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Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

28 August 2004

Grimsby Town 2 Mansfield Town 0

Around 1,000 Mansfieldians were groovin' on a sunny afternoon down in the Osmond Stand. Not much difference from their usual holiday habitat, is it: Skeggy or Meggies. Just a different kind of donkey on show. Nice to see so many had turned left on the Lincoln by-pass, a sea of custard facing us in the Pontoon.

Town lined up in the 3-4-3 formation as follows: Williams, Whittle, Ramsden, Gordon, McDermott, Pinault, Fleming, Crowe, Sestanovich, Reddy and Parkinson. The substitutes were Mansaram, Coldicott, Bull, Young and Marcelle Marceau. From a distance you couldn't see the sellotape, staples and waterproof sticking plasters (breathable and medicated) holding together the famous five; the five guys not called Crowe.

I can't let this moment pass without a word for the Mighty Mariner, leaping around with verve and vim. Actually, choose your own word - I'm sure you'll find an appropriate one - one that encapsulates the very essence of foamfoolery. A man wandered past the Pontoon in a fishing hat. Looks familiar. How? Surely that can't be old Jack Hargreaves; I thought he was dead. Maybe it's his lookalike, that market has grown so much in recent years, hasn't it.

Mansfield warmed up with a variation on the usual theme, though the aesthetes among us did wince when they saw several of the larger beefburgers practice heading the ball very high and very far. Mansfield wore their traditional yellow shirts and blue blue shorts.

Dish of the Day was one to bring tears to the eyes of ladies of a certain age, and men of a certain mental bent. Oh, bless his little red cotton stockings: it's Hockless' mum's Sunday lunch. They even put the apostrophe in the right place too. Standards are rising. What a shame they didn't think of this culinary wheeze years ago. We'd have all looked forward to Galli's chilled hop and malt soup, wouldn't we?

First half
Mansfield kicked off towards the Osmond in the second half, so it was Town who kicked off towards the Mansfieldian masses south of the border, down Mexico way. They passed it, passed it again and the ball didn't go out of play for several seconds. That's what confidence does for you.

The opening couple of minutes or so were fast but fruitless. A swish here, a swash there; probing and prodding but no salty peanut. Town were in the slight ascendancy, with Reddy regularly rotating his crops. Crowe surging, crossing, Baptiste clearing near goal. Corner. Another minute, another Crowe surge. Reddy rolling, yellow boots stretching. Corner. McDermott, yes Macca, McD, the legendary-but-not-cult-one trotted over to the corner flag. Doesn't Pinault usually chip them into the goalkeeper's arms? Noses were tapped, heads were nodded: we're up to something.

Indeed we were, sir. The penalty box was crowded, so McDermott rolled the ball slowly, slowly, slowly out to the edge of the area. Why, there's nobody there. Bumble, bumble, bumble, the ball bombled along: with their tiny hands on their tummy the Mansfield Men were chuckling away, laughing all day. Ha-ha-ha, hee-hee-hee. Pinault emerged from behind a toadstool and thwacked a low shot from the centre-right edge of the penalty area, the ball flicking off a yellow-socked shin and in off the left post. Yes sir, we can boogie.

Oh loveliness, with added chocolate buttons. Town, moving marvellously, passing precisely, Pinault the centre of the universe. Another goal, surely? Macca, Pinault and oooooooooh everyone combined with one-touch nicks and knocks sending Reddy rampaging down the right. He got to the touchline, rolled a pass back across goal slightly behind Parkinson. Young Big Ears spun around and, from about six yards out at the near post, flashed a shot goalwards. Pilkington flung himself at Parky and superbly blocked, the ball rolling across the face of goal and being swept away into the bin quicker than a processed-cheese roll.

Crowe again, ram-raiding the local supermarket down the left; crossing long, crossing short. Sestanovich drifted infield and dinked a perfect pass over and through the Mansfield defence. Crowe sprinted in from the wing, chesting the ball into the area. As if by magic the shopkeeper appeared; Pilkington huddled the ball to safety.

Sit back and enjoy, shall we: it's the same old story, you'll hear words you've never heard in the Bible.

Without any warning, Mansfield broke, flickering the ball over the top down their right. Larkin was away, bounding free into the area, towards the bye-line. He dragged the ball behind the defence towards the penalty spot. In rushed O'Neil, who leant back and steered the ball a foot over the bar from about 10 yards out. Oh yes, we remember now. They score goals, this lot do. They should have scored, they didn't. Exhale, breathe slowly and regularly, relax, feel the tension flow out of every orifice.

Aaah, Town, pure Town. Pinault, Macca, Pinault, Parky, Sestanovich, one-two-three, it's so easy, it's like taking candy from a baby. Sestanovich drifted through a gaggle of quivering quavers and curled a shot a couple of feet over the bar from about 20 yards out.

The first 20 minutes or so were a little cameo of Town's season so far. Loads of possession, lots of wonderful micro-moments of shimmering hips and shammering passes, but no hammering shots. Great to watch, but nothing tangible was resulting from this period of control. I could give you some useless information, suppose it could fire your imagination. Reddy this, Parky that, Sestanovich a twinkling star in a far-off galaxy, briefly glimpsed. But it all centred around control in midfield. Mansfield were no match for a Gallic balladeer, roaming the land with a lyre and a lyric for all occasions. Sweet, sweet song, sing to us Thomas.

Ouch, that hurt. Oof, that stung. Ah, we see. It's Plan 9 from outer Nottinghamshire. If you can't beat them, beat them up. Unable to match Town for football, Curle got out his comedy fangs, the ones that fell out of his cracker at the Christmas party. I bet if we played him at Subbuteo he'd flick a kick and the ref wouldn't know.

Bang, bang, bang went the trolley of tosh. Reddy felled by Artell in the crudest fashion near the halfway line. Just a little finger wag from the increasingly weak referee. Reddy took the free kick quickly, setting Parkinson free, but the green gimp wouldn't let play continue; he wanted to chat to Artell. How about that yellow card? Over went the free kick, down went McDermott, a boot in the chest, or maybe even chin. The Mansfield supporters grumbled, perhaps annoyed that McDermott's head remained in contact with rest of his body. What a weak challenge, eh? There's no room for wimps in their team.

Crash, bang, wallop. Sestanovich separated from his ankles by a dreadful thwack from behind, left in a heap, the referee content for play to continue. After all, it was our advantage; Mansfield had the ball. Fleming raced over and cracked a yellowman. Free kick to them, and Sestanovich eventually allowed to receive treatment. Home crowd fuming.

The free kick, way out underneath the Findus/Smiths/Stones Stand, was wellied high and long, dropping just beyond the far post. Artell wrestled Whittle away using all three of his elbows. No free kick given. Artell levered the ball back across the face of goal and Asamoah, the laughing gnome who was a constant menace, leapt up and softly nodded it goalwards. Williams drooped onto the ball at the foot of the post. No power, not going in; it looked closer the further away you were. The residents of Louth were most concerned. Home crowd fuming even more at the pusillanimous poltroon in nominal charge of this game.

The match had descended into a fight, with kicks getting higher and harder, especially from the yellow ones. As the referee didn't do anything, the Town players started to get ratty, then take vigilante action. The Mansfield fans were clearly confused by the golden summer of sport. All this Olympic coverage has addled their brain, or brains: they thought they were watching tae-kwan-do and their players thought that was the name of the game too. If they'd stuck to football they may have got somewhere.

Mansfield's 'rugged' approach certainly put a bung in the Town tap, but they had already showed that they were a dangerous team on the attack. Larkin kept sneaking away down the flanks and Asamoah was a thorn in the right side. Macca did brilliantly a couple of times to hunt down the Ghanaian greyhound by doing the Macca thing: defending without tackling. A masterclass, Mr Crowe; just watch and learn.
Whoops, Larkin free behind Gordon, at a narrow angle 10 or so yards wide of goal. Wahey! Shinned into the crowd. Phew. Another snitchy attack, a cross drifting through the area. This is a bit worrying. Oh no! A wellied clearance curled behind Whittle and Ramsden on their centre left. Larkin hared off, free, alone. As Williams came off his line Larkin lifted the ball safely into the arms of Mary. Another let-off.

Crunch. Thud. Pinault crumpled as Murray tried to volley him over the Main Stand. Mansfield moans, Grimsby groans. Rather than list every Mansfield nobble, it would be easier to confirm that there were a couple of people in the Pontoon who weren't fouled by Mansfield players. O'Neil did a stamp volley on Gordon as the Deanster waited for the ball to drop. Booked. A minute later Artell did a forearm smash into the back of Reddy's neck. Finally the assassin was booked. And he still complained about it.

As the whistle blew for half time Curtis shoved Reddy as he tried to control a throw-in under the Stones/Smiths/Findus stand. Reddy tapped the back of Curtis' ankles. Curtis reacted, and several Mansfield players hurtled over. Hands were raised, chests were shoved, and at least one punch was thrown towards Sestanovich. A couple of stewards ran on and escorted the referee off the pitch and, hopefully, out of the ground.

A fine flowing, interesting game of football had glued up and become a bank holiday kick boxing fest. Mansfield showed a real nasty streak after they realised they'd been outfought and outthought. But it was working for them, for Town couldn't regain control of the ball for long enough to mesmerise with their magnificence. Well, there we are - the first test of the season. Were they up to it, or would they crumble like a cardboard shoe?

Russ, over to you. Time for your genial Harry Grout teamtalk.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"This ref'll have to work hard to avoid sending them all off."
"You can see the dentists' church now they've pulled the Jet station down."
"I think their conversation is still in Sheffield."
"Will we have anyone fit for Monday?"
"They should be thrown out: for wearing Man U tops to Town games. It's disgusting."

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time. Mansfield came out and waited around, receiving some hearty abuse from the Pontoon. After several hours Town came out. Perhaps the referee had been incarcerated in his cell, forced to watch certain 'highlights' of the first half, just to inform him of his errors.

They kicked off, they had the ball and did something not very interesting in the great scheme of things. I think they had a shot, probably Asamoah. It may have bumbled wide of Williams' right post. It may have even excited the tourists, but I can't remember much about it. It may have been that time when Curtis slashed a shot Poutonianly wide. Beats me; it didn't beat Williams. So what.

Town had their obligatory 20 minute rumble after half time. Flattening the opponents with some flicking and tricking. Control regained, the puppeteer pulling the strings again. Reddy, free after Macca's marauding, looked up, saw Parkinson in the area and rolled the ball just behind the toby-jugged pest. Parkinson again, wasting possession with poor control after more teasing play on the right.

Play was held up while Williamson received treatment. The Mansfield fans will, I'm sure, appreciate some details here. He injured himself by trying to cripple Macca. A two-footed lunge failed to contact red socks. It was his own fault. We had no sympathy, and the growling intensified when Town threw the ball back to the yellow perils: something Mansfield failed to do in the first half in a similar circumstance.

Sestanovich bundling forward, feet swiped away by yet another Mansfield defender. Booked? Maybe, maybe it was the time Reddy rippled through three challenges and dived over the final defender. There were so many of these fouls and falls they just merge in to one big greco-roman wrestling memory.

After about 10 minutes Ramsden stopped a long shot from Mansfield with his back. Then off he walked, replaced by Young. Gordon moved into the centre of the back three.

Still Town drove on, Surf City here we come. Parkinson twisting free after sweet, sweet music, yeah, yeah, down the right. Spinning, spinning, shooting from the edge of the area. Pilkington groped down by the foot of his near post and flipped the ball away for a corner. Cleared.

Town got it back, Town throbbed, Mansfield ached, Sestanovich felled again by the fourth defender. The crowd roaring, raging, demanding action from the referee, demanding a second goal from Town. Ten yards, ten yards, ten yards, chimed the Pontoon, faces contorted in anger; the referee held up two fingers, literally and metaphorically, happy that the wall was a couple of yards away. Pinault's shot flicked a head and went out for a corner.

Crowd on their feet, some singing, some dancing. The corner was knocked short by Pinault, who received it back, playing keep-ball, with a Mansfield defender the piggy in the middle. In came the cross, low to the near post. Young stretched and a Mansfield boot just managed to clip the ball away. Ooooh.

After about 20 minutes Mansfield made a double substitution, O'Neil being replaced by a Hairy Ape, Tate, and someone else being replaced by, er, someone else. Tate appeared to be wearing his hair in a bun. He was big, he was rubbish. He looked like he wanted to be in a home-made private video. You don't need to think about him again, unless porky men with bad hair is the bag you're into. I do hope not.

Town, still Town. The isolated Mansfield raids were foundering on the feet of formidable defenders; Whittle and Gordon, superb. Who cares about something that never happened; let's talk Town. Reddy, magnificently, turned on the Town left, 30 yards out and za-zoomed goalwards, drifting across to the right, past one, two defenders. Curtis ran back with Reddy, pulling his shirt once, twice, thrice, but Reddy remained upright and, from about 10 yards out, had his shot deflected away for a corner.

Oh no, you're not getting away with this, Mansfield - it's still Town. A corner on the left, curled with loving care to the near post by Pinault. Young and Reddy raced in, flicked their considerable hairs and the ball drifted softly across the face of goal and a couple of feet wide.

Oh Town, c'mon, score that goal. A drizzle of raspberry coulis in midfield saw Sestanovich put his marker on a train to Eastbourne. Advancing down the centre he espied the Reddymeister to his left. He flicked, Reddy raced, Pilkington stumbled. As Reddy shot, Artell slid across and blocked with a quite magnificent tackle.

More Reddy raiding, more moments of danger. To the bye-line on the right, he consulted his caddy and old faithful Macca suggested that rusty sand iron. He lofted the ball lazily beyond the flag, leaving himself a tricky downhill putt. Crowe couldn't reach it.

Mansfield? They attacked, they didn't really threaten. There were fleeting moments of panic in the Pontoon, as a free kick was pumped into the area, players collided, the ball dropped, a yellow sock wafted, the ball ambled wide. A ball over the top, Williams raced out and flicked it basketball-style over the top of the striker, catching it on first bounce. Again Williams raced out and smothered the ball near the corner of the area. Nearly moments of near disaster, but no shots, no threat, nothing.

With around 10 minutes left Sestanovich was replaced by Coldicott. Now what formation Town played is not clear, though it did look like two up front and three at the back. Whatever it was, Crowe was suddenly more prominent in attack. A break, Crowe free, ball nearly passed to him. Close.

Mansfield hurled men forward, and huge spaces appeared at their back. With about five minutes left Town won possession on the right, just outside their own area. Tippy-tappy passing, some members of the crowd frustrated at this precise possession game. Get it forward. Oh, but they did. Coldicott, near the touchline about 30 yards out from the Town goal, cracked a longish pass up to Parkinson at the halfway line. Parky twizzled and cuddled a perfect pass through the remaining defenders. Crowe hurtled forward down the centre. On, on, on. Pilkington came, Pilkington saw Crowe roll the ball across and into the bottom right corner from the edge of the area.

Pilkington conquered; Mansfield marooned: the wind had whipped up and blown their dinghy away. Don't cry. Oh, some of you are. Bye-bye. You'd better get your bags and flee if you can't handle defeat. What kind of support is that? No faith in their team. At least it'll clear the roads for us when we go to Tesco.

A couple of minutes later Mansaram replaced Reddy. Immediately Pinault fell over and had to receive some treatment. There were some minutes of added time. They passed, as did Town. The whistle blew, we stood up and made some noise. We don't need kazoos to get a party going. Slade shook hands with several Town players, principally the defenders, then came over to accept the plaudits of the Pontoon.

Phew, sort of. It was the least compelling Town performance in some ways, but in others it was the most heartening. Mansfield were by far the best fourth division team we've played so far. They could play a bit; not as well as we have in previous games, but with hints of tastiness, like a frozen pizza. Well drilled, they had an attacking plan which didn't just consist of hoof and hope. They had a mobile front three backed up by some cloggers at the back. They didn't believe in discussion; they were action men, some with real hair. But Town didn't cave in just because someone wouldn't let them play with their ball.

There we are again, happy as can be. Fortress Blundell Park has been renovated and is looking most impressive. Now let's get to work on the roving Court of King Russell.

Nicko's man of the match
Nicko is finding it difficult these days: so many decent performers, and everyone trying really hard. The front three were less effective than normal and the midfield only bossed half the game. Pinault, well, sapphire and steel, a velvet glove with a concrete hand. Fleming loved the fight, but the defence needs some hugging. Gordon, Whittle and Ramsden were excellent. So who can it be? It's Mr John McDermott, up and down like a ferret, the old master.

Official warning
Never controlling the game, Mr S Tanner let too many whacks go unpunished at the start and looked like a startled rabbit when players became self-appointed law enforcers. The worst referee we've seen so far this season, worse even than Cursin' Curson from the Boston match, so he'll probably be elevated to that suppository of shame, the third division. [Clattenburg is in the Premier now, by the way - Ed.] He gets 1.0219. Don't come around here no more.