Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
14 August 2004
Grimsby Town 5 Buried 1
A stonkingly clear, hot afternoon in Lincolnshire's version of the millionaires' playground. Well, we have boats in a harbour and some people were wearing sunglasses that cost more than £5.99 from Boots. About 100-150 Buryites appeared in the Osmond Stand to no discernible effect; little sound or vision. They were there, with a big flag to go with their big players. If they weren't tall they were barrel-chested: conforming to everyone's stereotype of a fourth division team. It was going to be one of those games, eh?
Town lined up in the 3-4-3 formation as follows: Williams, Whittle, Ramsden, Gordon, McDermott, Pinault, Fleming, Crowe, Sestanovich, Parkinson and Mansaram. The substitutes were Coldicott, Young, Marcelle, Reddy and Bull. Gordon played on the left side of the back three and the rest were where they were against Boston. So Town had Flash and Gordon on the left. Oh, come on, you've all noticed it, so there's no point in labouring the comic possibilities.
There was nothing remarkable about the warm-up, nor anyone's hair. No pigeons dive-bombed Challinor, though he was drenched in adjectives and nouns of the most anglo-saxon of derivations. It was all very normal: the crowd were not overly excited, the crackle of electricity that hummed through Tuesday evening was missing. It's such a lovely day, let's sit back and relax.
The scoreboard had difficulty with the Bury team, for they had three players with double-barrelled surnames: B-Murphy, D-Pringle and W-Challinor, sometimes pronounced Challinor- Booooooooooooooo. How ironic that Legsmasher Dave has a team-mate called Pringle, or perhaps how worrying for his team-mate. Daniel Douglas-Pringle: what a fine name, as is Brian Barry-Murphy. You can't go wrong with a bit of alliteration, as some proved when double- barrelling Challinor.
Dish of the day: Macca's chicken curry caused quite a stir, for the ingredients didn't include chicken. So that'll be chickenless curry, ideal for vegetarians and those of an experimental culinary bent.
I looked to the sky where an elephant's eye was looking at me from a bubblegum tree. Oh, sorry - that's just Bury kicking off towards the Pontoon. Whoosh, up, up and away, the beautiful balloon disappeared from view, arriving back on Earth for a Town goal kick. A minute of hithering and thithering ended when McDermott tackled with his angel feet. The ref erred as we "huh"-ed, awarding a free kick to the yellow-clad bundlers and trundlers.
The ball was whelped down their left and Whittle wobbled underneath it, misjudging the flight and allowing it to bounce behind him. Pursued by a Bury bear, he gallimored about before walloping a clearance high down the touchline. Still the ball remained in play before being tipped down the wing again and shinned out for a throw in, about a dozen yards from the bye-line.
Challinor-Boo hurled a long, flat throw into the heart of the Town penalty area. The ball sailed over Whittle, flicked the top of a Bury quiff and drifted across the face of goal. Williams watched as the ball continued on towards Spurn Point, striking the bottom of his left post and bouncing along, perhaps behind the line. WIliams reached across and flicked the ball up onto the crossbar, and it rebounded to Barry-Murphy, a yard or so out, who walloped it in.
Silence in the studio.
A typical Town goal to concede: scrappy, rubbish, artless dross. And the pattern was set for the next few minutes. Bury had a simple game plan, nothing fancy at all. They just ran around a lot and whacked the ball down the flanks behind the Town defence, forcing a lot of throw-ins, and allowing Challinor-Boo to waltz up without a care in the world and chuck the ball in. Result: minor peril, major panic as the ball skimmed off shiny surfaces and snaked off shaky shins. They had a shot, it went over. The Pontoon started to murmur, or was that the aftereffects of the balti pies?
The Town back three looked very wobbly, with Gordon and Whittle playing at jogging pace, rather thoughtlessly tapping the ball out of play in Challinor-Boo range, or passing the ball back to Williams, a man whose kicking is worse than Crichton's or Coyne's ever was. Still more moments of minor peril as the well organised and disciplined Buryites fiddled about in front of the Pontoon.
At last, a Town attack. A Bury corner was cleared by Pinault. No, that doesn't do justice to his flick over a Shakerman on the edge of the Town area and caressed pass to Sestanovich near the halfway line. Sestan drove his van into the Bury half, on the centre right. Past one, past two, up to Challinor-Boo. Sestanovich knocked the ball past Pringle's career ender, who promptly legged him up with a sliding swipe. The crowd considered this for a micro-moment and came to a collective decision that Challinor-Boo should be immediately dismissed, his epaulettes ripped off and sword snapped in two. The traditionalists wanted tar and feathering too. The referee only wafted a yellow card at this recidivist. Nothing came of the free kick.
A couple of minutes later another Town breakaway was ended by the last man standing offending our sensibilities. This time a handball, as Mansaram awaited a clear run in from the left. Perhaps the referee took one look at Octopussy and decide that it wasn't a goalscoring opportunity. And who are we, the most experienced Mansaramic fundamentalists in the world, to disagree with that assessment? The free kick didn't result in anything memorable either.
Ah, 10 minutes of rather rotten rollerball had floated by before Town made the Bury goalkeeper touch the ball. Pinault and Sestanovich combined to feed our goat, little pesky Parky, who scampered forward and smacked a shot goalwards from about 25 yards out. The ball seemed to be swaying towards the top left-hand corner, slowly curling away from the fabulous flying fish in the Bury goal. Garner, superbly, zoomed across and parried the ball aside. Mansaram raced in and from a narrow angle knocked the rebound several yards over the bar.
A couple of minutes of Bury lobbing followed, during which Williams failed to collect the ball off the toes of Nugent when the ball was near goal. Again a minor moment of concern, but streets weren't flooded, no need to advise.
Around the quarter-hour mark McDermott sparked a move down the right, nicking the ball off a yellow person and passing to Parkinson. Parky tried to thread a pass through to the marauding Macca, but it went straight to the full-back. As we moaned, McDermott ran after the defender and dispossessed him, with the ball running to Sestanovich about 35 yards out on the centre right.
Sestan did his trademark thing, players bouncing off him like moths against a window pane. He edged infield and, in the centre just outside the penalty area, he seduced the right-back over. Mansaram was alone in a dinghy, just a few miles offshore and waving to his chums. Sestanovich noticed the Dazzler and tapped the ball out to him. Mansaram awaited the ball, awaited the goalkeeper and, from about a dozen yards out, placed the ball low in to the net. That's nice.
The rest of the half was generally mediocre, but punctuated by fleeting moments of sumptuous skill from Sestanovich and, especially, Pinault. Where Bury huffed and puffed, Town had that little something extra, a hidden back pocket out of which rabbits, doves and bouquets of barbed wire were occasionally flourished. Bury weren't impressed by the conjuring tricks; perhaps the full range of magic would be needed in the second half.
The visitors, in fact, were a bit of a pain. They had that work ethic too, and a referee indulgent in their game of bargeball. Shoulder charges haven't been allowed since cloth caps and baggy shorts! They did almost threaten to squeeze another goal sometimes, a long shot here, a deflected shot there, but they were the briefest of moments. Williams only had one other save to make in the first half, when Nugent suddenly let fly from 25 yards out to their left. The ball dipped towards the left-hand side of the goal and Williams, at full stretch, parried the ball away, picking up the rebound before a Bury player got within five yards of him. Well, that's them done then.
Town? Pinault had a long shot from the centre left which went a couple of feet wide of Garner's right post. Never going in, but worth an "ooooh" just to fool the Smiths/Findus/Stones Standers. That was all the efforts on goal. Town crossed, Town infiltrated, fizzing but fizzling out when it came to shooting. After straining, heaving and complaining we was getting nowhere. And so, we had a cup of tea, for it was half time.
Parkinson had a bit of a stinker, with the ball continually bouncing off his shins, his passes going straight to Buryites. Crowe was poor too, shinning passes, shivering tackles. Neither here, nor there: a bit like Town's first half. Not quite what it should be. As for the defence, they did seem a little too casual at times, being far more relaxed than the Town fans about all these long throws willingly conceded.
A few tweaks were needed, as the engine was slightly misfiring.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Why don't Town play well in the first half?"
"Alf Ramsey knew how to milk a cow."
"Wouldn't you rather be at your sister's wedding?"
"Remove resplendent. Don't let that word leave this ground."
"Bury are drearily efficient. It must be like supporting a lawnmower."
No changes were made by either team at half time.
Town kicked off and nothing was ever the same again. Bury remained in the fourth division, humping, lumping, playing with hope rather than expectation. Town? Town got in their spaceship and blasted off to another planet entirely. Within a minute Parkinson had been sent free down the left. He sprinted up to the ball, did a double-piked somersault with a half twist of lemon and ran at the back-pedalling Challinor-Boo. Parky reached the penalty area right on the bye-line, turned infield, then switched back to the bye-line. Challinor-Boo used his charm to stop the jug-eared juggler, legging him up with the subtlety of a cow giving birth to triplets. The referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot without much complaint from the Bury players.
Parkinson picked up the ball, set himself and, with a two-step 'run'-up, tapped the ball low to the keeper's left. Garner flung himself to that side and pushed the weak penalty away. The ball was swept out for a corner. The Bury players thanked Garner for his efforts, popping out to Cleethorpes Collectibles to buy him a figurine of a dog with a child. You never know, it might be worth something.
Pinault lobbed the corner to the near post and the ball was half cleared up in the air. A Bury hand snaked up and a Town player headed the ball against the straying limb. Penalty again! The crowd were still standing, buzzing with frustration, anger, joy and worry. Who would take it? Bring back Pouton! Sestanovich strode forward and picked up the ball, pushing aside smaller humans. That's everyone then.
Sestan wasn't the man for penalties either, for he tapped the ball to Garner's right, and again the goalkeeper saved easily, though this time he pushed the ball back infield. Sestanovich loped forward and poked in the rebound as defenders stretched every sinew to sneak the ball away.
You could feel the game being sucked away from Bury. They were being overrun by events and Town. We've had that feeling in the last two years, where Town have let go of the rope and before you know it they're plunging down the rockface like Homer J Simpson. Only this time it wasn't Bury who let go of the rope, but Town who yanked it away.
Town ratcheted up the pressure, flowing freely, purring like a fat cat in a creamery. Parky pestering, drifting wider, getting more effective; Mansaram being a pain to them rather than us; Sestanovich starting to rumble. Above all, Pinault waved his magic wand, safe in the knowledge that Fleming would stand around and sweep up the dust. Onwards, onwards, Bury forced back, stretched, strained, twanging and ready to snap; Town a blur of movement, the crowd roused, roaring and ready for Reddy.
But not yet. Ramsden pinged a perfect pass to Pinault, fully 40 yards from right to left. Pinault waited, waited and smooched the most exquisite cushioned volley over the last defender into the stride of the onrushing Crowe. The ball bounced once and Crowe volleyed straight at the keeper from ten or so yards out, wide of goal.
The Bury fans moaned when Whittle cleared a long throw, claiming a penalty, I think. I wouldn't have given it, and the ref didn't. In that respect he was being consistent, as he had looked kindly upon Bury's muscular defending. Well, you see a straw you clutch it, right?
All the while Reddy was warming up, the sword of Damocles slowly swinging his legs on the touchline. Does Reddy's moving bandage mean anything? Perhaps it's a signal for a particular corner, or change in formation? One minute it's above his knee, the next below on his calf. What can it mean? Or is it just a continuity error in this multiplex action thriller?
On the hour, on came yer man, the Kilkenny Koi-carp to Mansaram's dogfish. Mansaram received an ovation for his efforts: he had done well, clearly gaining a bit of confidence and causing the giant deadwoods in Bury's depleted defence some concern. Reddy's arrival sent Town into another universe and Bury were crushed, pulverised and buried under a Tsownami. Not mere waves, but a brutal, unstoppable force.
Around the 64th minute Town toyed with Bury down the centre right, flipping, flopping, finagling the ball around. Finally Parkinson received the ball, drifted infield slightly and from the centre dinked the most delicate of chips over the keeper from about 30 yards out. The ball looped and drooped, kissing the underside of the crossbar and bouncing out. Pinault hared in and toe-poked the bouncing ball in from about eight yards out. C'est bon, c'est Tom. It's party time, and that was just the aperitif.
Town won the ball back from the kick off and the expert swordsman ripped Bury's shirt without drawing blood. Reddy skipping, shimmering, swaying past defenders on the left after a four-man pass and move. He reached the bye-line, looked up and rolled a pass across the face of goal. McDermott steamed in and from about a dozen yards out steered a left-footed shot goalwards. The ball bounced off a yellow sock near the goal-line.
In the 67th minute Bury got inside the Town penalty area. Porter headed softly at Williams. A minute later and Town were showboating. Olé, olé, olé, oops. Pinault dispossessed, Nugent away, rolling past a Whittle waft and just Williams to beat. He tried to place the ball to Williams' right and the hirsutely sensitive stopper blocked for a corner. That's it for them.
Sestanovich, linking beautifully with the fearsome Reddy, drifted in from the left and pinged a shot over the angle of post and bar. Bury were dizzy, about to fall down, confused by this whirligig spinning around their ears. The Sladettes in the Pontoon were singing already, and better was to come. In the 73rd minute Town scored a beautifully crafted team goal, one that brought tears to many eyes as they enjoyed watching the woodcarver chip away at the block.
McDermott, on the right touchline inside the Town half, finessed the ball up the wing to Parkinson, who flew past his nominal marker, chasing the ball towards the corner flag. He caught up with it, turned, and passed the ball back to Macca, who flipped the ball across into the penalty area. Reddy ran across the defender and flicked the ball towards the bye-line, cruising down the strip, window open, shades on, surfin' down the Prom. He advanced along the line, looked up and passed to the far post, where Pinault raced in and side-footed the ball into the empty net. Pinault stood in front of the Pontoon and even the men without hats danced for him.
Still, there's more. A couple of minutes later Town broke forward at speed, Parkinson and Reddy raiding on the right. The move ended only when they realised Sestanovich, who had started it all off, was in a heap in the centre holding his face. We all blamed Challinor-Boo, just for old times' sake, though it was a smaller, sturdier little scamp who did it, whatever it was. No free kick, no booking, a throw-in to them.
A couple of minutes after that the roving Sestanovich picked up a pass in midfield and zoomed goalwards. The bees were attracted to the honeypot and he licked a lovely pass to Reddy, who had peeled away , making two excellent little runs. The ball rolled forward and Reddy, on the centre-left edge of the area, allowed the ball to run between his legs while running towards the Pontoon. Reddy awaited the defender, swayed across him, across another and placed a low shot into the bottom left corner via Garner's fingertips. We stood, we hailed Prince Michael. He accepted the crown.
Bury were naked before us, stripped of dignity, shredded and lying in the wastepaper bin. Town had no mercy, rolling forward, teasing, pleasing us, embarrassing them with all manner of party tricks. A couple of minutes after his goal Reddy was almost through again, the defenders scared to go near him, shuffling like Pacmen across the penalty area, and only the sheer weight of defenders stopped a goal. Or perhaps it was the sheer weight of numbers of defenders; either way, you catch the drift. And then he was off. No, not Reddy, but Pinault: the conductor passed his baton to Coldicott with 10 minutes left. And with about five minutes left Bull replaced McDermott, which meant Crowe went to the right, of course.
Is that it? Almost, but not before Bury were driven to madness by the, quite frankly, mickey-taking showing off by Town. Remember that old clip of Leeds v Southampton? Town tried to do that, with Sestanovich as Johnny Giles.
And finally Crowe nearly scored. Passing, passing, moving, moving, Reddy, wonderful Reddy, rolled a perfect pass into his path and Crowe sliced a shot from the centre edge of the penalty area. Garner saved extremely well to his left. Whittle hooked a shot goalwards following a corner and, in added time, Reddy seeped into the area, just outside the six-yard box, and tried an audaciously early reverse hook which he didn't quite hit hard enough.
Bury were in trouble, under half a ton of rubble. So the ref had another cup of tea and then we went home.
Who's having more fun than us in our footballing treehouse? If last year we were had, feeling sad and blue, this year Russ's making us feel shiny and new. Write off the first half: the second was magnificent, supreme entertainment, and it felt like it was the norm, not a flash in the pan à la Barnsley in February. There were subtle tactical changes in the second half, especially when Reddy came on, for Parkinson went out wider and was much, much more effective. Sestanovich seemed to have a roving brief and was doing a lot of covering tackles when attacks were repulsed. And Reddy's getting better all the time. After changing his scene he's doing the best that he can and that's far, far more than is needed in the fourth division. The boy has style.
The defence were perkier too, and Gordon got into the flow and pace of the game as it wore on. Why don't this new Town put on the style in the first half of a game? The frontline is fearsome, at least a division below its true level. The garden is about to bloom.
Just one question: how high are Russ's clouds?
Nicko's man of the match
Sestanovich put in a lot of effort, especially defensively, in the second half. It's that work ethic thing. Reddy's cameo lifted Town up several levels but, once again, Thomas Pinault, the princely puppeteer, strutted some funky stuff, floating passes in a most p-p-peculiar way. He's causing such a stir the papers want to know whose shirt he wears. Town's! It isn't all pretty patterns, for there is some steel inside that French fancy. His hooking, sliding Poutonian tackle on Nugent on the edge of the Town area had the ladies fainting, and the laddies praising.
Mr E Ilderton cannot get good marks, for he left Challinor on the pitch. But then again he did give Town two penalties. Should we be churlish, should we be sweet, you'll have to wait and see. Oh, all right - 6.342.