Not waving but clapping

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

18 October 2003

Grimsby Town 2 Colchester United 0

A chill, clear, breezy day with around 100 Colchesterans shielding their eyes from the brilliant sun and their dazzling away kit. Turn off the lights sir - I'm getting a migraine. Fluorescent orange and baggy: the Colchester players looked like a gaggle of misplaced stewards seeking order where there was chaos. In these dog days of autumn the Town players sought sanctuary in colour, with Barnard in blue booties and Anderson trotting out in white slippers. All we need now is for one of the more impressionable youngsters to have a silly haircut, although I have suspicions about the duffel-coated Ward's Ken Dodd look. How tickled he'll be by that.

The Town players warmed up with a purposeful series of one-touch passing, while Colchester were too far away to see or care about. Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Davison, McDermott, Crane, Edwards, Barnard, Campbell, Hamilton, Daws, Anderson, Boulding and Onuora. The substitutes were Jevons, Ford, Crowe, Cas and Mansaram. Campbell played on the right of midfield; otherwise everyone was where you'd expect them to be.

Ah, the hair - there's always hair in the opposition, isn't there. Kemal Izzet, the tiny, tiny porcelain figure in midfield, had unfeasibly large hair for a boy of his size. Like he'd accidentally bought some adult hair in the Debenham's sale. The Colchester right-back, Stockley, had what at first looked like a Dickie Davies flash running up from the left temple. Closer inspection suggested it was a rich seam of sandstone. It would be wise if he only played in dry weather; lashing rain will cause coastal erosion at right back.

First half
Colchester kicked off towards the Osmond Stand and slowly trundled the ball back to their keeper, who wellied upfield. So far, so dull. Nothing much happened for the first few minutes. Hashings and thrashings, thisings and thatings, completely forgettable. The crowd was not enthralled and the low level hum that normally accompanies matches was absent.

Then Colchester were free behind the Town defence. A handball in midfield ignored by the referee; a pass to someone, who looked very offside; and Davison had to hare off his line and throw himself on the mercy of the court. Fortunately the jury was sympathetic, as McGleish took ages to control the ball and his shot was smothered away for a corner, which was whipped in from their left. The ball dropped in the area about six yards out and wide of Davison's right-hand post.

The crowd fell silent, the Town players just stopped moving, and a little Colchester play hooked a shot towards the near post, which seemed to hit Davison and squirm away to safety. Four minutes gone and Town could have been a couple down before they'd blinked. Another minute, another Colchester break, with Town's defence like a drunken accordion player swaying to the beat of a tambourine. You can laugh, you can cry, but we weren't having the time of our lives watching a disorganised rabble. Don't worry too much - Davison came off his line to smother. And again a few minutes later.

Before the nearest groaner could shout "Sort it out Grovesie", Town had flashed at least three passes together, enabling Campbell to dart inside the penalty area and dive over a defender's back. Down he went, up went the crowd, and the referee gave a free kick to Colchester. Boo. And hiss too, if you are in that kind of mood.

An alarming opening 10 minutes disappeared behind the hills, soon forgotten like yesterday's sunset. Town stopped those darned passes going through midfield and Colchester resorted to the trusty whack out for a goal kick, or the always popular welly straight out of play. It rapidly became clear that the Colchester players were hell-bent on avoiding passing to each other. Not since the balmy days of Wycombe and Chesterfield have guests been so determined to embarrass the hosts with sloppy dining habits. It induced a feeling of well-being deep inside the Pontoon and other dark places of the Grimsby soul.

Anderson was quite chipper during the first half, with Gilbertian dribbles and pinging crossfield passes. The interplay between him and Barnard was lovely to behold, being several notches above the unpalatable gruel served up elsewhere.

Nothing much came of these moments, just hints of future danger. A couple of Barnard crosses fizzed through the area. Anderson had a couple of dribbles that threatened. Almost moments. A header! Well, let me rephrase that. The ball hit Onuora's head. A cross from the right curled into the near post, perhaps 12 yards out. Onuora reached the ball before the defender and firmly, and fruitily, headed 21 yards wide.

About 20 minutes in (yep, 20 minutes have simply flown by, haven't they), Edwards cunningly disguised a high pass to Anderson as a comically sliced miskick down the touchline. Anderson controlled the ball, spun around and flipped a perfectly weighted pass further down the line. Boulding bounded on boldly where no man had gone before, reaching the ball near the corner flag and caressing a pass towards the middle of the goal. Campbell raced into a huge gap just outside the penalty area and swept a shot goalwards. Now if Colchester had stayed in their luxury B&B, snaffling a second helping of chicken and beans, then a goal may, perhaps, have resulted. Brown saved without fuss or fervour. Nice mover though.

A little later a Town corner, from the right, was rolled slowly, slowly, slowly towards a spot 25 yards out in the middle of the goal. Anderson sprinted forward and sidefooted a weak shot that spun a yard or so wide of the right post, clutching his side as he turned away.

After 23 minutes Edwards waited for a high ball behind a Colchester player, who backed into him. Edwards fell, clutching his head, and there was a five-minute delay as he received treatment and then ran off down the players' tunnel. The match was delayed even further as the referee insisted that the pool of blood be covered up, so we had to wait for a man and a bucket, although it looked more like a Christmas novelty biscuit tin (large family size).

Something strange happened during this long, long break. The Town crowd started to chant, to sing, to get a mood going. Led by the Mighty Mariner (who, it is claimed, has a big fan somewhere in this world), geed on by Groves, a rolling rumble of noise began and hardly waned. Edwards never came back and Ford was sent on, thus ensuring Edwards could have first dibs on the choccy biscuits.

Ford's first touch was a deflection to clear the ball as a Colchester striker lurked at the far post. Town's defence had, as usual, had a kip while there was a break in play and hadn't set the alarm clock. After this moment I can't recall Colchester getting sufficiently close to Davison to sniff his gloves. They got worse and worse as the game went on, a bit like Orson Welles; all the best bits (for them) were at the beginning.

Anderson swivelled, swayed and glided past three defenders before hitting a dipping volley into the arms of the middle-aged man sat in seat N66, which, for the sake of clarity in these litigious times, was not Simon Brown, the Colchester keeper. No sir, Simon Brown wore a lime green top which clashed awfully with his luminous team-mates. Why, oh, why isn't compulsory colour co-ordination in the FIFA regulations?

Getting the feeling the football was rotten? The peripherals were far more interesting than the dire dross served up. A period of Town pressure saw crosses flip in from left then right, with Anderson stealing in at the far post. He controlled the ball on his chest and laid a pass back to Barnard, who steamed forward, had glorious memories of the Millennium Stadium and thwacked a rising smacker onto the underside of the Pontoon roof, which, at least, is lower than the Millennium Stadium roof. His lips moved and we could see what he was saying. He demanded Botox treatment?

A couple of minutes later an Anderson dinker from the left sailed through the penalty area to Onuora, about six yards out at the far post. Onoura dunked his head like a donut and the ball grazed his shiny pate, slipping a yard wide of the left post. He'd have been better off standing still and closing his eyes, which is the usual Town striker's way. Hasn't he received any coaching?

Roll on half time, please. Some people have trains to catch. With about five minutes to go a throw-in under the Stones/Smiths/Findus stand was knocked back to Barnard, who hit a flat, dipping, curling cross beyond the far post. The goalkeeper flapped and the ball flopped off the head of Onuora and apologised as it crawled into the empty net. Onuora was two or three yards beyond the post, and only a yard or so out, so we must at least congratulate him on the aim.

A couple of minutes later Ford limped off, being replaced by Crowe, who played at centre-half. Are Town determined to recreate seaside summer acts of yore? A few weeks ago we had the Chuckle Brothers; now it was Little and Large, with Sid Crowe and Eddie Crane, the birds of a feather in the heart of defence.

That was the first half, really, unless you want the details of men falling over, or Boulding looking up and deliberately crossing 20 yards above and behind the nearest Town player, or a series of descriptions of Colchester players kicking the ball out of play. The theory emerged that they were mistaking the stewards for team-mates. Or that they were useless. How charitable do you feel? Brown was the worst culprit: a man with seemingly no ability to kick a football, he almost passed to Boulding when fly kicking, and regularly found that Lever Spot in the Lower Smiths/Stones/Findus, about 30 yards out, two rows back.

Oh, and of course there was the handball that the referee ignored, when a cross from the Town left drifted over a central defender and rolled down Myers' right arm. But why should we expect the referee to penalise handball? He'd held his telescope to his eyepatch throughout the half. The Colchester fans had demanded a penalty just after Edwards' injury when Andrews was clamped by Davison and Crane (or possibly Barnard), when briefly unmarked and about to shoot from just six yards out.

The half ended with Onuora sliding across and blocking a clearance, taking a huge chunk of turf with him. He got up and carefully replaced this divot, to a huge round of applause. There will always be a job for you at Blundell Park, Groundskeeper Iffy.

Thank heavens for half time: a dreary, dull match enlivened by the effervescent Pontoon and a moment that will go down in history - Iffy McOnuora's last goal in professional football. But the points were in the bag already. No matter how bad Town had been, Colchester sank further into the depths of footballing impotence. The top moment was surely when Brown threw the ball out to Vine, who nutmegged himself and allowed the ball to go straight out of play for a Town throw-in about 25 yards out.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Your pastry's flaking all over me."
"How come they are above us when they can barely stand up?"
"They've got A Gerken among the subs. Any other pickles?"
"Why does Groves clap when the crowd ask him to wave?"
"Iffy's poetry in motion, isn't he."

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time. The game kicked off and we hardly noticed, so engrossed were the crowd in their various own things. There really was no tension at all in the ground, for the opposition were plain feeble, which was fortunate for Town, given that they were striving towards adequacy.

Campbell hit a couple of crosses which went in the vicinity of Onuora. Boulding fell over. Colchester got over the halfway line once. It gradually dawned on the Town players that they didn't actually need to pass to a team mate, for our orange opponents were quite content to play one-twos with the striped masses, especially around their own penalty area.

Ooh, spoke too soon. Here they come, walking down the street, they get the funniest looks from everyone they meet. It's Duguid, who didn't do good. A Colchester break saw the aforementioned right winger cut inside and bend a shot way beyond the far post, with Davison hardly even bothering to stay awake. Back up the other end missus, as Boulding chased down a back-pass. Brown, who was surely in the Sudan with Kitchener, did panic, and hit the ball against Boulding. The ball rebounded over Brown and just high and wide.

Ah, at last - some passing and movement from Town. Dinking down the left with Anderson, Barnard, Onuora and finally Campbell surging through the middle, with just one defender left. Campbell knocked the ball out to Boulding, on the right edge of the penalty area, who steered a curling shot wide and high, the ball slapping against the "a" in the Ramsden's sign.

Ooh, they're back again. A Colchester corner, taken from their right, was swung in to the middle of the gaol. Stockley, about 10 yards out, was totally unmarked, and totally failed, softly nodding a header back to Davison, who didn't even have to move. I am sure it looked dangerous 100 yards away. It wasn't.

Now this was. Andrews chased a long ball down their right, bumping Crowe away using his mammoth hips. The referee let play go on and Davison had to rush off his line to pluck the ball off the striker's big toe, thus saving the referee from an outpouring of traditional Grimsby angst, which we use to flavour fish.

Crowe - not said much about Crowe so far. Very interesting performance, by far his best in black and white stripes. Assisted by the inability of Colchester to have any concerted attacking, his pace allowed him to clear up the mess of others.

The game was drifting so, so slowly, with even more stoppages. C'mon, get on with it. Ah, a substitution. After 70 minutes. Anderson, who looked very tired, was replaced by the Cas-anooga Choo Choo. Campbell was immediately sent to the left, allowing Cas free rein to roast a couple of chestnuts on an open fire. And he did: not bothering with defending, he played as an out-and-out right winger.

And now the chances did flow. Town broke down the left and the ball was played up to Onuora, in the middle right on the edge of the penalty area. He flicked the ball on to Cas, who zoomed to his right, looked the goalie in the eyes and completely mis-hit his shot, dragging it across the face of goal. Brown decided against casually strolling over to gather this bumbling bombling excuse, and folded like a banker's box, scruffling the ball aside for a corner as Boulding lurked. He caught the corner, which was nice for him.

Caretaker Daws, as he had done all afternoon, calmly swept up a loose ball around the edge of the Town box and sent Cas on his merry way. Cas received the ball near the halfway line, turned, knocked the ball past the full back and you know the rest. He bazoomed up the wing leaving orange peel in his wake, cut inside a stray defender and, from the edge of the area, smacked a left-footed shot which the goalkeeper spectacularly parried aside.

A couple of minutes later Boulding twisted and turned down the right touchline, before cutting in and dribbling a mis-hit shot straight at Brown. Colchester... no they didn't. Onuora amazed all by receiving a pass with his back to goal, controlling the ball, turning and delicately lifting a flick over and through the defence. Boulding raced clear and, just inside the penalty on the centre left, thwacked a half volley goalwards. Brown parried the ball away at head height.

Colchester brought on a lanky string of beans, Halford, who looked a decent footballer, one of those awkward 'ball tied to a piece of string' merchants. He briefly threatened to poop the emerging party when Town fell asleep, as Colchester attacked down their left. Halford snuck up unmarked on the right and was for the merest of seconds bearing down on goal inside the penalty area. Barnard lumbered across; Halford cut inside; the ball was crossed; the moment was gone.

No - their moment was gone, for Cas thwacked the cross away downfield, where Onuora controlled the ball inside the centre circle. He held off a couple of defenders and poked a pass upfield to Boulding, who did what he's paid to do - run quickly. Pursued by two defenders, he cut back to his right foot and, from around the edge of the penalty area on the centre left, hit a firm drive goalwards. Brown sank to his knees, waving his arms as if guiding a helicopter to land, and the ball seemed to go through his legs, possibly deflected. In other words, Boulding had finally scored again, with about five minutes left.

Colchester decided to use up the remaining minutes by entertaining us, the paying public. They should have scored when a cross from their right floated gently on the breeze. Crane decided to play musical statues and McDermott ambled across to cover. Vine, about six yards out and in the centre, stooped and glanced an awfully tame header straight at Davison who, yet again, didn't have to move a mighty muscle.

McDermott sliced a clearance over the bar from the middle of the area, wandering back to the post with a knowing smile. Is that a hint of a moustache we see upon thy face? That's an accusation, not a question, by the way.

But the biggest end of the pier laughter was reserved until last. Cas daftly barged over a striker in the middle, right on the edge of the penalty area. The referee took an age to get the wall back the requisite 12.1 yards, as Cas argued about the metric/imperial conversion rate. Two bright, bobbing, fizzy oranginas stood over the ball, while another prepared to run up and smack it. The runner was a dummy, for they had a plan, a plan so cunning you could build a three-bedroom (one en suite) detached bungalow on its foundations.

Ah, they forgot to get planning permission. The dummy dummied, the stooge stooged, Izzet rolled the ball between his legs to his left for... well, there was the flaw in the plan. For Daws. No Colchester player was within the territorial fishing zone of the ball. At least they left us with a smile on our face and a song in our heart as we serenaded their embarrassment. They were lost in their own maze. I am sure that when you buy the highlights video it will be speeded up, layered in monochrome and have some jaunty music played over the top. I suggest the theme to Pot Black.

If you ignore the first five minutes, then this was a bit of a stroll. The crowd picked up on it and decided to have a sing-song and enjoy themselves, despite what was going on out on the pitch. This seemed to rouse the players a little and a little was all they needed to win. Only Chesterfield have been worse so far at Blundell Park. Town were nowhere near as good, with the game being a huffle and puffle affair in midfield.

Hamilton had a very odd game, making two or three excellent defence-splitting passes, but never seeming to have the ball under control. And I mean that in a very big way, for his touch was akin to a constipated polar bear, and don't we know all about them. Cas got into the mood, being both dangerous and daft, possibly the only Town player who could have got into the Colchester team, for only some of his passes stayed inside Blundell Park. Boulding seemed to make the strangest blindside runs. From being unmarked, he dashed 20 yards to be marked. Stand still laddie!

The most worrying aspect was the continuing Macca turmoil. He made two or three underhit or mis-hit clearances which went to straight to the opposition. Are his powers finally starting to wane, the beginning of the start of the road to retirement? His positioning was spot on, his determination as driven as ever, but his legs, at the end of the game, seem to lose power. It isn't terminal, but something to keep an eye on.

So in its own way a mildly diverting afternoon, perversely enjoyable, and a very good atmosphere created by the crowd. Being at Blundell Park was fun despite the football. Now that's over - next!

Nicko's man of the match
Who could it be? Crowe had a super 50-minute cameo, but overall there are just two candidates. In the red corner Barnard, the Wokingham wanderer. A cut above with his internationalist leanings and proddings. In the redder corner we have Daws, the Rotherham rover. Have you noticed how he has migrated from Nicky to Nick, giving him the gravitas one would expect with age and wisdom? After at least a second's thought the answer must be Nick Daws, for getting his mop and bucket out to clean away all those little messes the kids keep making.

Official warning
Mr Joslin was not very impressive, despite there being nothing to decide. A lot of small inconsistencies, and his linesman had to make some pretty obvious decisions for him. In other words, a hesitant unreliable witness. Strike his testimony from the record. A reluctant 5.2805 in this arbitrary scoring system, using an imaginary slide rule.