The continuing story of Bungling Will

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

16 April 2005

Notts County 2 Grimsby Town 2

An afternoon of earthly delights in downtown Nottingham, with about 400 Town supporters all right in the city, high above the ground, just hanging around. What are we waiting for? A shot would do.

The Town players warmed up in the usual glass-half-empty way, with an unusual high-stepping exercise thrown in. Dave Moore had them leaping across a swollen stream, river walking, not river dancing. I suppose it keeps them occupied in these dog days. Positive John walked positively too and applauded, positively. Only polite rippling from the coffee quaffers in response.

Town lined up in a 5-3-2 formation as follows: Williams, McDermott, Whittle, Forbes, Jones, Ramsden, Fleming, Crowe, Coldicott, Gritton, Parkinson. The substitutes were Crane, Pinault, Reddy, Bull and Heggarty. So the same frenzy of attacking whirlygigging as last week then? Wow. Reddy had his bandage fixed around his knee. That's a code, isn't it? No more needs be said about this, and it won't. Carry on.

Chesney Hawkes and Neil Diamond on the tannoy. Is this Radio Old? Where is that beautiful noise?

The pervading whiff of ennui wasn't helped by County announcing season ticket sales for next season. Perhaps Town should follow suit, maybe even link up with Tesco. Triple clubcard points if you buy before the end of May, that sort of thing.

Town played in yellow, County played in monochrome. Makes the game surreal, doesn't it.

First half
Town kicked off towards the home support in the secret supermarket stand. Two seconds, throw to County, marvellous.

Ooh, a corner to them, on their right after Pipe had riddled and raddled Ramsden. Hurled to the near post, where Jones the steam headed out to Hurst, about 15 yards out. He wimpled the shot straight at Williams as Big Bad Baudet wafted a leg in the vaguest of vicinities of the travelling airbag. More County pressure, flittering around the box, hurling long throws, barging, passing, moving, being a little bit interested in the match. Just a little bit, not too much. Another corner, a big-haired boy nodded over as the crowd nodded off.

Can they pass the ball? What is the shin for? Another County harem-scarem run-at-'em attack, ending with a little midfielder slapping a shot from ages away, ages over the bar. Shinball wizards, there has to be a twist. And there was - from Gritton, dinking Crowe away. Sit back down, Crowe in a cul-de-sac, ball cleared.

This is laughable. They keep setting Town up. Oakes hit a superb first-time pass to Crowe on the halfway line, who ran down the centre as the defence backed off, then veered right for no apparent reason; perhaps he needs his tracking adjusted. I bet he mixes cross-ply and radial. Instead of zooming straight for goal, Crowe decided to shiver a perfect pass through an imaginary gap to Parkinson. He passed to a defender and danger was averted without too many members of the Women's Institute baking angel cakes.

Ooh, and again, Oakes releasing Crowe. This time Jive Talkin' Jase made a busy-beeline for the penalty area and, 25 yards out, thwacked a drive a couple of feet over from a centre-right position.

How long has this been going on? Eight minutes, according to the scoreboard, which occasionally forgot vowels. The next few minutes were a series of throw-ins, which won't get a second season on Channel 5. There was no particular plot and no crazy, wacky happenings involving young people set to a rock 'n' roll soundtrack. You couldn't get emotionally attached to the characters; no depth, you see.

A-ha, and I am not referring to Norwegian synth-popsters. Something's happening here. What it is exactly ain't clear. Do County really want us to win? For the gazzillionth time a striped one passed to a Town player. This time Gritton was the beneficiary of the Nottingham and District Charity for the Unable and Unwilling. Alone on the right, he ran off in a straight line towards the penalty area. Yep, much like Crowe five minutes earlier. Off he went, pursued by the remnants of the defence. Over they came towards the honeypot; Gritton waited, looked up and rolled the ball across the face of goal towards the totally, completely and utterly unmarked Parkinson.

Did I say he was unmolested by locals? I know, don't get too excited, it's because he's short. The ball was slightly in front of the Scouse scamperer, who caught up with it beyond the far post, about eight yards out. Cat Deeney in goal, who lives on cokey-nuts and fish from the sea, wandered over and bamboozled Parkinson. How? Maybe it was the red feathers and hooly-hooly skirt that put Parky off, for our shiny-bonced striker did a little umpa-lumpa dance and the Cat picked the ball up and licked his spoon. How very Parky.

Another minute, another Parkinson moment. Gritton chested the ball off; Parkinson controlled it on the left, cutting infield, across the face of the penalty area and, with the goal a-gaping, squirmed his shot a few inches wide of the keeper's right post. How very, very Parky.

Yes, it was a bit chill, especially on the feet. Pity those poor kids in the Main Stand, all bare-kneed. That's some strong school discipline: talk in class and you all go to Meadow Lane and you can't wear long trousers. Or maybe they were the half-time entertainment.

Hang on, what's going on here? Town passing, and moving? Ah, I see, Cardinal Macca (15/1 shot with William Hill to be the next Pope) drifting across the Trent, exchanging glances with Jason Crowe and floobling a shot across goal. So, so close, only yards wide.

County got inside the Town half, locals stirred, guests not shaken. Ramsden nicked the ball forward to Gritton, on the left, a few yards from the halfway line. The Gritster brilliantly rolled his marker and set off on his invisible hovercraft down the wing, the wind blowing back McFaul's hair. Parkinson ran off to the far post and waved to Gritton from his rowing boat. Just outside the area Gritton looked up, saw the drowning man and threw the lifeline perfectly. The ball arced over a defender and dropped on Parkinson's shins, perhaps eight yards out, rolling down the yellow sock and diving underwater, as Cat Deeney went waterskiing.

Lovely, a goal. Nice. Now, what do we do when we score? Laugh or cry? Twenty-seven minutes had eloped, by the way, or elapsed, depending on your boredom threshold.

Hey, you missed it matey. What a daft time to go to the toilet.

Shush, please, can you be quiet over there. We're having a ball. County a non-presence. Snoozily, easily does it. Coldicott happily street cleaning, brushing away the old bits of fruit and veg that hung about on the pitch, rotting and turning a nasty shade of purple at the edges. Is there a nice shade of purple? Who needs Pinault to create when the entire opposition midfield perform that task, perfect passes sending Town free, time after time. And we don't even have to pay their wages.

Ten minutes of life disappeared, the football just a backdrop to a thousand conversations. It was all rather like having a p-p-p-picnic in the park. You are dimly aware that a Division 7 Sunday league match is going on a few yards away, and you occasionally get distracted by the players' shouts, but what a tasty vegetable samosa that was, pity about the sausages. It's too early for rhododendrons, but it's a riot of colour out there.

County lumped, Whittle dumped. Now ain't that a kick in the head. No collateral damage done.

Is that Gritton again? Twisting, turning, gurning and burning up the flank, frightening all with his loud shirt and long hair, all too Captain America for the local sheriff. Off he went, defenders left chasing a paper trail of clues to his whereabouts. Past one, two, a third beckoned to the spider, and a cunning little vixen of a pass to the unmarked Parkinson, inside the area on the left. Carry on eating your sandwiches: Parky did the usual Parky thing: delayed, shuffled, ruffled away by the big bad wolf.

With five minutes left to half time Town sank back and County turned the gas up to mark two: simmering rather than boiling in the bag. Those frozen peas'll take ages to cook if they carry on like this. A free kick, on the left, about 20 yards out. Williams mixed his mortar, set his bricks and hid behind the wall. Oakes feigned interest, Palmer feigned adequacy, curling softly over the angle of post and bar.

Then Town crumpled down the left. Pipe was tickled free, crossing to the far post and Hurst, unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, steered a header straight into the arms of Williams, while two unmarked colleagues bellowed in anger below the massed ranks of meandering Mariners.

Town hanging on, half time dragging closer; Stallard twisting on a lemon, shot deflected over the bar by Jones' foot. A goal kick was given, then it was half time.

Town were comfortable if not particularly wonderful. County were so ropey that it would have taken a monumental feat of engineering to construct a Town engine that misfired more than them. Nothing got past Coldicott, who parked his S-registered Citroen upon Stefan Oakes while he went light shopping in this retail megopolis. Well, it's free; did you see the no parking signs anywhere? Gritton waltzed supreme, back to the player he was two months ago: strong, subtle and a striker. Crowe enjoyed a few little day trips upfield, opening the throttle and really throwing himself into the bends, for there were no speed cameras or police about. The defence was largely untroubled, unruffled and unemployed. Whenever County looked like getting close to Williams, Jones headed away and Forbes used his sonic screwdriver to guide the ball towards the nearest dead planet while everyone else simply stood in the way.

For a cheap wine, this was edible. Now, where's the cheese?

If you went to the pie stall at half time you missed a great game of footy between two under-10s teams. Passing, movement, hair, tantrums, great saves, last-minute goals. Everything the pros weren't. And when it was over they did a mass Klinsmann dive in the goal below the Town fans, forcing the Town substitutes to flee the county.

And half the crowd seemed to be on the pitch being introduced. Is that what they mean by a community club? It was all rather Romper Room.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I'm sorry about Grantham."
"No-one's better than Stace without the ball."
"I see Radcliffe-on-Trent is twinned with Buffy Sainte-Marie."
"He'd better give Macca a new contract or there'll be a riot."
"What's Robin Gibb doing in the Town end?"

Second half
County made a change at half time, bringing on Scoffham for Hurst.

County up and at Town. From some kind of something, something happened. A couple of minutes into the half the ball was lobbed high into the box from their left, probably a long throw; they had loads of them. Are we watching football or chuckball these days? It was half-cleared out to the centre right, where Pipe chested down and hit a slicing, looping volley goalwards. Williams, way off to his right, flew across and plopped the ball aside as it bounced up in front of him A good save.

More County pressure, big Baudet up and menacing the innocent cattle penned inside the Town area. He could be arrested for acting suspiciously in a suspicious manner. Nothing's gonna happen, but the curtain twitchers think it may, so call the local constabulary; he's wearing a shell suit.

Oh dear, what's happened here then? After three minutes Coldicott walked off the pitch. Enter le bouc émissaire Français, Professor Pinault: the temperamental talisman. Such space, such a canvas on which to paint. Err, why is he playing as the defensive midfield enforcer?

A Sladian masterstroke. The mere presence of Pinault disturbed County so much that they imploded. The ball was dinked towards Parkinson on the left, where a defender stroked the ball away straight to Fleming's thigh. At full pelt the great Flemini thundered forward, thighing the ball a full ten yards into a space between the Cat and his three blind mice of a defence. The goalkeeper hesitated, the defence pickled itself in aspic, Crowe sprinted forward, poking out a big toe, and the ball looped into the top right corner. Oh how we laughed: passing and movement fourth division style. Just 40 minutes to hang on to what we've got.

What? Again? Within a minute Gritton walked off, replaced by Reddy the Battery Boy. Never mind, eh? Two up, the passer and the sprinter on, and the opposition looking like they'd rather paint along with Nancy. Nothing to worry about.

Doo-di-doo, time for the chocolate cakes now? Gritton sauntered towards the Town end, leant on a lamppost and had a very long, relaxed conversation with a screw-down hairdo. Gritton had licked 'em by smiling; he left Town to hang on the wall. Did you knock the nail in hard enough?

What, more throw-ins? This is tiresome, Mr Grumblesnake - be away with your foul fiendish ways and pass the bouquet garni. Pish and tish, we are aristocrats and aesthetes. Whoops, a huge guffaw belched from the far side. A County cross, half-cleared, nobbled back into the centre and Williams crept out. Someone ducked, Williams didn't dive and the ball looped over him and onto the bar. Who did what? I'm sorry; I haven't a clue. Bodies and burger boards were in the way. It looked c-r-r-azy and z-z-any enough to be on one of those strange satellite channels that you only come across once, normally when you're at a mate's house and he's pondering the crisp selection process. Life is not too short for plain crisps; it's simpler that way.

Grrrrrrrr. Crowe. Wasting the moment. Four Town attackers against three defenders and he chose to pass out to Macca when every other option was better. Cross charged down, danger disappeared in an instant.

Still. No worries, Town were still winning. Pinault: has he touched the ball yet? Why is he doing a passable impression of Des Hamilton? Passable? Did Desperate Des ever pass? Time ticking, feet up, waiting for the win. Pinault crocked in a sliding tackle on the edge of the Town area. Physio on, Pinault off for some glue and sticky-backed plastic treatment: Monsieur Hulot limping. A couple of minutes later Fleming was scythed down and was similarly treated, though this time Dave Moore didn't use glitter paint when patching up the wound.

Phwoar, that Oakes can hit 'em. A screaming abdab from 30 yards, a couple of feet over the bar. Hmmm, he's getting the ball a lot, running the game. Another long-range effort, zooming towards the No Smirking sign. Town sinking back closer and closer to Williams, the ball permanently down the other end. Humungous throw-ins, dropping like doodlebugs upon the Town area. Pressure mounting, Town wobbling, Jones diverting all. Forbes the shepherd, gathering his flock, magnificent movement, his pockets stuffed full of Magpies.

Reddy… too slow, too injured, unable to reach the infrequent droplets from Pinault. Pinault: lamping long balls to nowhere. At least he's not passing straight to the men of Nottingham, which is an improvement from the Mansfield debacle. Parkinson… fell over his own shadow when wonderfully placed. Moments, just moments, all squandered. Deeney fell over the ball, Reddy slept.

With a quarter of an hour left Pinault challenged Oakes for a high ball about 30 yards out on their centre right. A free kick was given in typically arbitrary manner; most aren't given, so why now? Williams edged over to his right; Oakes spotted the quivering mass moving away, took it quickly and arced a perfect shot into the bottom left corner. Yes, magnificent shot. Yes, poor goalkeeping.

Pressure mounted with County hurtling forward; their fans awoke, the whiff of victory sniffed. Town non-existent beyond the halfway line, missing everything in midfield; Crowe and Fleming way forward, Pinault too far back. The defence was a bulwark; shots blocked, crosses deflected, headers bonged away, Williams protected. The tourniquet tightened with Town stuck inside their own penalty area; crosses from the left, crosses from the right, Williams a bouncing baby boy in a blue jumpsuit, almost falling out of his cot. Just ten minutes left, holding on desperately. Head tennis, challenges, one-two-three, finally a free kick to them, just outside the penalty area, on the left. Oakes pushed away all pretenders to his throne and lampooned the ball goalwards. It hit someone in the wall, deflected onto the crossbar and out for a… goal kick, as Williams ran around in circles underneath. Panic on the streets of Humberside.

A Town chance, a Town move. Pinault to Crowe, a Macca lob infield and Crowe za-zoomed into the area, nodding the ball forward. A shimmy, the defender embarrassed by his own hips, and Crowe divvled to the bye-line. He looked up, saw Parkinson hurtling to the near post and whacked a cross against Parky's knee and out for a… corner.

With a couple of minutes left Jones legged up a Countyite in about the same position that Oakes had scored from. This time Town built a wall, while Williams got out his stethoscope, abacus, compass, sextant, and electric trouser press, just to be sure. Oakes took a couple of steps and… curled the ball into the top left corner. Yes, magnificent shot. Yes, poor goalkeeping.

At last Town woke up, pressing County and forcing a corner; Jones headed over. Forcing a free kick; Whittle headed over. Three minutes of added time, enough for Pipe to swipe well wide from the edge of the area and Stallard to glance well wide when smothered by the looming Whittle. Another game over, another game gone away.

The apteryx slain.

Where to start? Should I bother? Does it matter? Town were comfortable when County were dormant, and should have been much further in front before Williams' final cut. Two identical free kicks, two goals. Make your own mind up after replaying the video three times. Gritton looked very good; Coldicott was a defensive block, Forbes and Jones defensive rocks. The so-called wing-backs were not really troubled. Everyone else was degrees of imperfect. But Town had this in their shopping bag; they were on their way out of the car park. Why did they have to go back into the store and admit they'd been overcharged?
Well, at least we scored. That's better than usual these days.

Nicko's man of the match
Once again Terrell Forbes glinted in the twilight of the clods. It's embarrassing that he plays for us: he's so much better than this collective bilge of a division. Not quite Martin Peters though: Terrell was just the two seconds ahead of his time, popping up like the shopkeeper to hustle the confused customers out of the door and back on the streets. Rob Jones played well, but you don't get to be MoM simply for heading the ball a lot. Pity Gritton old-manned off so soon.

Official warning
It's Mr Joe E Ross again. He ain't number one super guy. Mr Guess the Weight of My Shoes was as random as ever. He wasn't biased, just bad: never giving advantage, which stopped both sides in their tracks. He did us a couple of weeks ago against Rushden and was just the same today, so he gets the same score: 4.342.