Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Miles Moss
11 September 2004
Macclesfield Town 3 Grimsby Town 1
A grey, overcast day, with a stiff breeze and a distinct threat of drizzle in the air. Well, as much as drizzle can actually be threatening. A few black and white stripeys had opted to pay the extra two quid to sit in the covered area near the corner flag; the rest of us hardy souls rolled back the years and stood - yeah, stood - behind the goal, open to the elements. This is what football is all about. Standing up on concrete terraces, munching on a pie in the open air. All I needed now was for someone to urinate in my coat pocket, and life would be complete.
The rest of the Moss Rose ground is as tiny and basic as the bit we were stood in: to the right of us and behind the other goal were low stands like those at Crewe, only about eight or nine rows of seating deep. To the left was what must be described as the 'main' stand. Well, it was marginally taller than the other stands, but lacked a little something in the width department, being only about a quarter the length of the pitch, only just wider than the two dugouts. It was like a 500-seater beach hut, and there was this weird jerry-built greenhouse thing way at the back which seemed to be the press box, but looked like the sort of thing your grandad knocked together down the allotments to keep the cats off his courgettes. I have to say that the ever-present chant of "Shit ground, no fans" kind of loses something without the irony - at Anfield and St Andrews it was hilarious; at the Moss Rose... hmmm.
The seating arrangements may have been quaint, but the pitch was immaculate. For several minutes I was convinced that it was actually carpet; it was - although I have a feeling this borders on blasphemy - better than the turf at Blundell Park. Still, Cheshire is full of very rich people who have very nice houses and very well-kept gardens, don't you know. The groundsman has a lot to live up to. Can't let the neighbourhood down.
We'd made the short trip from south Manchester - Pat Bell and I - in good time, so we had a chance to take it all in; we also had the chance to peer at those warming up, and try to decipher which of the new boys was which. Was the blond shortarse Robinson and the tall dark-haired stranger Williams, or the other way round? We'd only find out when their shirt numbers were revealed. Just before kick-off, a ripple of applause started to spread from our left; heads turned, and saw John Fenty, who'd just popped in to say 'thanks for coming' to us all with a bout of overhead clapping and some thumbs-uppery. No flowers or chocolates, but it was nice of him to drop in.
I suppose I'd better tell you about the game, eh. Somebody won the toss, and this resulted in the teams swapping ends; Town would be playing towards us in the first half. They lined up in a formation. Now I'll confess that I'm not very good with this formation lark - and sometimes it looks to me as if there isn't one at all - but at 2:59 it looked a bit like: A Williams in goal; McDermott, Young, Whittle, Gordon at the back; Crowe, Pinault, Fleming, and Parkinson in the middle; with C Williams and P Robinson up front. The submarines were Bull, Coldicott, Sestanovich, Reddy, and Hockless. So yeah, a 4-4-2, with Parky sort of left wing-ish and that. Probably.
So Macclesfield kicked off, and strung four or five passes together, before taking the ball down the right, where it was put out for a throw by a Town boot. About eleven seconds, for those of you keeping records about this sort of thing. The first five minutes seemed to be all Macc; they pressured, they harried; they had their first corner within a minute. Town looked jittery.
After about five minutes, a decent move by Town ended with a poor pass. As soon as the silky Silkmen took possession of the ball, they attacked; four neat passes later, and the ball was heading for the back of the Town net. Williams (A) pulled off a cracking save; the resultant corner was smashed in by a Macc-er, and only just cleared off the line by our Macca. Less than a minute later, and two of the Mariners backline are playing 'after you, no - I insist, after you' with the ball, allowing Whitaker to nip in and have another shot, this one just missing Williams' left post. This was not good.
Around about the 13-minute mark, it started to spit, and those without hats or hoods wondered if the uncovered standing option had been the right one. Just then, Gordon lobbed a wonderful pass for Jase to chase, and chase it he did, bearing down on the MaccKeeper like an over-friendly dog. The keeper panicked, miscontrolled the ball; Crowe knocked it past him, and followed it up, smashing it into the back of the net for good measure.
That's more like it. Who cares about the drizzle now? The Mariners began to play like they meant it, and the pressure over the next five minutes gave them several chances, and three corners to boot. Unfortunately, all the corners were booted too far. Something to work on in training, lads.
The new boys, Williams and er... hang on, what's the other one called again... Robinson, that's it, buzzed around up front and caused a few problems; they were putting in some good moves, but there was just a certain je ne sais quoi missing - you felt that if only they'd known each other and everyone else a bit more, that a goal or two more might have resulted. Does that sound familiar at all? 'Je ne sais quoi'? I'm getting this odd sense of deja vu.
But anyway, Williams it was who latched onto a good crossfield pass from Gordon in the 2First minute, and headed just wide. Close. No cigar. Around now, I swear I could hear distant thunder. Or was it just the refreshments people moving the bins around? Or was it old Ernie's milk bottles, a-rattlin' in their crate?
Halfway through the first half, the ref awarded Town a corner, though it was plain to see that the ball had left the field of play via a Town boot. Not even the Town players appealed for the corner. How amusing. Pinault's cross hit Gordon's hip and went out again; no dodgy corner this time, though more Town pressure followed, culminating in a lovely curvy shot from Monsieur Peanut, which was sailing towards the top corner until their goalie caught it, the swine. Five minutes later, he replicated this shot from a free kick, but not until Crowe nearly made it two-nil, and would have had he been six feet tall, just failing to reach a superb Gordon cross.
A minute after that, Fleming made a wonderful surge forward, but he, Robinson and Williams were all too polite - nobody wanted to take a shot, so they let the opposition defence wander off with the ball instead. There were more shots, more chances: Crowe nearly repeating his goal; Pinault just missing; Young heading just over. It was all very promising. Right at the end of the half, our Deano was brought down heavily. As soon as the ref waved the physio on, quick as a flash, Gordon leaped to his feet and ran off down the pitch, forcing the physio to chase him. He must have a sponge phobia.
After a shaky start, Town had looked good: committed, chasing down and nicking the ball; running; attacking. There were worrying areas of indecisiveness both in defence and attack, but a first away win was there for the taking. The half-time entertainment involved the five Mariners subs playing keepy-uppy to the strains of The Darkness, while some seven-year-olds tried dribbling from the centre circle and scoring against an eight-year-old in goal. Meanwhile, I talked to a lovely woman who went to school round the corner from my house. It's a small world.
I was still chatting about Manchester geography when the second half started (no changes made at half time, by the way - not of personnel, anyway). From the off, it looked as if the Mariners' minds were also still on half-time conversations: Macclesfield pressured, Town fumbled and stumbled... this was going to be a long 45 minutes.
During the first ten minutes of the second half, Town must have mispassed and miskicked a dozen times. Poor ball after poor ball - someone had slipped something in their tea. By 11 minutes past four, Town had lost all shape and all hope. Parkin missed a header from six yards out - it's impossible to say how (unless you're Fred Dineage), but surely they weren't going to churlishly refuse many more offers like that.
Yup, here it is: Parkin again, holding the ball up just outside the area, he turns, he shoots... ooh, the ball's blocked by a well-placed Town boot. But it's coming, we can feel it. This one...? Nope, Parkin heads just over from a free kick. A man in front of me waggles our 1-0 lead in the faces of the Fates, taunting them by calling Parkin a donkey and a carthorse. Now what did you say that for?
Chris Williams has done enough, thinks Noddy, and replaces him with he of the mummified leg, Michael Reddy. At the same time, Macc's Sheron and Whitaker are replaced by Harsley and Miles. And within a few minutes, both of them score. First, Parkin - yup, carthorse donkey Parkin (thankyou, Sir) nods the ball down into the penalty area for Harsley to stab home while Town's defence fanny about; then five minutes later Miles finds himself with the Freedom Of The Left Wing, jinking this way and that before chipping the ball beautifully over Williams and, agonisingly, Young, whose hair is parted by the ball on the goal-line. It was a bit odd seeing someone celebrating a goal against Town with 'Miles' on their back; part of me felt like a traitor.
It's half past four. The drizzle has stopped, and there are blue skies on the horizon; but Town have completely fallen apart. Macclesfield nearly score again twice in a minute; they're totally running the game, but I can't help thinking that this is more of Town's doing than theirs. Parkin has the ball in the back of the net, but it's disallowed for offside, Silky shots are coming in from all over; the only bright point is a woefully inaccurate shot from Tommy Widdrington - but it's not good when you have to take solace in stuff like that.
Ten minutes to go, and the away end is restless, angry. They want Hockless on. But then, they wanted Reddy on until he came on, then spent the next 30 minutes exclaiming in loud terms how shit he was. Can't these people just stay at home and moan? Here we go, this'll cheer them up: Town get a corner after good work down the left. Unfortunately, the corner goes straight to their keeper, straight back down our end, where a defensive howler gives them a corner. Their corner drifts right over everyone - everyone except Potter, that is, who was waiting patiently at the back post to slot the ball into the net. Three-one.
Fleming is replaced by Coldicott and the Town travelling contingent (note how I avoid the use of the word 'fans') start to boo all the Town players and manager. That's great. Very helpful. The last five minutes are depressing; the whole second half seems as though the Mariners had their first half confidence sucked out of them by that Emo-Hawk thing in Red Dwarf. Town get two free kicks in the last three minutes, both for Reddy falling over on his own. Pinault's kick goes straight to the keeper again; Gordon's nearly takes a defender's head off. It was all too late by then anyway.
Town showed promise in the first half and, but for indecisiveness, may have scored another one or two goals. In the second half they were nothing short of abysmal; I can't say what went wrong - I only hope Noddy does, and that he knows how to fix it.
Nicko's man of the match
In the second half, nobody. But on first-half performance alone, Dean Gordon. Defended well, attacked well, and made crosses which could have led to four or five goals.
Markie's un-men of the match
In the second half, everybody.