The Abbey habit

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

25 September 2004

Cambridge Utd 0 Grimsby Town 2

An odd, dull day in the annoying flatlands, with the drizzle and mizzle turning to still grey anonymity as kick-off approached. Around 350-400 Town supporters wallowed in pre-history, queuing up at one turnstile, standing at the side, their splutterings and gurglings piercing the silence. The old six-step cage behind the goal has been replaced by a simple stand, though only the richest 26 Grimbarians bothered to fork out the extra £3 to sit in the luxurious surroundings, with vistas of dreaming spires.

Town warmed up…apparently. The word on the terrace was that Town played an intricate game of one-touch passing, where the players' knowledge of advanced trigonometry was tested. They had to pass it to someone two to the left. I didn't get in to the ground until 2:55, so the exciting pre-match build up is just the stuff of legend to be whispered across the camp fire and passed down the generations. There was much mirth at the moose mascot; that's the animal not the styling accessory or light dessert.

Town lined up in the 3-4-3 formation, wearing white shorts and black socks, as follows: A Williams, Whittle, Forbes, Gordon, McDermott, Fleming, Coldicott, Crowe, Sestanovich, Reddy and Parkinson. The substitutes were Hockless, Young, Robinson, C Williams and Professor Plum Pinault. If you need me to expand upon this, then you ain't being paying attention this year. A Pinaultless midfield disappointed the gathering throng; we didn't expect too much fancy football with Coldicott and Fleming roaming the plains, shooting stray buffalo. Town wore shirts too, they didn't play in skins: the normal monochrome, of course. Crowe seemed to be wearing stockings rather than socks, they were see-through, peek-a-boo stockings. Ooo, saucy, but not as saucy as young Young who, it is alleged by two eye witnesses with a cotton fetish, wore little white ankle socks.

Cambridge have a back room staff including Ant Coole and Ali Uzunhasanoglu-by-the-sea. Make Dave Moore sound dull, don't they. Unfortunately Franco Nacca, by name and by nature, was unfit to play. Perhaps he was relaxing in the sponsor's bar drinking an Igor Latte-Yedo, which costs £2.49 at Coffee Republic.

Oh yes, the football.

First half
Cambridge were clad in a simple sportswear combination of shimmering gold shirts set off by jet black mid-length shorts, ideal for autumn chill and winter sun… where was I? Oh yes, the football. They kicked off towards the new stand (ie to the right as seen on the three seconds of TV highlights you get by accident when they've finished interviewing Peter Taylor). After 3.78 seconds the ball went out of play for a throw in to Town on the right. McDermott took the throw and three minutes later Cambridge had a corner. Sorry, I just had to fast forward. They nearly scored from it too. Swung in high and handsome from their left, the ball dropped to the unmarked centre back, Tann, about seven yards out at the far post. Everyone watched calmly, without any concern, as Tann stretched and poked the ball a foot or so wide of the left hand post. Now wasn't the time to panic. If you can't be bothered to read any more I'll save you some time: there never was a time to panic. Believe me when I tell you, they'll never do Town no harm.

A couple of minutes later Crowe did two rubbish things: Easter crossed from their right, one of their strikers thighed the ball in the general direction of the goal and my sub-conscious has deleted what happened next as too trivial to remember.

Had Town done anything yet? No, playing at half pace and a quarter enthusiasm, this was the polar opposite of Tuesday's stroll down stellar street. What is passing? What is movement? It's something someone else can do. That someone else was Macca, constantly sprinting into space down their right, constantly ignored by Sestanovich and Fleming, who insisted on playing dinks over the top for Crowe and Parkinson not to get. Reddy almost, Crowe nearly, tackled by Aberdeen Angus, the right back. Hardly football though. Wahey! At last, four passes, on the ground, to Town players! Fleming, Parky, Sestanovich, a one-two and McDermott zippity doodahing down the right. He reached the bye-line and lifted a cross into the middle of the area. Crowe, unmarked, leapt and launched a header a foot or so over the crossbar.

Another minute, another bit of passing and movement. This disease is contagious, call a doctor. Reddy rolling down the left, turning his marker, barging along the bye-line and passing back to Crowe, who calmly passed the ball infield to Parkinson, unmarked ten yards out at the near post. Little Big Man fell over the ball, got up and poked a shot goalwards. A defender awoke from his golden slumbers, singing lullabies as he blocked the shot. Parkinson should have done better, that's all that need be said. A little later Parky back-heeled a volley towards goal. The ball looped slowly straight to the 'keeper.

What happened next? Fleming took a rubbish corner, which went straight out of play behind the near post. That pleased the locals down in the cowshed end. Oh hello, nice to hear you, to hear you nice. Excuse me whilst I scratch an itch. That's better. I think I recognise that person over there, three rows down, six from the right. Why are the Cambridge supporters all wearing blue track-suits?

Oh yes the football. Oh no, the football.

When two or more Town players could be bothered, Cambridge were on the cusp of inconvenience. Reddy won a few corners, Crowe didn't. Parkinson kept falling over, Sestanovich kept moaning. At least he learnt something from Neil Warnock. McDermott kept slapping his thighs in frustration, so many miles motored, so few glimpses of the ball. Something was missing: Pinault the passer, the bon viveuer of vision, that certain je ne sais quoi was absent. Transit Stan drifted past three players and lazily curled a drooper from 25 yards way, way over the bar. Perhaps it would have gone in 10 years ago, but they've moved the goalposts since then. The pitch has moved 10 yards towards London since the days of John Beck's route zero murderers.

Hear that, did you? It's a sigh. Another Saturday afternoon wasted.

Bouncity, bouncity, bouncity, bounce. The ball lolloping about at chest height, legs flailing, heads dipping, control absent, everything absent. Especially £13 from our pockets. Williams caught a cross. A highlight. The only thing that kept us awake was the inability of the Cambridge 'keeper to kick the ball. Fed a constant stream of back-passes he managed to slice them all out for throw ins about 20 yards out. His finest moment was when he miscontrolled a back-pass from his left at his near post. Fleming ambled forward and nearly manhandled the ball in. Apparently this teenage wasteland in goal used to be at Moan United: he's no longer protected by a silver spoon as he sucks his thumb by the banks of the Cam.

Cambridge did another cross. Gordon skimmed it away. Oo, another Sestan long-range wobbler after a meander through the fens. A Town attack was ended when Angus handled the ball on the ground as Reddy knocked it past him. Uproar in the Town fans, a handy diversion from our incremental groaning, with Reddy the main target. Hair down to his knees, he just does what he please, which isn't to please us at the moment.

That's it. An interminable half ended after several minutes of added time. Some Cambridge player had hurt his head. I think his brain imploded with boredom. I do apologise, I failed to mention that Cambridge got inside the Town penalty area. Some bloke headed very high and wide. How could I forget such stirring derring-do?

Overall? Something workmen and shop assistants wear. I couldn't possibly dignify that nonsense with analysis. Still, we weren't losing.

Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"Is Cambridgeshire known for its moose population?"
"I didn't recognise Swin, he was smiling."
"Has Crowe done anything right with his left foot?"
"Does your girlfriend know you work at the same place?"
"Pinault wears his trousers like a Frenchman."

Second half
Two bi-planes drifted across the sky, but there were no wing-walkers to liven things up. There was a pitch invasion by 1,000 children in blue tracksuits, which made some of us think we were about to have a display of rhythmic gymnastics. There were more on the pitch than in the stands at one point. Allegedly this was a mass prize giving, though it hardly ranks with crazed warblers and mini-football as the acme of half time entertainment. Without anyone noticing, Cambridge came back onto the pitch. Did anyone care? Not their own silent supporters. Town came out a minute or so later to a rousing clap or two.

Cambridge replaced Chillingworth with Turner. Had Chillingworth had been on the pitch? He's got to be good looking cos he was so hard to see. Town didn't make any perceptible changes.

Within a couple of minutes Parkinson had messed up a break with his head-down weak dribbling. Sestanovich zoomed forward down the centre right, drew the shaking centre back towards him and purred a pass to Parky, who ran into Tann. Cue much stamping of Lincolnshire boots on the ancient concrete steps. The game was still in a curiously putrid state. Town were stale, diffident observers, whilst Cambridge seemed unsure of what style to play. Neither long ball, nor pure passing, they tried to play up and off strikers with midfield runners. They just weren't good enough. Town's defence was notches up the stick, with Forbes and Gordon only worried by their own superiority. Forbes amused himself by guiding inaccurate punts out for goal-kicks by diving over the ball and crawling after it on all fours. Danger averted doggy style.

Huh! What's that? Did I miss something whilst I was deciding whether to eat a Twix or Kit-Kat with my coffee? No, you're not interested in random crosses and random flappings from their goalkeeper, are you? You are? Well, their 'keeper randomly flapped the ball away when Fleming crossed from a free kick. I did warn you that there wasn't much to that. Settle down and relax a bit. We want this elusive away win so bad it's been driving us mad. Please don't do that primal scream again. Listen to some light jazz or eat a pizza.

And finally Cyril, some action worthy of a description. Reddy ran after an over-hit pass. Wasting his time, using up kilojoules of energy for no reason, what's the point? Jowsey trembled off his line towards the edge of the penalty area, way out on the right. Reddy stretched, a defender stretched, the ball ricocheted off the 'keeper's body and out to Sestanovich on the corner of the penalty box. He looked up, selected which millimetre of the goal was unguarded, and carefully caressed the ball over defender and goalkeeper. The ball curled towards the top left hand corner, going, going, gone, Aberdeen Angus appeared from behind a parked car to head the ball off the line for a corner. Ooooooooooooooo.

Town were in the ascendancy, with a little more purpose going forward. Sestanovich had dropped back away from the front two and was beginning to pick up the apples and pears that were falling from the fruit tree. Several nearlys, many almosts, but no reallys. Just after the hour Cambridge not only reached the Town half but had a shot! The Towns fans cheered ironically. Turner had drifted through a couple of challenges on the centre left of the Town defence before dribbling a shot straight at Williams from 20 yards. A minute later Gordon tried to show off once too often before being dispossessed on the touchline. Two passes later an Abbeyboy crossed from the bye-line to Turner, a dozen yards out at the near post, who steered a volley a couple of feet over. Don't worry about them, they wouldn't score if we'd put the Mighty Mariner in goal, Austin Mitchell at centre back and you, yes, you reader, playing the part of Jason Crowe, perhaps in the style of Brian Blessed.

With about 25 minutes Town exerted some pressure on Cambridge, with the ball bouncing across the pitch from right to left. Fleming, in the centre, lofted the ball across and then forward, barging his way goalwards. The ball reached the right edge of their area and Crowe leapt to challenge. Parkinson allowed it to drop, took one look, one step and steered a superb shot across the 'keeper into the top left hand corner of the goal. Steered baby, steered, with the outside of his right boot. You could say it was attractively built.

Town visibly relaxed, Cambridge shrank even further into their turtle shell. That sweet, sweet soul music that is Town showing off got played for a few bars, but only a few. Reddy started to move a little quicker, Sestanovich's chest puffed out, Crowe started to win tackles and his passes went even closer to Town players. Sestanovich nearly charged down a fly kick from Jowsey and then, a few seconds later, well, here comes the sun king. Sestanovich (I think) on the half way line intercepted a dreadful pass/clearance/waft forward. He licked the ball up to Reddy, who rolled past his marker, cut infield and up to the edge of the area. Striped shirts poured forward and Reddy shuffled, teased and taunted the defenders with some Latin American cha-cha-cha. He fair glided into the box and awaited support. Reddy played a perfectly weight short pass to McDermott, near the penalty spot, who steadied himself and carefully placed the ball around the goalkeeper and into the bottom left hand corner. The Town fans erupted, oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go but higher. A real connection between player and supporters as Macca sprinted to the clump of marinerdom and roared his little head off, punching the air. If the ref had allowed him to he'd have hugged everyone of us. Twice. The goal was special not just because it was clearly the points sealer, but because it was Macca, the man that is Town. It wasn't just a goal, it was our goal, like we had scored it. Everybody was laughing, everybody was happy. Except the locals, who started to drift away, one by one.

The last quarter of an hour or so was a doddle, a doodle, a sketch pad for Sestanovich, an open field through which Fleming could gaily skip amongst the buttercups and daisies, singing songs and doing cartwheels. Oh Sestan, he's a pretty nice player but his mood changes from game to game. Enervated for an hour he suddenly started to displays his wares in the market place. With just over ten minutes left C Williams replaced Reddy and his first contribution was to totally confuse the occasional away supporter. They just didn't know who to blame for a poor pass or failed tackle. Parkinson, Williams and Coldicott ran around in a pack. Which baldyman to blame? They settled for Stace, for old time sake. He's a man, he can take it. We loved that back-heel in the first half though. Whenever Macca ran past he was hailed, finally, with songs of appreciation. We know we don't have to say it, but it's still good to verbalise our appreciation now and again. There is only one John McDermott, and he's ours.

You can tell not much football was going on, can't you. The Cambridge players had long since resigned themselves to defeat, with only the occasional breakaway which was of potential danger only if Turner got the ball. Quite a nifty lad, the only yellowboy who stood out, pinging a flat leaning volley from 20 yards just a foot or two wide of the left hand post. It even made Williams move, the first time for half an hour. Yes, Town were under that much of a liquorice cosh. Dip it in sherbet next time, Abbeyboys. Oh what joy for every Town girl and boy knowing the game is safe.

With about five minutes left Sestanovich was replaced by Robinson, who immediately set up C Williams with an excellent reverse pass inside the full-back, rounding off a little flickery and trickery down the right touchline. Williams advanced but was frozen in fear, deciding to curl a cross to Parkinson at the far post rather than shooting. His pass was pathetically weak, rolling gently to Jowsey. A couple of minutes later Town ripped them apart again, one-two-three quick passes and Robinson free a dozen yards out, to the left of the penalty spot. Fleming got in the way, then prodded a pass sidewards, but Robinson had stopped, allowing a defender to hip his way across and clear. Anything else? Oli messed up a clear chance when Town were caught on a breakaway. Forbes and Whittle blocked without too much fuss just inside the penalty area. Err, Parkinson dribbled past two defenders, hit the bye-line and didn't cross to the unmarked Robinson? Not very interesting, not something that changed the course of world history, not worth thinking about too long.

After a couple of minutes of added time the referee allowed us to wallow in the glory of victory. Ah, Town is old, Town is new, boring the way to victory, like we used to. How did Slade finally do it? It has been quizzical how Town have managed to avoid victory at times so perhaps those late nights all alone with his test tubes produced that midfield gruesome twosome; leaving Dr Jekyll on the subs bench and two Mr Hydes snapping away. It wasn't pretty, but it was pretty effective. The plaudits go to the backboys, for offensively Town offended with lacklustre trundlings. A bigger win was on offer if they'd bothered. Cambridge weren't bad, just not quite good enough in every single department. They were far more aesthetically pleasing than some of the rugby teams on offer in the fourth. They could do with a couple of old fashioned bruisers. But that's not our problem, is it.

Three points, two goals and one happy bunch of Town fans jiving down the Newmarket Road.

The End.

Nicko's Man of the Match
Gordon and Forbes were barely out of neutral, such was the ease with which they dealt with opponents. However, and not just for the goal, it's Mr John McDermott for his perennial blooming, his never ending running and intelligent movement. Macca is back.

Official Warning
Mr R Booth: Nothing much to say about him, for he was mostly unobtrusive. He didn't get much wrong, except perhaps the booking of Fleming, but as that was in the dullest of the duller dull periods of dire dullness we can forgive him for seeking to spice up his life with a little madness. The earth shakes and the god of nebulous statistics belches out 7.532.