Friendly fire

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

13 March 2004

Grimsby Town 1 Bournemouth 1

A clear, bright, warm, breezy, cold, rainy day in the heart of darkness, with around 250-300 Bournemouthians sprawling across the vast acres of gleaming red plastic down at the Osmond End. A changeable day for a changeable team. What a lot of people to watch the reserves. They are the reserves, aren't they? The latest new Town, flung together with MDF and staples, barely believable; who are those guys?

Town warmed up with a stumpy geezer with grey hair issuing instructions while Rodger glared from the touchline. The warm-up was just a variation on the usual one-touch passing circles where Hamilton kicks the ball out. Perhaps it was a 'getting to know you, getting to know one another' session. No time for a foreign trip to Mablethorpe for some rudimentary male bonding, so the strip of mud under the police box will do.

No Nicky Daws, no Lee Thorpe, Town finally homophone-free, which delighted those old-fashioned types who, like grandmas, think they do that sort of thing in 'that' London.

Town lined up in a bizarre 4-4-2 formation as follows: Fettis, Edwards, Warhust, Young, Armstrong, Thorrington, Coldicott, Campbell, Barnard, Rowan and Jevons. The substitutes were Hamilton, Mansaram, Bolder, Parker and Hockless. Your starter for ten (no conferring): who played where? No takers? I'll tell you then. Edwards at right-back, Armstrong at left-back, Young and Warhurst at centre-half, Barnard left midfield, Campbell centre midfield and, of course, the grand return of Rowan and Jevons' laugh-in up front.

That's four centre-backs across the defence, and two of them are actually employed by the club. It's amazin' what raisins can do. The crowd were just plain confused when the team was flashed up on the scoreboard. We hoped the employed professionals temporarily representing us weren't equally confused.

Numbers? You want to play bingo? Warhurst, sporting a pair of large ears, wore an extra-extra large shirt with the number 9 on it. That shirt was at least two sizes too big. Tiny Thorrington had a 2 and a 7 plastered on his back, while lanky Fettis was, and is, thirtysomething.

Bournemouth played in an all-blue strip, probably wanted to work with children and their greatest wish is world peace.

First half
Bournemouth kicked off towards the Pontoon. Everyone lined up under the Stones/Findus/Smiths stand, so Feeney dribbled off the other way, running into Barnard and into touch. There's more than one way of skinning a cat called Barnard, eh? And of kicking the ball out of touch. At least they showed some invention, performing the obligatory kick-off routine, and in less than four seconds. Jolly well done.

At first it was not clear who was playing where, for Warhust appeared to be the 'spare man' at the back, pushing up to midfield. So is it 3-1-4-2? Is it 3-5-2? Or is it that they were running around like headless chickens? If in doubt, plump for the free range headless chicken.

A long ball from their right back was flicked on by Feeney to Fletcher (S), who sliced his shot into the Pontoon from about 10 yards out and to the left of Fettis' goal. Town fans unmoved, a bit like the defence. No, that's a cheap shot at a cheap team; the defenders all looked like they could defend, and mostly stood in the right places. Warhurst, especially, was shepherding the flock. Bournemouth had a couple more moments of danger in the first five or so minutes. The usual infiltrating and 'almosts', with Young and Warhurst clearing at the lastwas lofted to the far post. A flick header on and the other Fletcher, Carl, was unmarked about a dozen yards out. He leant to his left and smacked a perfect right-footed volley across the face of goal and... wide.

At around this time Hockless replaced Thorrington, who had just given possession away, then been crocked. No time for the little pixie to weave his spells. Where Thorrington has pace, Hockless has guile and cunning. They are both tiny tots, though Hockless falls over less. It's a mystery why we got one, when we already had the other.

Five minutes from the end a great cheer went up as Hamilton won the ball in a tackle. However, I don't believe it happened. It was behind a post, so I didn't see it. I think that the crowd were just having a laugh. It couldn't happen; it defies logic and the evidence accumulated over the last eight months. The Royal Society would laugh you off stage if you presented a paper to them.

A couple of minutes later Ducking Des turned and passed the ball towards Edwards. Why tell you such ordinary tales of nothingness? Hamilton was on the halfway line a few yards infield; Edwards no more than five yards from him; both unhindered by blue stockings. Dreadful Des managed to pass the ball straight out of play about three yards behind Edwards, who looked, shall we say, surprised.

One more thing to log on the Deswatch: Law furiously ticked off Hamilton when he dithered and dathered in passing. Hamilton just shrugged his shoulders as if to say: "What can I do?". We know the answer to that.

I saw Stuart Campbell again. Through very powerful binoculars.

The last moments were taken up with a Town corner headed goalwards by Warhurst but blocked near the penalty spot, followed by a substitution by Bournemouth. The game was ended about three seconds after the substitute came on. The crowd sort of booed, but just trudged out silently, not enamoured by the offerings placed before us. Stodgy porridge will do only in the most extreme of emergencies.

It was a horrible thing to observe, life draining away from club and fans alike. The tide is going out slowly. In the context of this match, Bournemouth deserved the draw more than Town, but neither team really did enough to get three points.

Perhaps half a point each would have been fair, as both were equally bereft of that indefinable thing we all crave: quality. Bournemouth were better organised going forward, but then again they weren't thrown together over the cornflakes. Briefly in the second half Jevons appeared to be returning to his form of a couple of weeks ago, when he drifted out to the left and back towards midfield, exploiting the spaces and running at defenders. But that was a very brief period. The smallest pebble in the glacial tosh. The cold truth is that the Bournemouth keeper didn't make one save, and Town never looked likely to make him do so. The Town goal was almost an accident.

The Town defence looked adequate, being full of people who can tackle and mark, those extravagances that pass the urban spaceman and the psychopath by. Let's ignore the midfield, which collapsed once Coldicott walked off. Perhaps Law will put four centre-backs in midfield too when suspensions are lifted and injuries healed? Whither football?

Nicko's man of the match
It can be any of the defence. Fettis looked fine, making two excellent saves which got Town a point. Young looked solid, doing what he was told by wise old Warhurst, who would have been the selection had he not scored a cracking own goal. Armstrong and Edwards are the finalists. Who? Which one? Who will blink first? Ah, Mike Edwards, for being out of position and still his usual assured self. He kicked the ball out of touch less than Armstrong, and on such small things mountains are moved and greatness is bestowed. Well, acceptability anyway.

Official warning
Barely credible, Mr Parks wasn't biased towards either team, just rubbish. He seemed intent on booking everyone, was extremely arbitrary in his decision making, but consistent in his wackiness. "If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing badly" seemed to be his motto. Did someone have words with him at half time? He seemed to be less of a flasher in round two. His officiating destroyed a bad game. He gets 2.341, simply because he failed to find an excuse to abandon the game and force us to endure a second load of turgid drossitity.