Gone to the dogs

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

12 March 2005

Boston United 1 Grimsby Town 1

There once was a windmill in old Boston town, spinning gaily in the distance, way above the turquoise-roofed stands. Well, it's nice to have something to look at when you're bored. All these non-League grounds are like that, aren't they. Think once, think twice, think Bath.

Around 1,800 Townites squeezed into this time capsule, observing the cultural difference 'twixt north and south. Oh look, they even lay on performance art in their home stands: a boy in a blue tracksuit doing some 'urban' street moves: a Goldie-looking shame, jiving along to the Town fans' haunting hymn "You're just a chav in a trackie". They could thatch the roofs and call it quaint. The tourists would flock.

Flock: such an appropriate word. Flocks of sheep grazing on the pitch during the week - how else could it get in that state? Brown with a soupçon of green; Colin and Justin would have kittens. Now that would be a tabloid exposé, wouldn't it.

Perhaps they should call their new ground something appropriate for the brave new Boston, something in the local dialect: Parque das Batatas, perhaps. Their chairman sounds like Alan Partridge - aha! "There is no such thing as spin, only positive PR." Sounds rather Fentyish in the Fens.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Williams (still), McDermott, Whittle, Forbes, Bull, Fleming, Pinault, Coldicott, Parkinson, Gritton and Harrold. The substitutes were Hockless, Jones, Reddy, Soames and that olde worlde curio, G Downey. Do you think he's a fan who paid a huge amount to sit on the bench for a whole season? Did we miss that auction on the official website, dulled as we were by Peter Furneaux's crockery sale?

Boston stood around in a sort of 3-5-2 formation, morphing to 3-4-3, with two perky pests and a puppy up front. Pitt the younger, Thomas the terror and Daryl Clare. The trophy wife long since departed: Gazza is a mnemonic now, or did some one say he was a pneumatic? The ears are not what they seem.

We have the yard-dog, they have our old puppy-dog. Let the illegal dogfight in a crumbling farm begin.

First half
Boston kicked off towards the heaving, soon to be seething, mass of mad Mariners. Back to a full-ish-back, lobbed and looped behind McDermott. No problems, take it nice and easy. Lord Sir Macca, about 25 yards out, nodded sagely towards Williams. Oh did the sky open and a thunderbolt strike, for King John failed, merely dippling the ball to Pitt, who had raced into the nebulous region between goalkeeper and defence. Macca had stopped in Spilsby, which is no good for anyone, is it. Pitt surged on, stopped and laid the ball back to Thomas, just outside the area. The Town defence existed in theory as the ball was crossed low into the box. Clare, about 10 yards out in the centre, wafted his left boot and mis-hit a shot low to Williams' right. He stooped, flicked out his right arm and flipped the ball into the side netting next to the post. Twenty-one seconds, the Town defence not so solid a crew. So soiled, more like.

I saw a mouse! Where? There in the heart of Town's defence: a little mouse with gloves on.

At this point we became aware of the home supporters. Ah, Boston Stump and acres of fen, the rosy red cheeks of the little children. Nice for them.

The Town fans were silenced immediately, the rollicking atmosphere punctured by inept defending. And things did not get better. Boston controlled play, controlling the ball, which always helps. Town were outmanoeuvred, Slade out-thought, the players out-fought. Town players hoofing, humping, mis-kicking, blindly panicking, unable to control simple passes, shinning clearances; stumbling, bumbling. Standing still and watching the wheels go round and round. Outnumbered in midfield, outpaced at the back; no fluency, no rhythm, no football. Shocking. Embarrassing.

Fleming and Parkinson just didn't know where to stand, ending up as piggies in the middle, neither attacking nor defending, ceding space. Boston had three where Town had one. Macca and Bull constantly turned and frazzled, Macca appalling, Bull aspiring towards dreadful. They could hardly stand up. Fenlanders fizzing, Mariners mauled. So, so bad that the Town fans were reduced to shouting at their own feet in frustration. Our shoelaces were burning.

Crosses kneed away, headers lifted back to Noble and Charley Farley Rusk, patrolling space 25 yards out. Coldicott nutmegging himself with every tackle, missing the ball, missing the man, missing in action. Who's the midfield enforcer? Pinault. Pinault the hard man, the terrier, the last hanging thread by which the Town curtain remained up against the window. So this man can't tackle? He was the only one who did.

Hello Gritton, hello Harrold. Seen the ball lately? Didn't think so.

Wahey, a shot, finally. One of their identikit stubby midfielders wafted woefully wide after some pitiful ping-pong. This is worse than the Grand Guignol at Glanford. A collection of furry animals representing Grimsby couldn't have produced anything worse.

Good grief, a Town pass! Well, when I say 'pass', Forbes lofted the ball over the top down the centre-left. As things go these days, that's a pass. Harrold chased, hassled, turned the defender and wriggled free inside the area. About 15 yards out he attempted to steer a lob across and over Abbey, who sailed into the sun, parrying the ball aside in unnecessarily spectacular fashion.

About ten minutes had gone. It felt like a decade. Down here time goes even slower than a tractor on the A52.

Are they repairing the roof or is there a drummer hiding in the garden shed to our right?

More Boston attacks, more nothingness. Crosses and fiddling, but no efforts on goal. They busied themselves nibbling at the Town ankles, but Williams was unfazed. He watched wistfully as the ball floated by. Gritton had a shot. Drivelling, scribbling low without venom, without vim, straight to the bored Abbey.

More of the same from them. The suggestion of danger. Clare tricksy but typically ineffective, always looking to be likely. Yeah, I know he had scored; these things happen occasionally. A free kick to them, into the wall. "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh." We're losing the will to live.

Pinault tried to pull strings, but they weren't attached to anything. There came a 20-minute period in which the ball was lost. Men were running around the field, barging into each other, but that inflatable thing was absent. Was this the half-time entertainment - a modern dance interpretation of a football match? No, no, Forbes wasn't wearing tights.

With about five minutes left the Boston centre-back found the ball underneath a bag of parsnips and wellied it from one end of the pitch, straight down the middle, into Williams' midriff. A huge cheer rose from the bowels of the Town support. It was irony on so many levels that I haven't got time to list them.

And the rest of the half was Town, suddenly alert, suddenly attacking. Attacking without any individual or collective cohesion, but pressure, of sorts, was applied to the flimsy homesters. Macca raiding; Gritton, Harrold, and Coldicott indulging in some sumo wrestling near the bye-line; scrum down on the 22 yard line. A Town throw, Forbes flibbled to Parkinson, who chested the ball down, turned and poked a shot goalwards. Abbey, slumbering on his porch, gaping at the dapper men with derby hats and canes, swung like a pendulum do onto the risibly rolling ball.

Parky again, snapping a shot well high, Pinault on the left sluicing a shot from the corner of the penalty area out for... for... for... a goal kick. Just.

That is it.

If you were not there you cannot possibly conceive how devoid of competence Town were. No, no, you can't. You may think you can, but we know. I'm surprised the local council didn't offer us some fashionable trauma counselling, or send out the Louth Rescue Dogs to save a few thousand people gradually being swallowed up by this monster. We could sue.

I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen anything like it. I've never seen anything like it in my life.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I got two cheese-graters and a fork for Mothers' Day."
"Is their manager wearing mascara?"
"Her skin is the same colour as my mum's sofa."
"That's someone with a Macca mask. It can't be the real thing."
"Is Boston market the hotbed of pet beds?"

Second half
Neither side made any changes at half time. Unfortunately, they both came out and we had another 45 minutes. Even more unfortunately, the referee emerged too. How unfortunate.

Err, they attacked for a minute or two. They got a corner, some kind of exceedingly minor panic ensued with a little scurrier, probably Clare, doing something or other which resulted in nothing or other not happening much really oh dear, so what, yawn, wake up at the back, is this still 2005?

Aaaaaaaaargh. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.

One flew over the cuckoo's nest. Or was it Pinault volleying the ball over the stands, causing a traffic congestion on John Adams Way? Nurse Fletcher, we're ready for our medication now.
Fleming, booked for scything down Pitt, then moaning to the referee. A minute later Bull idiotically slid in two-footed as Town attacked down the left, swiping Charley Farley away, rather like a golfer using a sand iron to plop the ball onto the green. Bull said sorry, limped very unconvincingly towards the yellow ref in a yellowbelly derby, and looked a little relieved to see just a yellow card fluttering above him.

A minute later Bull performed a stamp tackle, fortunately missing amber ankles. A few seconds later Fleming bundled over a Bostonian right in front of Mascara Man, who jumped around like an electric frog. Fleming, arguing with the ref and having to be dragged away by Whittle, was immediately replaced by Reddy.

An hour of unimaginable slime had passed. Unlike Town, who had yet to string a pass together. A. Singular. One.

With Reddy's entrance Town moved to a 4-3-3 formation. If anyone says it was 4-4-2, they must have had an obstructed view. Lucky them.

The game changed. Not that Town played any differently; there was no passing through the middle, from the back. The ball was launched as high and as far as possible, but three up front forced Boston back, and they wilted. Harrold was a handful, an old-fashioned 'presence' who fought for everything and had a inkling where the ball might drop when the Town juggernaut took route one to salvation.

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't football, but at least Town had stopped Boston skipping through the bluebells on a bright spring day. Ooh, spoke too soon. A long shot from Noble, straight at Williams, who, of course, allowed the ball to rebound off his chest. Luckily Boston hadn't bothered to watch any videos of Town and didn't anticipate what every Town fan knew would happen at some stage during the match. Williams collected, looked up and threw the ball to the unmarked Bull, who wasn't watching and was nearly dispossessed by a posse of Boston Belles.

A minute later Williams sliced a back-pass high to the left. Whittle chased after the ball and controlled it against his own chin and out for a throw-in. Calamitous. The nadir was reached. The tannoy should really have blared out the theme from Steptoe and Son. "Harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrold!"

From the detritus a lifejacket emerged. Pinault was released in the middle. He turned, looked up and hit a perfect chip down the pitch at a cunning angle, straight on to Martin Gritton's head. Now that was a lofted pass, not an aimless hoof. Gritton, on the centre left of the area, headed firmly down across and into a space behind the defence. Abbey stepped out, and Prince Harrold of Haddock wrestled with his marker and hooked the ball across the keeper into the bottom right corner from about a dozen yards out. The very antipathy of a Town goal, but we ain't complaining. It's the sort of goal we normally concede. We like Harrold.

From the off Boston caused a fright, Thomas zipping away down the centre left, behind the defence racing after a flick. Williams sprinted out and plucked the ball off Thomas' toes. Now that was a fine bit of 'keeping. He's not all bad.

And that was it from them for 20 minutes. Boston were stuffed. They had little fight; it was all Town. Gritton was barely able to move his legs but still contributed to the tightening of the tourniquet. Reddy began to vroom into overdive. Is that a typo? Surely I meant overdrive? Maybe both?

Swish, hup, hup, hup, swoosh, peel those cowbells. Reddy doing a super giant slalom through one challenge way outside the area. Swing to the left, swing to the right, shiver left and right, through three, into the area, pull back the trigger, look at the bullseye. Bang! White slid across and blocked the goalbound shot for a corner. After the corner there was a bit of argy-bargy between Harrold and Abbey, resulting in some macho stomach-grinding. The ref did nothing. Abbey was unhappy, seemingly, with comments within his earshot.

Still Town turning the handle on the vice, the Boston eyes not yet popping. A magnificent cross-field ball from Macca to Gritton's toes, the cross curving through, clasped by Abbey as Harrold lurked. Gritton in the left corner, rolling along the bye-line, crossing to the near post, Parkinson steering wide. A Pinault cross inviting and inciting, Abbey clutched. In, up, battle, Harrold, Gritton, Reddy, ooooo-er, not quite.

Boston made a double change with 10 minutes left: Clare and Rusk off, two little boys on. Well, no harm in knowing that, is there? Evans became more and more histrionic as his team receded. He's like a mini-Warnock, but without the charm. His teams are less ugly, but also less potent. Their changes had a little bit of an impact, as they scuffled away and had a couple of crosses. Out there in the cold distance, it looked like nearly-almost-maybe moments, rather than anything worth worrying about. Whatever, no shots, no saves, nothing to report.

Flicking and tricking, Harrold acting as a wall, Parky bamboozled by an invitation to play football, forgetting to move, chance gone. Reddy, tossing his mane, turning his marker, past one, into the area and over he goes. Hackery and William Makepiece Thackery inside the area. The ball bumbling, Gritton waiting, twisting, a space to shoot, tackled by Coldicott. First one of the day, oh the irony.

Another high ball, Harrold heading, White handling. A huge roar demanding a penalty; ignored. Collina would have given it. Colin the Dachshund would have given it. Reddy rampaging down the right (does he do anything other?), shrugging away some local irritant, sweeping majestically into the area through two tackles and tumbling over the third. The hint of something good. Sounds like an advert for air freshener.

Into the added time, Boston go forward, Boston shoot, ooh, close. Some bloke hit a surprising shot from about 20 yards out, which sailed a few feet over, that's all. Town got the collywobbles, but the referee was determined that he wouldn't actively make a decision to allow a goal to be scored, so that's nice then. Macca's leaping dummy inside the Town area didn't set them up. It must have been a foul, eh?

There isn't any more to say. It ended. The Town players came over to accept the non-criticism in the form of applause, basking in the warm glow of being rubbish but not losing. Finally, Cyril, after all the other players had wandered off, Williams ran over to the Town fans, with fear in every step, to greet a little girl behind the goal. He survived his ordeal.

An awful pitch, an awful game. Town were, in essence, incompetent until we scored. Thereafter, the power and the passion were with us. The forwards tried hard. Pinault ran everywhere and did the job of three. Whittle and Forbes weren't terrible. Is it possible to have five un-men of the match? And what does that say about Boston if only half of Town played adequately?

The worse we get, the higher up the league we go. If only we'd started the season playing rubbish we'd be top.

Nicko's man of the match
Pinault was the entire midfield, but without Matt Harrold Town would have lost. So it has to be him: a proper centre-forward.

Official warning
Mr N Coward (aka M Russell) was weak, weak, weak, weak, weak. It worked in our favour in that he probably should have sent off Fleming and Bull, but everything else went the way of Boston. Town could barely look at them without a free kick being given. One of the linesmen was excellent, but the other would only give a throw-in if the ball went over the roof. A number? I do not feel charitable. 0.1.