Cattle crossing a bridge

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

29 July 2004

Gainsborough Trinity 0 Grimsby Town 1

A warm, sticky evening in the no man's land between Bawtry and Market Rasen, the outermost point of Lincolnshire with no discernible point. It used to be a traffic jam on the way to Sheffield. Now? Now it's a stiff workout for the failing, fading giants of Lincolnshire football.

Town lined up in the now obligatory 3-4-3 formation as follows: Fraser, Jones, Ramsden, Wheeler, McDermott, Hildred, Coldicott, Young, Sestanovich, Holland, Soames. The substitutes were Croudson, Marcelle, Mumford, Heggarty, L Parker and Chamberlain. I think you can probably work out who played where from that; you read from right to left, you see. I can see that eyebrow: Young at left wing-back? But you don't care about that. You want to know about Danny Boy - the Town, the Town, will it be calling? He's not especially big, not especially daft in the hair department; he runs and moves a bit like Bradley Allen.

Gainsborough played in yellow and the seats in the main stand have the smallest legroom in football. [Worse than Highbury? - Ed.] At six foot threen and eyes of green I was forced to eschew the delights of sitting behind Russell Slade and a big iron post in favour of standing. Standing: the old-fashioned way of watching football, the way it should be. Russell says hello, by the way, and you said hello back, but you didn't smile.

First half
One of the teams kicked off in front of a crowd of 245, most of which were Town supporters. It wasn't very interesting really. Gainsborough were not bad at all, a cut above Brigg, with more pace, and more or less the same inability to shoot. They put themselves about, clogging and clanking about in midfield, causing Coldicott and Hildred to spin around like battling tops.

But you still don't care about that flummery; you want to know about this Holland chappie. Have patience. He had loads of shots, dragging wide, scuffing wide, swaying high, and later on having a couple on target. After a couple of minutes he sprinted behind the defence on the left and beat the goalkeeper to a lobbed lob, drifting past the sprawling stopper to the bye-line. He looked up, saw three defenders in the six-yard box and clobbered a low shot/pass through the ancient Trinity forest, the ball diverting off a shin and away.

Later Hildred curled a lovely low pass through the inside right and Holland raced away, taking the ball in his stride and swishing past his marker. He hit the bye-line and crossed low, crossed hard, crossed accurately towards Soames. Ah, Soames. Oh, Soames. Aargh, Soames! At the near post, goalkeeper already falling, the goal gaping, Soames steered the ball wide from inside the six-yard box.

We're afflicted by the thought that wherever Soames is, nothing ever runs quite straight. He was a hindrance: blocking, stopping and setting up Gainsborough for counterattacks. Time and time again he had the ball 25 yards out, ran into defenders and left Young, the persevering parrot down the left, hopelessly exposed and way too far upfield. Don't ever mistake conspicuous movement for competence. He tries, but fails. Like Mansaram, whatever the standard of the opposition he can't quite reach it. Clawing, clinging to his career like a man on an inflatable in a force 9 gale.

Now Sestanovich is the polar opposite for, whenever he could be bothered, he glided majestically, but powerfully, through the Trinity defence. Coo, what a pass to send Holland, then Soames, free. Sigh. Holland shot wide and Soames dithered when one-on-one with the keeper. Swoon at the shot. A shake of the hips, disturbing acceleration, twist, turn and clipped chip, forcing the keeper to save rather excellently, tipping the ball over the bar for a corner. Finally faint as Sestan the Man's eminence was almost completed with a dribble and shot which curled towards the left corner. The goalkeeper made another good save as Sestanovich sank to the turf, holding his groinal area. The greyhound is such a delicate creature.

What were Gainsborough doing? Causing flutters around the Town area, with bursts and breaks, but no penetration. Jones kept heading the ball very high and a very long way. Young kept Levering about in semi-comic fashion, while Ramsden was cool man, reeeeeaaaaal coooool. Town's biggest problem was when Young ran up to join the attack and Soames kept giving the ball away. But I told you that already. I can't emphasise it enough though. The Trinity number 11 almost broke through, being sent free behind the defence, but Fraser came off his line and intimidated the striker into forgetting the ball. Near the end of the half Gainsborough had a free kick in a dangerous position, 25 yards out on their centre left, but they passed the ball into the centre, with a couple of diverse legs flipping the ball away for a goal kick.

Right on half time, Town performed a passing movement down the centre. The ball was played to Soames who, for once, didn't fall over or run into the invisible yellow army. He passed to Sestanoivich, who toyed with the ball and caressed a perfect pass between centre-back and full-back for the rampaging McDermott to run on to, who duly completed his rampage with a shot driven across and over the keeper into the right of the goal.

And then it was half time.

Second half
Gainsborough walked out first and waited, waited, waited, waited. Were Town watching telly? Were they so gripped by DIY SOS that they just had to find out if that two-storey extension was completed?

Substitutions were made, Marcelle replaced the semi-limping Sestanovich and Mumford the hobbling Wheeler. Yes, Wheeler had taken a knock near the end of the half. There is not much to say about Wheeler's contribution except that he kept giving free kicks away by bumping and barging into the back of strikers. For this he kept getting told off by the remarkably confident Fraser, who even gave advice to McDermott. "Plenty of time, Macca." Not really - it's the twilight of this god, for Macca gave a sketch of Maccaness. He wasn't as unbeatable as one would expect, but largely coped by defending without tackling.

Within the first few minutes Town should have scored a couple more. A break down the right, some twists and turns, and Soames ran into the area, laying off a pass towards Hildred. It was misplaced but rolled behind Holland near the penalty spot, who leant, swivelled and shot towards the top left corner. The goalkeeper sprang away and fingertipped the ball away magnificently for a corner. The corner was half cleared and Young dribbled towards the bye-line on the right and smacked a cross-shot towards the top corner. Again the goalkeeper reacted superbly to parry away for another corner. Jones slapped a header well wide from this final attack.

It all got very, very boring for Town supporters after this. The Gainsboroughians would have been mighty pleased by the way they pressed and almost scored a couple of times. A header hit the bar; defenders were forced into last-ditch swipes, and some hefty thwacks too.

The substitutions started to kick in, and the substitutes started to kick. Jones was taken off with an injury, replaced by Chamberlain, who runs like Mike Edwards, and defends like a junior version. Let's hope he grows into the real thing. Liam Parker replaced Ramsden with 20 minutes left and Town had two juniors and a tubby trialist in defence. Mumford waddled like a giant Darren Barnard. He had the air of someone who had played professional football and was now a really useful addition to that Sunday league team.

Somewhere in all this Trentside twiddling, McDermott had another surge forward and a cross-shot was saved low to the keeper's right. Holland followed up and slid in, but the ball was blocked and bounced off him for a goal kick.

Soames and Marcelle dived in quick succession, both failing to get free kicks, which annoyed them, but amused us. The Gainsborough number 2 moaned when the ref gave a corner after he rugby-tackled Greg Young. I think the ball brushed his highlights on its way out. See: dull, not much happening. Whoops, Gainsborough break, men free, men spare. A cross from the right over to the far post. A striker unmarked, a dozen yards out, just Fraser to beat..We weren't dooooomed, for the big-bottomed boy stood tall and parried the shot away.

In the last few minutes Heggarty replaced Soames, but not until Soames had made one more mess-up. Holland moved well across and behind the defence, anticipating a lob forward into the penalty area on the right. He awaited the dropping ball and controlled in an instant, turning past his marker and crossing from just a few yards out. The ball rolled to the unmarked Soames, eight or nine yards out. The goalkeeper had been out of his goal on his left, but managed to run past the dawdling Soames and pick the ball up as it bombled along and past the far post.

That's it, finished.

Holland was probably worthy of another chance, for he found it hard in the second half, visibly tiring, if not tiring of his ineffectual strike partners: Arrrgh Soames and Flibbertigibbet Clint, the promenading paperweight. Holland had a lot of shots, made some excellent runs and a few fancy lay-offs. He had something. Marcelle appeared to be of an equivalent standard to the Gainsborough players. Soames aspired to that standard. Jones wasn't required to tackle, but just to head the ball, which he did very well. Coldicott and Hildred were not overrun, but didn't run the show. Coldicott looked a bit timid. Young was way, way out of position, looking like a centre-back playing as a winger; it just doesn't work, that sort of thing. Macca looked like an old pro, not quite what he was, but frequent reminders that his brain, if not his body, can still find the extra few inches needed.

Sestanovich and Ramsden were by several astronomical units the best players on the pitch.

So what did we learn from a night out in Gainsborough with the home-made chip butties? The catering was good and reasonably priced.