Soames peeled away and was perhaps 15 yards to the left of his putative marker. The ball was played forward into the Derby half and Soames ran on, and on, and on, into the penalty area. Two Derby defenders raced back and the tiny Town tot tried to cut through the middle of them. The ball rebounded off Barton, back on to SOAMES and he was alone, 12 yards out. He turned round, saw the 'keeper rush off his line and simply toe poked the ball under Grant and into the bottom left hand corner of the goal. The Town supporters exploded with happiness. There now seemed double the number, leaping, wailing, hailing the heroes, those unlikely cockleshell heroes. Yes, that's a point in the bag as an ultra realist observed.

The remaining Derby fans continued to shout "You don't know what you're doing", presumably at Gregory. There was a long, long hold up as Lee was stretchered off, injured in trying to stop Groves. As Lee departed, the board showed three minutes of added time and more locals poured out, freeing the escape routes for the delirious Mariners. Derby had a few more efforts on goal, a header, a sliced shot, an attempted chip which sank into a bunker on the third fairway. But we weren't watching, their fans weren't watching, it was party time in a large shed. Finally the game finished and the Town players leapt around, with Chettle the demented cheerleader and disco Georges boogieing the night away.

What spirit, what flair, what the heck was going on out there? Typical Town, when you least expect it they produce a pearl. And the biggest pearl of all from the Oyster boy. Every single one of them contributed, they never stopped running, never stopped tackling, concentrated all game and were collectively the polar opposite of the Preston pants. What a Happy Christmas.

Nicko's man of the Match

Now this is so, so difficult, Nick is tempted to say "them all". Santos' tackle was worth the admission alone, Oster's goals, Parker's Kinkladzethon, Campbell's vigour, Mansaram's indefatigable spirit. But as an old sentimentalist, Nick smiles towards Paul Groves, simply for lasting and leading, a thoroughly sensible performance, doing the simple things well and returning from his Preston career ending trundles. There, that shocked everyone, didn't it. But boy, that Santos tackle.

Official Warning

Mr M Fletcher

Curious man. Mostly fine, made some excellent decisions, especially not giving a penalty against Santos for twice controlling the ball with his arm (accidentally of course) and the advantage for Town's third goal. But also allowed himself to be suckered by the crowd and Christie to get a couple of Town players booked. The home fans were complaining because he wouldn't give them everything, so, on balance, I think 6.87 is a very fair score. He wasn't perfect, but perfectly adequate.