Staying alive

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

1 May 2004

Grimsby Town 1 Brentford 0

A white light, white heat afternoon in beautiful downtown Cleethorpes with around 1,000 cheeky closet Cockernee types feasting upon balti-style pies down at the Osmond End. Whoops, sorry, wrong stereotype, for west London is the sophisticated end of town, isn't it. The Town stands were almost full too, with the heritage temporary seating twixt Pontoon and Main Stand full of sunbathing Grimbarians.

As Town warmed up, the usual game of guess the players was interrupted by the sudden realisation that a Law clone was on the pitch, exchanging passes with Mansaram. Has Dazzling Daz got a personal trainer, the in thing for your self-respecting man about Town? Or has Law brought in yet another helper to clog up the arteries? Ooh look, there's Macca! Is he playing then?

No, for Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Fettis, Crowe, Crane, Edwards, Barnard, Campbell, Coldicott, Lawrence, Jevons, Mansaram and Rankin. The substitutes were Soames, Hockless, Anderson, Warhurst and Ford. Campbell moved to right wing, with Lawrence in the centre; otherwise it was the same starting XI as last week. Cross those fingers and trust that they wouldn't start like last week then.

Brentford did their own thing down at the other end, looking vigorous, purposeful and big. Except the tiny ones, for Hunt and Tabb are mascot-sized and I'm sure I saw the Mighty Mariner mistakenly ruffle their hair and make exaggerated hand gestures at them. Or was that during the match? Brentford's back four included Scott Fitzgerald and Peter Frampton: here's hoping for some flappers and philosophers with added air guitar at corners.

Before the teams came out Dave Boylen walked around the pitch with an old, old Town player (Brian Hill) doing his Ted Bovis routine "Dave can't hear you - hi-de-hi!" Oh dear, this is now a tradition, as much as "Furneaux out" chants and those very odd people who insist on driving their kids to McDonalds at 4:56 when Town are playing at home.

Brentford ran out wearing their normal kit: red and white stripes with white shorts. Before the kick off both teams got in great big huggles with shows of conspiratorial male bonding.

First half
The game was big, and it was ugly.

Brentford kicked off towards the Pontoon, wellying down the right and the tone was set. Up in the air, fight for your right to party. It's a man's world, flex those muscles. After about 30 seconds the crowd, the Town team, even the St John's Ambulancemen, were incensed by the referee. Campbell slid alongside Hunt and cleanly tapped the ball away to Coldicott but a free kick was given to Brentford, 35 yards out on their left. The big blokes waddled up and the ball was duly plonked in the general area of said big blokes. A bit of mudwrestling, some tug-o-war and the ball was headed goalwards from about a dozen yards out. Fettis easily caught the ball but stumbled and his feet were a foot or so behind the line as he hovered close to disaster. Luckily the linesman had already run off down the touchline.

A minute or so later Town walloped the ball over the top, down the inside right. Mansaram hared after it and the goalkeeper ran out of his area. The ball reared up as the Flasher challenged and the Smiths/Stones/Findus standers rose from their comfortable bucket seats claiming handball. Nothing given.

Next it was Coldicott's turn to win a tackle with a trademark clamping swipe. That's a clean clamping swipe, except in the referee's mind, where it suddenly became a cynical hack. Town were unable to get out of their own half, for the referee kept giving Brentford free kicks, which allowed them constantly to pump the ball into the area. Pressure, pressure; Town twanging; the crowd a raging fury; the rafters creaking and retreating.

In about the fifth minute Crowe tackled Hunt, who dived over a leg that used to be there. Another free kick, again about 30 yards out towards the Smiths/Stones/Findus stand. The ball was pumped in and several players fell over, with Edwards having his shorts pulled down and funny faces pulled at him. Sonko staggered inside the six-yard box. The ball wobbled through the area and drifted slowly towards the bottom left hand corner. Fettis, brilliantly, marvellously, superbly, arched down, clawing and scooping the ball from behind him and off the line. Crane moved all of his buttocks and lashed the ball away before a Brentfordian boot arrived. The Town players railed at the referee for ignoring the several fouls committed inside the area and Campbell had a long conversation. Perhaps he was offering to raise the Brentford bid by £100.

Whatever he said, it worked, for Town started to get positive results from their enquiries. Rankin bullied his way through several white shorts before lashing a shot goalwards from a central position, about 25 yards out. The ball hit Sonko and a free kick was given to Town. Brentford constructed less a wall, more a disorganised line dance, with a huge gap right in the middle, filled by the referee, who then proceeded to hold play up by organising the defence himself. Barnard took two steps and caressed the ball up and against the forehead of the smaller of the blond haired defenders, with the ball deflecting a few yards wide of the left post.

The corner was whacked way beyond the far post, and Crane headed back and out to Coldicott in the centre. There was a nanosecond of excitement as Coldicott's left boot moved towards the ball, but he completely miskicked.

Town again, churning down the left, with a succession of punts down the 'channels'. Mansaram chased, twisted and turned, crossing through the area. Lawrence flicked, Jevons wellied and the ball suddenly dropped down vertically as it moved goalwards. Handball? Wasn't given. Whoosh, Coldicott swept up the rebound and, from the centre and edge of the penalty area, sliced a shot across the keeper. Nelson plunged to his left and plucked the ball from the sky. It looked spectacular, though the shot was probably swerving wide.

Again Town, more Town, driving on, forcing Brentford back through sheer ferocious, desperate will. The plan seemed to be turn 'em round and chase 'em down. Not pretty, not football. Mansaram, in an inside left position with his back to goal, levered himself around his marker and, from about 10 yards wide of goal and at a narrow angle, smooched a shot wide and high of the near post.

A quarter of an hour gone and a breathless, frenetic and ferocious fight was being observed by a baying mass. But still goalless. Uh-oh, a Fitzgerald miskick inside his own area went straight to Tabb, who turned and ran down the middle of the pitch. On he went, past the halfway line, with teammates sprinting up in support, intelligently running across and wide. A huge gap opened up and Barnard chased, simply legging him up 30 yards out, right in the middle. Out came both a yellow card and all that nervous tension in the crowd.

Brentford took an age to work out how to mess up the free kick. A tap sideways, a roll back and Hunt carefully placed the ball into Fettis' midriff. Pfft, rubbish.

More Town: Crowe to Campbell, a cross from near the corner flag and Jevons, at the near post, headed high and wide. A minute later Rankin received the ball just inside the Town half, rolled, rolled and rolled again past, through and under several attempted muggings. Onwards, past two more defenders, into the penalty area and... he disappeared from view, surrounded by red and white stripes, emerging on the turf, surfing his way towards the bye-line. Another penalty claim sniffed away. It looked, from afar, like a very unnatural way to fall, and to think it had taken him 40 yards to decided how and where he would tumble. C'mon lad, you can do better than that.

Another attack, another shot. The ball was pumped up to Mansaram about 25 yards out on the centre-right who, in his own mind, controlled the ball. He turned and leathered a thwacking great shot across the keeper, who rather excellently flew to his right and parried the ball aside for a corner.

Aside from a soft little half cross from Jevons, a half shot and a Coldicott attempted dribbler through a crowd of legs, that was it from Town. The gas was turned off. Brentford began to repel the waved of monochrome raiders with increasing ease. After 25 minutes the game went silent, flat; tension rising, the Town players began to pass the ball to Brentford. No, that's unkind. Crowe began to pass the ball straight to Brentford: he had a shocker. Not only was his distribution dreadful, but his defending was dozy, daydreaming dross. Brentford cottoned on to this and started to lump the ball over and between Crane and Crowe. Cue a few head-in-hands moments as the gruesome twosome dawdled and left it to each other to miss the ball.

Luckily the Bees buzzed but didn't plunge their spikes into the Town flesh. There was always Edwards and Fettis around. All hail the Hullites? Does rather hurt to think it, doesn't it.

Brentford had only one attempt at goal worth remembering (ie. that I can remember) when, after a long Sonko throw, the ball bumbled about with May, about six yards out, hitting an overhead kick against the crossbar. But he was offside anyway, so even that doesn't count as an effort. Ah, those long hot Sonko throw-ins. Every one huge, looping and each time he had his foot on the pitch. Don't these linesmen listen to us? What is going on, eh?

Coldicott sent Jevons free with a back heel. He'll be doing stepovers next. And growing hair.

The Brentford fans filled the aural vacuum with hearty songs of their own, which sounded like "Queens Park Rangers FC, by far the greatest team...". How jolly decent of them to recognise the Loftus Roaders' impending promotion. Or is it that waxy build-up affecting my earsight?

Another long whack by Town down the left, the ball drifting towards the edge of the penalty area, along, along, going, going... Mansaram sprinted after it and Sonko ran parallel, shielding the ball from the avid pursuer. Mansaram waved his arms around, doing the mash potato, and the ref gave Town a free kick on the corner of the penalty area. Jevons caused teenage girls and men of a certain shoe size to faint as he applied some basic trigonometry to the moment. Cosine is adjacent over hypotenuse, which means the free kick was an aardvark, curled two or three feet high.

And just before half time Jevons had another chance to fritter and waste his talent in an offhand way. Another surprising bit of bumblage resulted in the ball squirting out to Jevons, alone, 25 yards out. The ball bounced once, bounced high, and Jevons took time to sketch out a few thoughts on a notepad, constructing some juicy quotes to explain how he scored such a wonder goal. He completely mis-hit the shot. It went high, high, high, and dropped, red with embarrassment, onto the back of the net, via the scoreboard.

Yes, that's it, the first half, all the action that's fit to print. Everything else was Kendo Nagasaki Coldicott versus Big Daddy Hutchinson. Two bald bruisers going eye to eye, toe to toe, like a modern day Indoor League. Put on your slippers and ill-fitting cardigan - I'll si'thee in the second half.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"It doesn't work if you smile."
"Why do we have to play the whole season when it always rests on the last two games?"
"I don't want to kill my china pig."
"Lawrence is what Hamilton was supposed to be."
"Those four Brentford fans stood together look like a windbreak."

Second half
As usual Town came out a couple of minutes before the opposition, and were left standing around like lemons.

Town kicked off by wellying it almost out of touch; Brentford completed the task. Nothing happened for all of a couple of minutes. Rankin fell awkwardly when Sonko headed the ball away and there was more than a murmur of concern when he stayed down. But he got up again, so we de-murmured

Town piled forward playing sumptuous, fine flowing football... in your dreams. Without much thought, the players automatically lobbed the ball into the corners. Sometimes Mansaram and Rankin got the ball, sometimes they didn't. But it did mean that Brentford were forced back a lot. A Mansaram cross, Barnard almost finding time and space to reposition his limbs into alignment, but a defender blocked. A couple of minutes later Campbell squeezed down the right and crossed into the box. Deflected, scrambled, and Barnard, about 20 yards out, drivelled a shot through the penalty area and a couple of yards wide of the left post.

After about 50 minutes the opposition surprised us. They had a shot. From a corner on their left the ball was half cleared and Bull suddenly leapt up and hooked a volley which zipped through the penalty area and zoomed about a foot past Fettis' right post.

Now that woke us up a bit. And them too, for suddenly they picked up the pace of their own game and started to attack. Alarming holes began to appear in the Town back four, mostly around the Barnard area. A missed tackle on the halfway line: panic. Off Hunt went down the wing, over went the cross; a player unmarked at the far post; Crowe stretching, stretching, the ball dropping from the sky. A final stretch and Crowe just managed to flick the ball over and away from this stray Bee.

Hutchinson emerged from a tangle of bodies that challenged for a throw-in and made a bee-line for goal. He travelled infield from their left without hindrance before carefully slapping a shot wider than high, marginally closer than Waltham. Looks like Stacy, shoots like Stacy.

As Town's play disintegrated, the crowd became more and more restive, singing the praises of Hockless, demanding his introduction - especially after Mansaram made a couple of mistakes inside the Brentford area, simply losing control when under little pressure.

Near the hour Town broke away quickly down the right with the ball being flipped by Rankin on to Mansaram, about 30 yards out in the centre right. Something wonderful happened. Mansaram controlled the ball looked up and passed to a Town player, squelching a perfectly weighted pass between defenders for Jevons to lope forward towards. Jevons took a couple of strides, turned his body sideways and shovelled a looping shot high towards goal. Nelson staggered left, twisted right and brilliantly arched backwards to just tip the comet over the bar.

Town's tactics seemed to change around this point, for the ball started to be rolled to Rankin's feet, rather than hoofed up in his general direction. This was better, and forced Brentford to flood their own penalty area with bodies.

After 66 minutes Hockless finally came on, replacing Mansaram. As a result Jevons played up front with Hockless playing on the left wing. You could feel the anticipation, the expectation, hanging in the air. Something was going to happen - would it happen right now?

You bet, but not before another minor earth tremor down at the Osmond End. Barnard mucked about again, being rubbish and missing the ball near the touchline underneath the Stones/Smiths/Findus stand. Hunt ran clear and only the magnificent Edwards saved Town, clearing upfield with Town eventually twiddling the ball up to Rankin, about 30 yards out.

Surrounded by defenders, Rankin spun and clipped a pass out to Hockless, near the corner of the penalty area. The defender was mesmerised; terrified by the dancing shoes, he retreated. A couple of paces, a stepover and Hockless hit a flat cross into the centre of the penalty area. Rankin sprinted between two defenders and hurled himself at the ball, blurring it high into the centre left of goal as Nelson sailed into the sun. And the band began to play as Rankin ran off towards the open corner, swirling and hurling his shirt into the far distant sky. Count those chickens: Town are staying up.

A couple of minutes later Crane proved he's no Andy Todd. And who ever thought he was, eh? Campbell won a corner after a helter-skelter run down the right, exchanging passes with Rankin inside the penalty area. Barnard curled the corner way, way beyond the far post to the totally and utterly unmarked Crane, just eight yards out. The crowd probably put him off by rising to exclaim their joy at a second goal, for he horribly shinned the ball against his left leg before shuffling off stage left, pursued by a bear with a sore head. Should have been two up, game safe, points wrapped up, but no. We have time for worries; close your eyes Mr Crane and the game will drift away.

At some stage in the last quarter of an hour Brentford managed not to score several times. One of their strikers suddenly swivelled just outside the Town area, on their left, and boomed a fizzing shot a couple of feet wide of the near post. Phew, where did that come from? Temperature's rising, the fever is high.

Shut those eyes and pray, they are off again, hounding, howling down the Town right. Where's Crowe? A man free behind the defence, a cross, a block, scramble, scramble, angels one-five, don't panic, don't panic. Legs flailing, bodies tumbling, the Brentford fans roaring. A cross shot from their left, flashing through the area. Two Brentford players alone, missing, the third waiting at the far post. Calm down, Edwards is there.

Again, more shambolic flappings: a cross from their left, a striker rising at the far post heading down. The ball bumbles, bombles, saunters across the face of goal. OK, we're sitting here waiting for any one of three Bees to pounce. Get it over with, end it all now. They didn't: the ball rolled past the post and Fettis plunged upon the bag of air.

So is this it then, is this the moment? Hockless curled a delightful pass down the left for Jevons to run on to, behind the defence. Nelson raced out of his goal and just managed to beat Jevons to the ball, clearing high upfield. The ball sailed down the middle, curling from right to left. Crowe stood and watched; Crane followed the flight of the ball and let it go.

But Rhodes, a sub, didn't. He sprinted across from the left wing and, suddenly, he was free behind everyone, bearing down upon goal. Crowe eventually awoke from his siesta and sprinted across. Rhodes pulled back his right boot, Crowe dived across and Rhodes fell over Crowe. No penalty given, play waved on. What a fabtastic referee; how could anyone doubt him? With about five minutes left Brentford again appealed for a penalty as Barnard rose above one of their fair-haired strikers and headed a throw-in clear.

Town did have some attacks, with Nelson forced to parry a hard Campbell cross from his near post as Jevons flew across his eyeline. The ball went across the face of the goal, but straight to a Brentford defender. Lucky them.

Ah, but you will want to know that the cross was preceded by some football: a wall pass to Rankin, who held off two defenders on the edge of the six-yard box before slipping Campbell free. And, five minutes from the end, Campbell, on the centre left, picked up a loose ball about 40 yards out. No-one was moving, including the Brentford defence, so he just ran straight into the area, side-stepped an eventual challenge and clipped a shot towards the top left corner. Nelson was again forced to fly across goal and punch the ball away for a corner. Another fine save we'd gotten him into.

Town decided to waste time from the corner and, as one would expect, didn't. It just gave Brentford a throw-in. The last five minutes, and injury time, seemed to be taken up with Sonko launching long throws into the Town area. From one of these a little bloke was briefly free on the left, inside the Town area, but twisted and wafted a half volley against the scoreboard. Apart from that it was a big game of musical chairs inside the Town six-yard box.

As added time ticked on loads of Town supporters surged past the stewards and lined the pitch, some running on while the ball was still in play. The referee took the hint and ended the game.

This game? Commitment in spades, and skill poked a tiny finger through the barbed wire very occasionally. It took Hockless to turn a grim scrap down Meggies into a work of art. Brentford were energetic and had a simple game plan. It isn't pleasant to watch, though. And neither are Town, but at least we have some players who ignore the instructions and bring that little extra needed to turn curdling cream into gloriously tasty cheese.

So, there we are, fate supposedly in our own hands. How cruel, how typically Town, that the torment lasts forever. Just how much are we going to burble on about Chesterfield's injury-time penalty last month?

The appeal has been lodged, execution delayed for seven days.

Nicko's Edwards of the Match
Well, obviously, it's Edwards but, as that's a given, who else was a score on the door? Rankin ran around a heck of a lot, exhausting himself with a will to succeed. As did Lawrence. But Stacy Coldicott gets the vote of the art bar strollers in the Pontoon, for a display of total, well, Coldicottness. We don't need him passing too much; we need him stopping the opposition. He did.

Official warning
Heading for the lowest score ever after five minutes with a series of decisions which barely aspired even to incompetence, N Miller just kept bagging those points afterwards. He ended up as our kind of referee (just don't expect anything inside the penalty area). So he gets 6.872. I'm sure he'll now sleep well.