Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
3 January 2005
Grimsby Town 3 Cambridge United 0
A we're adorable, B we're so beautiful, C it's Cambridge. A bright, clear afternoon with a winter wind flying towards around 100 or so Camsters in a tight scrum in the Osmond End. The wind, imperceptible to the stationary, piercing the mobile, the sort that gives everyone that Grimsby grin. Hair plastered back, eyes narrowed, mouth like Wallace, stoop like Gromit.
Town lined up in a 3-4-1-2 formation as follows: Williams, Forbes, Ramsden, Jones, His Excellency the Comte de McDermott, Fleming, Crowe, Bull, Pinault, Gritton and Parkinson. The substitutes were Fraser, Coldicott, Mansaram, Hockless and Young. Woh, what's going on? Ses-st-st-st-sssssswitch and Reddy absent. With or without leave? Who knows these days. Let's assume illness, for lack of evidence to the contrary. The burden of proof should be on the prosecution, not the defence.
"Who was where?" I hear you plead from underneath two hats and a large knitted scarf. Forbes played as the right-sided centre-back with Rammy the Ramster in his preferred role of Mr Cool in the centre. The midfield four was the same as recently usual, with Pinault in that hole behind the front two. You didn't expect me to call them strikers, did you? Tut, tut, tut. Must be very crowded by now, or a very big hole. We've lost Kingsley Black, Kevin Donovan and Ashley Sestanovich down it in the last few years. More like a bottomless pit of despair.
Did Cambridge warm up? Are they here? Are they bothered? Is there no end to this questioning? There is no Dish of the Day. The world truly is in turmoil.
Town kicked off towards the Osmond End and... and... and? Yes, I ask you: "And?"
I'm still waiting for an answer...
Cambridge played in all gold, by the way, and hadn't selected from their menu of foreign delights. No Igor Latte-Yedo, so you've got to go to Coffee Republic if you want one of them. No lentil-based starter today: Elkholti missing. No Nacca, Mbome Mgone or Amadou Konte. Now, we saw him play for us at Brigg. Which one was he? Big and useless, slight and useless, fast and useless, asleep and useless? We'll never know.
I'm still waiting. I hadn't forgotten.
What a lovely view of Spurn Point, and such a big red boat too. Oh look mummy, there's an aeroplane up in the sky. No it isn't, it's the ball. Punting, shunting, don't get out the bunting for beautiful football. Was that a shot I saw before me? Well, yes, sort of. Gritton laid the ball off to Pinault on the right edge of their area. Pinault rolled and drivelled a slow low something towards the keeper's right post. Ruddy kept his duck.
Ooh, nice pass Pinault, slivered along the line for Bull, twisting, turning, clipping into the near post. Parkinson rose, as only he can, several inches and plopped a header across the face of goal, the ball rolling a yard or so wide. A couple of minutes later another Bull cross, with McDermott haring in from the wing, stooping and looping a header over the bar from the centre of the area. Have they done anything yet?
A foul, a free kick, a shot. Eleven English minutes, a free kick to Town 20 yards out in the centre. Not so much a wall as a rudimentary missile guidance system telling Thomas à Kickett where to, er, kick it. Pinault walloped the ball straight down the middle, the keeper palming the ball upwards, having to plip it over the bar as it fell back earthwards.
Please allow yourself to believe that the words 'exciting' and 'interesting' are entirely appropriate. For another game entirely, in another season. Perhaps you should get out some of the those old highlights videos. "Shot on! Chance on!" "My money's on Dave Gilbert!" Isn't it always. Perhaps they really were, and will always be, the happiest days of our footballing lives.
It was utter rubbish. Town's formation dictated the flow, with the ball in the air, launched forward by Williams; Pinault an observer, Parkinson getting a headache. Cambridge rarely disturbed, and then only when Town accidentally got it on the floor. Have they done anything yet? Oh yes. Easter, lively, slippery when wet, no doubt. On their right, just outside the area, he flipped the ball over Ramsden and sliced a shot a yard or two wide. A warning.
Around the quarter-hour Cambridge had a period of concerted pressure, entirely down to free kicks being given away, and oddly awarded, around the edge of the Town penalty area. From their right, curled inwards, crawling past heads, thighs, knees, feet and eventually Williams' right post, by inches. The Pontoon's silence tolled a warning for those with ears to hear.
Another free kick, from their left, curled in, fly-hacked away, a few wibbles in the heart of Town's defence. No, totally unfair: Jones and Ramsden were perfectly fine but Forbes was having a stinkingly poor game. He had difficulty with the concept of marking, letting Heath wander all over the place. Fortunately the morning cloud was a wispy, ethereal presence, more suited to a faux impressionist painting by an enthusiastic local amateur.
Another cross, watched and wanted by no Townite, a Cambridge leg wafting a volley way wide. Bam, a shot slammed at Williams's chest from the right edge of the area. Another free kick, shallow on their left. Tudor shuffled his feet, ruffled his hair and muffled the ball several feet over and wide. He huffled and puffled all afternoon, but didn't blow Town's house down.
Easter nutmegged Macca. The crowd hushed. A truly historic moment. That sort of thing hadn't been done since 1893. Britain has lost an entire empire since McDermott was last subjected to such impudence.
The crowd had a snooze for ten minutes, awoke and found the cupboard was still bare. Whistling Jack Smith had a hit in 1967 with 'I Was Kaizer Bill's Batman', but had no other record in the top 40. If you hold a teacup upside down you'll get wet if you haven't drunk it first. I don't want to waste your time; I thought I'd give you some useful facts and tips for longer life. Not everybody has a shrine to David Whitfield in their garden shed.
Where are we now? Thirty-four minutes, thirty-four long, sllllllllooooooooooooowww minutes. The crowd in full gripe mode. Growling, grizzling, barracking Williams for being slow off his line, uttering enigmatic variations on "Sort it Sladey".
A free kick to Town on the centre-right, just inside their half. Hoofed upfield, a bit of bumbling about, concentration wavering, seagulls fluttering around the floodlights. Nodded in, nodded out, nodded off. Goal. Eh? You what? Where did that come from? Ball somewhere, some heading, out to the left, hit back, Gritton did something, ball flopping about into the centre of the area, Cambos playing musical chairs, Pinault awake and darting forward. Out stretched a fine French leg, Ruddy raced off his line, eventually, and Pinault slapped the ball in off the post. Much merriment and pointing at the manager's bench by the crowd.
Cambridge would have kicked off again, but the ball had been smuggled out of the ground in the back of a police van underneath a blanket. No pictures! I suppose that's one way to keep a lead.
Go and boil an egg, do something useful with your next four minutes. But boil it slowly; four minutes hard boiling would make it a little too hard and unpalatable.
Here we are, another long ball to nowhere. Why do Town insist on whacking it up to pint-sized Parky? It never, ever works. It never, ever will. Never, never, never, never, never.
Ah, ahem, er, the exception that proves the rule. Forbes chipped up the centre-right towards Parkinson, who tippled the ball onwards. Crowe surged forward from midfield, into a large gap behind the defence. One bounce, one head on, one glance and a perfectly weighted pass along the edge of the area. Bull, unmarked on the centre-left, casually stroked the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. As wondrous a sight as the wildebeest flowing across the savannah, the pyramids across the Nile and the hanging gardens of Nunsthorpe. Actually, it wasn't an aimless punt and hopeful flick, but a delicate chip and dainty dink by Parky. Nice looking goal, helped by defensive doziness.
Ruddy Hell, eh?
Two-nil, who'd have thought it? All of us, probably, at 3 o'clock, but not after the drossfest served up so far. Goals were out of keeping with the general air of a dishevelled former debutante at a charity ball on her 5th bottle of cheap champagne. Lots of movement, no co-ordination. She can see the pretty boys, but just can't seem to reach them.
Did Town have another shot? Maybe, but it wasn't bad enough to remember for comedic value alone. Cambridge did though. Towards the end of the half, after Forbes had nutmegged himself twice, Easter wriggled away on the centre-right, just outside the area, vroomed onwards and slashed a firm shot from just inside the penalty area. The ball swirled towards the top left corner and Williams leant to his left and parried away for a corner. Heath, unmarked in the centre, headed weakly wide.
Perhaps they should reinstate Dish of the Day. Bit of bacon, some old potatoes and mushrooms, sprinkle on some Worcestershire sauce and season to taste. There you are: Forbes' potato nutmeg. Or am I describing Town's midfield?
Haven't you realised? It was half time a couple of sentences back. You'll be at the back of the queue for the pies.
Poor. Town an incoherent stew, thrown together without a recipe. The odd tasty pea mixed in with a lot of fatty scrag-end of pork. How can anyone be a playmaker when the ball is 20 foot above him? Did we have a midfield or was it just a giant game of human dodgems?
Forty-five more minutes to endure. It's like Christmas, isn't it. You can't go home yet. Just make the best of it.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"There's a compost heap in Tetney the shape of Ayers Rock."
"Jones is growing into Lever's shorts with every game."
"Your wife bubble wraps well."
"Is their number 7 Lovejoy in disguise?"
"Fans from cathedral cities are always quiet."
No changes were made by either team at half time.
Cambridge kicked off. It's 20 years to the day since Dick Emery died. I don't recall Don McLean writing a song about that! He was awful - did anyone like him? Life was so much simpler then, none of this widescreen digital pixie plus television stuff. Colour or black and white, big or one with an orange handle on it. Those were the choices in life. Comet is the electrical appliance store of choice for Town players, apparently.
Did you know that Bucks Fizz spent more weeks in the UK top 40 than Bob Dylan?
Who said I'm prevaric... why do people try and drive into McDonalds at 4:55 on a match day? There is no such thing as preferential status for the Inland Revenue. Pluto was not discovered until 1930. I'm Henry the VIII I am, I am; I'm Henry the VIII I am. More like Ennui VIII.
They had the ball all the time, all right? Didn't do much with it, but buzzed around a lot, causing anxiety in the Smiths/Stones/Findus stand. A cross, pfft. A corner, caught by Willo the wispy Welshman. A series of free kicks needlessly given away by Crowe, in particular, and the high-stepping showgirl that was Rob Jones. Shake those feathers, Rob!
Oh, close. A free kick from their right, smoothed over by Tudor, dipping into the middle of the goal. A Town head lowered, the ball crept over the crossbar. A goal kick given. Some kind of nonsense in midfield; they broke, Town dithered, three men free on their right, Bull ambling, Tudor alone inside the area. He advanced along the bye-line and cracked in a low cross to the near post. Some Town legs diverted the ball away; there was a scramble; the ball rolled out of play at the near post. No goal. Bull booked for an ice hockey-style shoulder charge. Why bother tackling, eh?
Hockless warmed up, no-one cared. Someone told the ball boy to sit down. Hockless returned to the bench.
Cambridge had some more attacks. Ramsden twirled Easter around in the box, serenely swaying upfield with the ball. Oh look, Town are visiting their friends in the Pontoon. Pinault surging, caressing a perfect pass to McDermott, who crossed low into the middle of the area. Fleming leant back and volleyed backwards. You must be joking! A Town corner. Titter ye not, for Pinault curled, Jones hurled himself and the ball ached a couple of inches past the angle of post and bar.
More Cambridge splutterings. They're all over us. Passing better, moving more. This is painful. Easter splurging through, falling through a trapdoor. Tripped by Town or ball? The referee wasn't going to give anything. They shoot! Straight at Williams, softly. They cross! Ramsden sings a seasonal favourite as he flicks the ball away from inside the six-yards box. "And a delicious chocolate éclair."
Bored, frustrated, the occasional heckler enlivening proceedings. Town marooned in midfield, lifeless up front, only an artificial cat fight between Bimson and Ramsden keeping it alive. A couple of hisses and some gnarled whiskerings later they calmed down and drank a saucerful of milk left by the touchline. Ramsden had the cream, of course.
Ten minutes to go. Will Town have a shot? Why are Cambridge's fans singing "We hate Durham?"
Stand up, stand up, Town attacking. Gritton through one, two tackles, swamped by gold polycotton. Pass it next time. Not long to wait; again Town breaking from a corner, someone racing down the middle. Who was it? Can't remember, but the default position for anything good to come out of black and white these days is to say "Pinault!" So it was definitely him.
Parky free, Parky passed to. Beyond the defence on the right, a dozen yards out. A shot slapped across Ruddy, Ruddy parried, danger cleared. Ramsden sliding in at the far post. Ramsden? What's he doing up there?
On the ninth day of Christmas Russell Slade gave to thee Darren Mansaram in the 87th minute, replacing Parkinson. Immediate results. Town fans happy, in a certain fashion. Ruddy flopped a goal kick towards a stumbling full back. Mansaram, just inside their half, pounced like a panda. A defender slipped, Mansaram raced free towards goal down the centre-right. A final defender came flying across the turf, possibly still sliding eastwards now.
Dazzler stepped inside. Free, free, just the goalie left. Ruddy staggered forward, Flash contorted his body and steered a tremendously awful shot high and wide whilst a plethora of pleading team-mates waggled their heads. One fell, two fell, the crowd fell over laughing. At last some entertainment.
Shall we ignore Pinault's flashing volley which almost dislodged the chimney on number 67 Blundell Avenue? Yes, we shall.
There were three minutes of added time, and as the crowd seeped away Cambridge had a corner, which was cleared. Pinault was free just outside the Town area, onwards, shimmy-shammy, free again. Racing down the centre, pursued by an angry mob, he drew the little Cammy-boys towards his polished toenails and stroked a perfect pass to Gritton on his left. A shuffle, the ball scraped forward; Gritto was a determined fellow. One thing on his mind, oozing confidence, at no time did he look like missing; such coolness, such clarity of vision. Ruddy advanced. Gritton waited then, from about a dozen yards out and just wide, lofted a dink safely over the flailing limbs and into the centre of the goal.
The goalscorer stood in front of the Pontoon and demanded some adoration. The Pontoon adored back. Nice finish indeed. So this is what goalscoring is: it isn't just a theory promulgated by boffins in the Football Association's laboratory deep in the bowels of Shropshire. Alchemy!
There you are, three points in a tatty old bag. Nothing to write home about, especially in the second half where Town only woke up in the last 10 minutes. Bull spent the first five minutes giving the ball away and most of the rest of the half falling over. He was OK going forward though. Pinault was lost in space, Parkinson lost in another universe. Gritton won some headers but seemed to tire, and tire of the unimaginative route one thumpings. Fleming ran around, a more effective roadblock than Crowe. The rest were varying degrees of adequate as individuals, but there wasn't much of a whole here. More a hole.
What a conundrum. Town are rubbish when they win, but not always the case that they win when they're rubbish. Slade has that to sort. Win good, goals good, rest not. Forget everything, go to sleep, wake up, get out of bed, drag a comb across your head. It looks good on paper, if not grass. I feel good, I feel bad, I feel happy, I feel sad. Town eh, typical Town.
Nicko's man of the match
Mr Rob Jones was again quite solid, thoroughly enjoying the rhubarb and custard on offer. However, for the calmness and tranquillity flickering from his inner light, it's Simon Ramsden. The farther one travels, the less one knows. He arrives without travelling, sees all without looking.
A right fusspot, never allowing advantage, never allowing physical contact. Mr M Warren ruined a rubbish game. If he gets a score above four you'd be shocked and stunned, and he gets 4.934, for he didn't abandon the game due to perfect visibility, or a lack of standing water, nor did he see any invisible handballs. You're shocked. And stunned.