Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
20 November 2004
Grimsby Town 2 Kidderminster Harriers 1
Ah, guaranteed to raise a smile: it was 20 years ago today, Sergeant Wilko taught the band to play. Or was it 20 years ago today, Grimsby Town scored a goal in open play? Everton 1984, too many moustaches, but enough memories for a lunchtime of sentimentality.
A cold, still afternoon in the mumbling mausoleum, with around 61.34 Harrierites harrumphing themselves into a huddle down in the depths of the Osmond Stand. The Town fans poured into the ground in their ones, energised by the recent success in avoiding victory, or scoring, or passing, or even keeping the same number of players on the pitch as when they started. To lose one striker, Mr Slade, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness.
Town lined up in the unusual 4-4-2, old-slipper formation as follows: Williams, McDermott, Whittle, Jones, Bull, Sestanovich, Pinault, Crowe, Gordon, Cramb and Parkinson. The substitutes were Fraser, Hockless, Young, Coldicott and North.
I shall start my essay by describing how the initial selection differed from previous examples and the structure created therein was organised, making use of standard resource allocation techniques pioneered by olive-growing collectives in the Algarve. I will then go on to attempt to provide rational explanations for product substitution lines adopted. Finally I shall draw a graph, and where the two lines meet and equilibrium is reached, everyone is happy.
Whoops, it's a football report, not a 2,000-word dissertation on microeconomic theories of failing organisations. Easy, this one: Bull and McD at full back, Crowe and Pinault in the centre of midfield, Deano Gordono ato lefto midfieldo. The substitutes were the only other registered players who woke up that morning. North is the youth team goal machine - a relative term. Yow! Get on up to the Town first team, he's a goal machine.
Kidderminster arrived on time. All wore the same red and white kit, and appeared to know each other. Many in Blundell Park were saddened that Frederic Advice-Desruisseax was absent, though perhaps not the tannoy announcer. Daniel Day-Lewis was on the bench and the alliterative but experienced Micky Mellon was missing. Ah, but isn't experience the name everyone gives to their mistakes? When they lined up they stood in a vague 4-4-2 formation, but that was just posing for the photographs.
Dish of the day: Anthony Williams' aromatic crispy duck. The flagrant flapper indeed. Except it isn't duck, and not very crispy. Try it with beef in a chilli sauce, and you might not want the beef. Or the sauce. Try some vegetables and rice instead. So a healthy duck dish is a julienne carrot with a celery stick. I can't see too many patrons of the Golden Bridge accepting that when they order a duck starter.
As Doris Day once sang: where have all the green seats gone?
The Happy Shoppers kicked off towards the Pontoon, immediately chipping the ball out towards two big blokes on the left; Sestanovich headed out for a throw-in. It was a long time before our visitors from the badlands between Birmingham and Wales co-ordinated their knitting patterns to such effect.
Town, all Town, not great Town, just adequate Town. Town, yeah, Town being Town. Kidderminster had a strange game plan: it involved running away from Dean Gordon and pretending Transit Stan didn't exist. They managed to be headless chickens with their head in the sand; very inventive ineptness, I'm sure you'll agree. Perhaps it's modern art. We wouldn't know about that, but in the sophisticated West Midlands it's all the rage, I hear. That's it! That's the explanation - it's Shaun Cunnington's entry for next year's Turner prize. An interactive mixed-media passionless play where the public wander through the separate individual pieces, linked only by a sponsor's logo.
Gordon, the wandering minstrel on the left, hop, skip, jinking his way to instant karma, crossing with impunity, defenders hacking and thwacking for corners. Ooh. Ooh again. Ooh, that's nice, just there, that's where it itches. Oh, big Diop lolloping away. He's big, he's... not fast - even Jones can keep up with him. A man in a hat acquainted with youth culture in the last decade claimed Diop was wearing Macy Gray's hair. You would have thought she'd have noticed and asked for it back. It didn't suit him, but then again, neither did a football kit.
Wahey, we're off again. Ping-pong, Whittle bonging a header back over the top of their defence. Cramb lurked, Clarke ran out of his area, jerked his head forward and plopped a soft header into no-man's land. Of course Town got it, for Town players were moving their legs and their brains weren't switched to overload.
Crowe, 25 yards out or so on the centre right, hooked the ball back towards where the goal would have been if the groundsman had shifted it 10 yards further towards the north Dutch coast. But Mick the man hadn't bothered doing that. Tsk, sometimes it's best to break with tradition. It's so 1880s to have the goal centrally placed. Didn't Picasso show the football authorities anything?
Another minute, another flabble, flibble, wibble, and wobble from our woeful, wilting guests. Gordon, unmolested by the Kids, passed, crossed or generally kicked the ball to Cramb, about 25 yards out on the left. Crumbling Colin drifted past a daytripper, steadied himself and thadumped a rising smacker which flew past and over Clarke, cracked against the underside of the bar, bounced down, and out. A phrase the Kidderminster players seemed to be too au fait with.
Next minute, next chance. Pinault flipping Parkinson free down the right. Once, twice, three times a-bouncing before the scampering Scouse lofted the ball into the area. Cramb, unmarked about ten yards out at the near post, rose and helped the ball on its way, looping a foot or two over.
The game entered a dead period of at least 20 seconds. Then Town got the ball again.
Pinault, Sestanovich, McDermott, a blur of black and white, static Harriers, two defenders going for the same ball, a mess, marvellous to behold. A cross, Cramb leaning back, jumping up, hooking just over the bar from a dozen yards. Don't get too cocky; Diop has the ball at his feet, space inside the Town area. The final frontier for Youssa, who leant back and lazily curled the ball into the singing ringing tree corner. Miles wide, miles high, miles away from Earth. There was no tension in the crowd, no buzz, just a slight irritation that Town hadn't scored yet.
Someone got that scratching stick out again. Kidderminster strung half a pass together, throwing the ball airily, if not fairily, forward down the Town right on the edge of the area. Macca cushioned a volleyed interception to Pinault, who immediately flicked the ball to Sestanovich. Vroom-vroom, the souped-up Transit Van was off, beat box booming, those strange fluorescent lights underneath his boots. Beswetherick had an acid flashback (was it just a year ago that Cas got him sacked after a 20-minute joyride around Hillsborough?) and melted into a splodge of gloopy goo.
Sestan tippled the ball forward. Parky scurried on down the right, got near the bye-line and pulled a low cross through the penalty area. Slowly, slowly bumbling through, make way, make way, here comes the judge, here comes the judge. Gordon, about a dozen yards out at the far post, took very careful aim, pulled back that steam hammer and THUD! The scrunched-up bacofoil was crushed. Gordon assassinated the ball into the top left corner. He was happy, we were a happy, it was happiness for all but about 100 people within those walls. Googie Withers? I'm sure she did, but so did Kiddy. Or Kiddie, or whatever they shortened themselves to. It certainly wasn't Special K.
The pattern of the game didn't change, though Kidderminster managed to kick the ball a bit further upfield, creating minor moments of mayhem, mostly around Bull and Jones. Bull couldn't stand up, constantly slipping, which was not ideal given that he was marking the only decent Kidderminster player, Brown. Fortunately, the one time Brown did threaten, when he dinked the ball between Gordon and Bull, it was kicked directly out of play for a goal kick.
Oh, and Kidderminster did pump a couple of free kick type things into the Town area. Williams dropped one and flapped at another, with a big centre-forward, Stamp, ignoring the ball and simply barging into the player described in most programmes as "Grimsby's goalkeeper". We Pontoonites didn't feel threatened with emotional disturbance, though some teenagers down in the depths of the unreserved seats were physically disturbed by the insistence of Diop curling shots into one particular seat.
Was there any need to describe Kidderminster's efforts? No, not really; I was just being kind. I can't lie to you about their chances, but they did have our sympathy. So atrociously inept and heartless were the Kidderminster players that even the poultry-enumerating daydreamers in the Pontoon had enough humanity not to taunt the opposition. It was a little embarrassing, sitting there wondering just how many Town would be bothered to win by.
Just after the quarter-hour mark Parkinson flattered another deceiving moment. Pinault spun him free down the centre right. Behind the defence, goalkeeper rushing out, what to do, what to do? Parky drifted past the goalkeeper to the right, eventually caught up with the ball near the bye-line and crossed into the goalmouth. Several Town players were hailing, but Brown managed to get back and flick it away for a corner. Taken short, worked in, cleared out, Gordon shot, goalkeeper saved.
Gordon cross, another corner, and another, and another. Yabba-yabba-yabba, how many corners? How many crosses? How many goals? That'll be two if you have some patience, sir. A period of Town pressure in the 24th minute resulted in a Gordon cross, headed out towards Pinault about 20 yards out, level with the keeper's right post. Le Professor turned the lights low, adjusted his cufflinks, flambéed his crepe suzette and seduced the crowd in to a collective coo. Power, precision, poise. Pinault. He took a step, opened up his body and steer-volleyed the ball into the net via the inside of the post.
Unstoppable. C'est magnifique. Pinault ran to the Lower Stones/Findus/Smiths stand and eventually found some supporters, who shared in his joy with garlands strewn across his path as he glided six inches above the turf.
It's a procession, a royal gala, an extravaganza for you and you and you. Specially invited opposition, here to make us happy, a claque, a dupe, hired hands for our entertainment. Another Town corner, perhaps the 412th so far, from the left was trickled to Gordon, who flicked a dinkling cross into the area. Parkinson shook his head and the ball crawled across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.
How rude, they had a shot. Brown salsa-ed his way down their right, passed infield to Diop, who took one touch and side-footed the ball safely into the higher portions of the Pontoon.
What next? Probably another Parky 'almost' moment. You know the sort of thing: enough for perennial optimists to claim he's useful but the terminally glum to observe he doesn't actually produce anything. Somebody did something, then someone else did something else and eventually Gordon flicked on some kind of nonsense forward clearance through the so-called defence. Parkinson shuffled away, inside the area, causing a thousand or so Grimbarian bottoms to rise from the warm plastic seats.
Clarke raced out and flung himself Parkinsonward and the ball rolled underneath and past. A couple of hundred more backsides rose, but the professionally cynical remained firmly upon a polyethylene-based lumbar support. A defender rolled the ball away from just inside the six-yard box. Promised more than delivered.
More Town, another corner, another cross, Jones and Cramb attacked, the ball zoomed straight into Clarke's midriff. And he's off again, Parkinson free behind the defence after Pinault hit another perfect first-time pass. Off, away, fly my little bird, down the centre right. Onwards, closer, closer still and, from just inside the area, he put his head down and hit a shot straight at Clarke's face. Parried, cleared, sit down. I suppose all this standing up and sitting down is good for your thighs.
At last, some wreckage onto which Kidderminster could cling. Bull slipped, Jones floundered, Brown free, advancing, clear, in the area, shot, saved. Williams parried the shot away from the near post for a corner. It was probably going to hit the post, and wasn't struck that hard, but that is to quibble about a minor detail. A shot, a save, they should have scored, they didn't. A warning that they may only be asleep, they aren't dead yet.
And again, another warning. A simple tap over the top by Brown saw Diop explode into space like a true nature's child. Jones grappled, but failed to rugby-tackle old Macyboy. Diop let the ball roll and Jones, about eight yards out and left of goal, swiped it away for a corner.
Diop rolled his eyes, rolled his thighs, waved his arms around. On came the physio, out came another flouncy gesture, a dismissive, angry, back-handed waft. Eventually he was dragged off the pitch, and his sock was dragged off his foot. For the next few minutes nobody noticed what was happening on the pitch, for Diop had a tantrum, twice more gesticulating furiously at the physio, who packed up his troubles in his old kit bag and smiled as he walked back to the dug-out.
Diop was left alone, abandoned in mid-game, the waves of derision lapping over his ego. Sinking, sinking, glug, glug, glug. Writhing around, smacking his fist against the ground, unconcerned citizens milling around the advertising boards. "Where's your physio? Where's your physio?" Far, far away. After a few minutes he attempted to hop his own way back to the dressing rooms, accompanied by a chorus of affectionate jeers. "Dio-hop-hop-hop. Dio-hop-hop-hop" - in perfect synchronicity with his bouncing progression back along the touchline.
Apparently they brought on a substitute during this distracting sideshow blob. A little lad with bleached hair. Then we noticed their 11, Keates. He might grow into his shorts one day. Or was he their six-year-old mascot?
That was it. Forty-five minutes of total serenity. It was difficult to see how the opposition had managed any points at all. Yes, they have injuries, but doesn't everyone? If they had a tactic it was little better than 'knock it high to a bigger bloke than Macca and see what happens'. The bigger bloke than Macca turned out to be a Dane; he was awful, even worse than their two centre-forwards. They were easily dealt with by Whittle and Jones. No lower praise can there be.
And so bad were Kidderminster in defence that at one point Brown, who's really a West Brom player, ran over from the right wing and gave a vociferous, impromptu masterclass to the left-back, our old friend Beswetherick. So all in all, it was another brick in Kidderminster's wall. Two-nil was a rubbish scoreline for Town; it should have been a multiple of that, without them even breaking much sweat.
The only danger to Town was the linesperson under the Stones/Smiths/Findus stand. There was great mirth at the sight of "a laydee", as though the ability to look across a field at men in polycotton sportswear is a cross-gender issue.
For the shrinking Harriers in the Osmond the first half was so terrifying that only screams could describe it.
Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I must confess I've never won an Olympic medal for figure skating."
"I think they are the worst team I've ever seen at Blundell Park." "What a short memory you have."
"I was stood at the bar and a lad asked me if I was the bass player in the support band."
"It all hinged on the letter 'c'."
"Jones is the only one of our players who could get in their team."
Kidderminster replaced Christiansen with Matias. I spent 40 minutes convinced that Stamp had been substituted too, but apparently not: he was still out there in the distance somewhere, roaming the plains of Abraham. Town didn't make any changes at all, apart from in attitude, which was, shall we say, relaxed.
Kidderminster raced off from the start, the dry stone walls inside the dressing room presumably having inspired Cunningtonian memories of a tea chucking past, the spirit of Buckley having permeated his pores and inspired a heavenly fightback. Town's defence splayed like a frightened giraffe, little red roosters boostering about. A shot from outside the area, swerving to his left, Williams parried aside, as is his habit. Fortunately no Kidderman pounced. Possession was surrendered with a punt upfield; back the Kidderboys came, and the huge centre-back, Sall, arched forward and arced a header safely over.
Town creaking, fans croaking, no joking now.
Back they came again, roving, roaming Brown, surging, urging on his team-mates. Felled, fouled, a free kick 25 yards out on the centre-right. Brown and Bennett worked out a cunning routine while the referee took an age to get the wall back. Bennett watched as Brown took two steps and curled the ball into row A seat 22. Ah, simple, and ineffective, we like opponents that way. A pity that elements of our defence aspire to such heights of sophistication.
Town reverted to recent type: a fierce determination that Andy Parkinson will win a header one day. Humping, lumping, pumping piffle. Like a particularly cynical fast food chain, Town shoved those cheap burgers straight down the toilet, cutting out the middle men entirely.
Out of character, out of the blue, out of the mists of time, or at least the time before four o'clock, Town strung several passes together. Sestanovich, the transient, ambient, ambivalent waddler, bounced defenders away down the right touchline. Pinault, one touch, one pass, out to Gordon. A loopy-droopy cross and Parkinson was unmarked at the far post, just six yards out. Parky leapt up, shook his head and the ball dropped behind. Unless you were in the middle of the Pontoon you probably wouldn't realise how poor that effort was. It took a lot of skill to avoid contact with the ball.
All the play was down the Osmond end, crosses, trouble, moments of indecision, moments of danger. Town being worn down, Matias actually winning headers against Macca and flicking on into space between and behind the terrible twosome, the Ant Hill Mob in the centre.
On the hour, on cue, Town dissolved. A whack over the top and Bull slipped, then ran in a huge parabola away from the ball. Brown was free, running down the centre-right from the halfway line. OK, we know, this is the goal, here it is. Into the area, Williams shivering in front of him, Brown spangled a low drive against the inside of the right post. The ball bounced out and away from red shirts, but straight to monochrome. Lucky.
More crosses and pressure football from the Kiddermen, then Sestanovich bulldozed his way through the urban wasteland that was the Kidderminster right, making space for a six-lane information superhighway complete with hotel conferencing facilities and a children's play area near the Police Box. Three flies swatted, a fourth crushed in his hands. At the bye-line, a look up, Crowe bounding in free, and a perfectly weighted pull-back. Crowe, about a dozen yards out, leant back and carelessly steered the ball a foot or so over the crossbar.
The crowd was past rumble, now into the grumble zone. Every mis-control by Parkinson, every aimless hoof from Whittle and Jones was greeted with an ever-increasing crescendo of growls. A knee jerked, and a voice box was activated. A dozen children wanted Hockless on. What? The transfer list? No, apparently they wanted him on the pitch. More dumbling dreadfulness in defence, Williams starting to flap, crosses allowed to be made, clearances were shinned, passes were pinged straight to opponents.
Parkinson almost got on the end of a flick into space inside the area, but he looked to see where the keeper was, then stopped, allowing the ball to skid through. Gordon flung a free kick to the far post, Jones headed goalwards and Parkinson headed wide from six yards. Rare moments of interest in a deluge of dreariness.
With about 20 minutes left Kidderminster, again, attacked down the Town right. Macca forced Brown wide towards the corner flag. Cramb ambled back with an opponent behind him. The Kidderman moved, Cramb didn't, Brown passed infield to a team-mate near the corner of the penalty area. The ball was crossed low, Matias stepped forward and swept the ball into the top right-hand corner from about eight yards out, as Jones stood behind watching.
Absolute silence. The referee hung around the penalty area with his hand in the air. Confusion. Had it been disallowed? No, someone was being booked for something unobserved by the mutineering Mariners.
Town got worse and more passes were made straight to Kidderminster; more holes appeared. Bull slipped again, Brown again racing free, Jones and Whittle denying with stretching lunges. Full-scale booing imminent; a change needed,
With 15 minutes left the substitution was made, and you'd never have guessed who came off. He certainly didn't. Mr Dean Gordon, scourge of the Kidderminster right, was replaced by Coldicott. Crowe went to the wide left position with Coldicott back in the centre. Well, with Gordon only on a rolling short-term contract he might not take kindly to such decisions by his present employer. It's gonna be a cold, cold Christmas without you if you're too annoyed, or at least as annoyed as the fans, who booed to the rafters.
Did things improve? Not much. Possession was rarely retained; movement was restricted. The odd moment of Svengali Sestanovich, or Pinaultian pleasure was just a single Smartie in a vat of lard. Kidderminster bombarded Town with direct football. Flicks, tricks, getting on our wick. The Town defenders trembling. Rebounds, ricochets, flashing drives, blocks and surprising shots raining in. Williams had to make a save when, with the Town defence in a pickle, one of their players, which may have been Stamp, shot straight into his midriff from somewhere near the penalty spot, give or take a 500-yard radius.
A Town break, Cramb determinedly shaking off two defenders, bursting out to the right touchline. Rolling the ball underfoot, awaiting reinforcements, Stan the Trolley bus clang, clang, clanged along to help. Kidderminster players bounced off his force field as he circled the area. He espied Crowe streaming in on floodlight beams, and rolled the ball into a huge space on the right of their area. Crowe shook his left foot at the ball and it safely cleared the bar.
A minute or so later Cramb cushioned a lay-off to Parkinson just outside the area, who shimmied, shook and shanked a shot wide, which took a deflection on the way.
There were three minutes of added time which Town tried to waste in the corners, but didn't, as usual. Kidderminster ended the game with a huge punt into the area. Williams flapped and missed and the ball bounced towards the left-hand corner of the goal. Jones acrobatically hooked the ball off the line. The linesman's flag was up for something, and that was that. The ceremonial booing could begin.
Yes, Town were booed off after winning. The second half had been so poor, with opponents who had looked incapable of boiling an egg being allowed to dictate the evening meal. The vocal displeasure was justified. Town, in the end, were lucky to win. They should have been four or five up at half time, but just failed in the second half.
Who's to blame? Not me, or you, that's for sure. Did the players play to instructions? Or did they just decide to have a stroll, the job done before sunset? Whenever Pinault or Sestanovich (who was very tactically disciplined, for once) had the ball something looked like happening, but the others didn't give it to them much. It's quite simple really.
Isn't it strange how little Town change.
Nicko's man of the match
For adequate achievement in the field of dismality the award goes to Mr Colin Cramb. Gordon and Pinault were in the last three, but why not share the prizes around?
Markie's un-man of the match
Rob Jones saved himself by that last-minute hook off the line and for a Woodsian shoulder shake in the first half where he sent a striker the wrong way and rolled a perfect pass out to a team-mate. It was positively Handysidian. It's a coin-flicking metaphor between Parkinson and Crowe. Does Parkinson get let off because he was injured? No.
I can't remember Mr A Leake much, apart from a very defined side parting, which looked sculpted. Apart from booking someone after Kidderminster's goal for some ill-defined heinous crime, he was, for the most part, a reluctant booker, which helped Brown and Bull stay on the pitch. We can't blame him for rubbish linespeople, can we? For the suggestion that he spends hours every day in front of the mirror with a soft hairbrush he gets 6.66, always assuming that he has a reflection.