Waking the dud

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

4 September 2004

Grimsby Town 0 Rochdale 1

A clear, humidly hot afternoon, with around 100-150 Spotlanders sprawled across some stylish seats in the Osmond Stand. What a lovely, lazy, autumn day. Ideal for snoozing in a deckchair in the back garden. Kick off your shoes, pull down your hat, while away those hours. Social events were organised, holiday photos swapped, tales of the first day at school, what a pleasant social occasion. Where's the Pimms? Oh yeah, I nearly forgot - there's a professional football game going on.

Oh look - there's the team of '71's coach, parking up between the Main Stand and Police Box. Sorry, my mistake, it's the grand return of the Ambulance. The Mighty Mariner was continually nutmegged by the cheeky little mascot, who celebrated each penalty with a big flipping handspring. Are you watching, Michael Reddy? That's how to take a penalty. Make sure the goalie is wearing a big foam suit next time: you might score.

Sorry, I got distracted. Town lined up in the 3-4-3 formation as follows: A Williams, Whittle, Ramsden, Gordon, McDermott, Pinault, Fleming, Crowe, Sestanovich, Reddy and Parkinson. The substitutes were Bull, Coldicott, C Williams, Robinson and young Young the pandaboy. No need to comment on the first XI. The two new players were difficult to find, for one of them was a replica, if not a replicant, of Parkinson: a hairless, big-eared, tiny scurrier. The other was a blander-looking lad of medium size, medium hairstyle and probably wears Marks and Spencer medium-sized underpants too. Life doesn't seem the same without Mansaram. In many ways we are diminished by his absence. Well, he's taller than the new two.

Ten minutes before kick off the remnants of a Town team from another time came out, one by one. They've ditched the sideburns and cut their hair. Who needs cars and cash when you've got a big moustache? Uh-huh: Dave Worthington. Perma-tanned, wearing a lounge-lizard beige suit with black T-shirt, he milked his moment like an old trouper, nearly upstaging the man who once lived in the Town a long time ago, a restaurateur called McMenemy. On he came and on and on and on he waved. Blowing kisses, hailing each stand, huggin' and a-kissin' anyone in sight, even the Mighty Mariner. There were even people in the ground who were alive when he was Town manager. Everything was so black and white in those days, eh?

Eventually he reached the Smiths/Stones/ Findus Stand. And he collected three pints of gold top from them too. We Pontoonites were using up far too much energy clapping politely. In this scientific age of sport we know we have to keep our fluid intake up, eat the right food. Where's that balti pie and weak tea?

Get off, old man; it's five past three, there's a football match to watch.

Rochdale? They were over there somewhere, wearing blue, with Gallimore incognito in an Action Man hairstyle. Booed for the heck of it; like shooting fish in a barrel, heckling Galli. But shooting fish in a barrel has been a wonderful spectator sport this season. Bring on the Spotland sprats!

Dish of the day was quite tasty sounding. Parky's grilled salmon and jacket potato: the secret is in the sauce, though I suggest you use mango chutney rather than get off the boat and search for mangoes in the jungle. You never know what's going to jump out from behind a tree.

First half
Town kicked off and kept the ball, slowly building down the right. What? Uh, sorry, I drifted off there. Town still had it a minute or so later; some players had moved a few yards to their left. Ah, Pinault. Fantastique, a continental threaded pass releasing the marauding Macca. Galli lost, Macca offside. Shame. The shape of things to come?

My, it is a hot day, I might have to take off my jacket. Is that a seagull or a pigeon? No, no, no: it's their centre-forward. A big-chested barrel organ playing amusing tunes as the wind blew back his hair. Who are you? Grant Holt, apparently. Ooooh, another sumptuous Pinault reverse pass, almost releasing someone. Nice.

Town played at walking pace, movement merely a word with eight letters in it. The crowd was silent, bored already, sitting back and awaiting the circus maximus, the ritual annihilation of the Christians. Hmm, Rochdale had the ball. They still had it. They still had it. Town let 'em have it. Perhaps we're just watching and waiting for the moment to strike. Lulling them forward to create space. It's tactical. Yeah, Russ's big bonce had come up with a meisterplan.

Rochdale still have the ball. They might even cross it soon. Aahhh, that's better: their straggly-haired midfielder dripped a shot several feet wide of Williams' right post from about 25 yards out. No danger.

Five minutes gone - a shot! Ooh la la, from left to right, the ball fizzed, Rochdale stripped to the bone, Sestanovich cutting in, in and around two defenders before smooching a left-footed shot straight into the goalkeeper's midriff. A few minutes later another nearly moment. Some head tennis on the right ended with Reddy nodding the ball back into space about a dozen yards out on the centre left. Fleming strode forward, opened his body and very precisely rolled a soft shot towards the bottom left hand corner. Edwards flopped on to the ball.

Pinault floated a free kick from the right, about 25 yards out, to the far post. Whittle steamed in, barged a defender away and, from beyond the far post, headed firmly across the face of goal. Bouncing along without a care in the world, the ball tantalised the faithful, but rolled away. Perhaps Gallimore cleared, which would be nice for him.

Ah, and again, another foul and another free kick from Pinault. Gordon, unmarked and in almost exactly the same spot of green, green grass as wattling Whittle had been, headed down into the ground. The ball slowly looped over Edwards and over the bar.

Sounds like Town had chances? Sort of. It was deadly dull, but Dale had been far from deadly themselves. They had that work ethic vibe, which Town conspicuously didn't. The magnificence of our socks would surely be enough to see off these little specks, these footballing footnotes? Rochdale were capable of passing to each other more often than not, though the frequency of their passing to Tony Ford in their dug-out was pleasing to the eye. They must have had one eye on our history too.

Had the Town players enjoyed the pre-match meal in McMenemy's as much as the oldsters? Was this a postprandial stroll in the Park?

Rochdale squeezed the juice out of Town, simply by filling the middle with men, by running up to Town players and tackling. Most Town players couldn't be bothered to manoeuvre themselves into space. The result? A dreadful, dull droopy nonsense of direness. A steaming, putrid pot of rotting parsnips. Town resorted to their lazy ways of lofting high balls up to Parkinson. When that failed they decided to prove that Gallimore was taller than McDermott. Amazingly, he is. Who'd have thought that?

Take a little break, close your eyes and drift away.

Don't worry, you haven't missed a thing. Pinault decided to play some trick shots to liven things up a bit. McDermott rolled a corner back to Town's leading Frenchman. Rochdale were surprised by this cunning ploy - to do something we did last week from which we scored. Who'd have thought it? The mind boggles. No, Pinault's foot boggled. He swiped and the ball ballooned up, circled the earth twice and dropped at Sestanovich's foot near the edge of the penalty area. What audacity, what a superb pass. We chuckled as we knew that Spotlanders thought he was shooting. We know better, of course.

I think McDermott crossed. He might not have. I can confirm that it didn't rain wheelbarrows, aliens didn't land in the back of the Main Stand, and Gallimore didn't climb onto the back of a giant albatross which flew through a crack in the cloud to a place where happiness reigned all year round. Then again, he might have gone straight to the Grosvenor after the game, which is almost the same, isn't it? They do play music ever so loud.

Come to think of it, does anything other than a mind boggle? Answers to the usual address by Friday and you won't win a prize

After half an hour the ref flipped. Bored out of his mind, perhaps, he awarded Rochdale a free kick for Whittle cleanly heading the ball. Or perhaps his expectations of fourth division football are so low that he mistook adequacy for improper behaviour. Gallimore stepped up, the crowd chuckled: those Rochdale fans don't know, do they. We do. A three-man wall melted away before his very eyes into just Reddy standing a few yards away tossing his hair from side to side. Does he or doesn't he use Harmony?

Galli was completely bamboozled; without a wall, he had no target to aim for. It's third man from the left, halfway up the right shin, isn't it? Galli walloped it straight at Williams. In a world first, a Galli free kick was on target. Well done that man. Some other Rochdaler had a shot sometime. It went wide. A bit later another one had another; it did the same, but wider still.

A couple of minutes after the Galli free kick, Whittle was booked for heading the ball. Then a bit later a Spotlander was booked for tripping Parkinson. Neither should have been booked.

Doesn't time fly by when you're enjoying yourself? I'd rather be listening to an old man talk about drainage in Ashby-cum-Fenby.

Inept defending by Town allowed Rochdale to pull them apart down the left, space created by the lack of full-backs. Gordon stayed in the centre as Crowe ambled about. Some bloke in blue got to the bye-line, crossed, and no other bloke in blue got near the ball as it drifted across the face of goal. They should have scored; they never looked like doing so. Usually the Pontoon rages, but it sat back, detached from this pageant of poorness taking place in a field nearby.

Finally, half time neared and we could all be let out on parole for 15 minutes. We had behaved ourselves; couldn't they let us out for longer? The Rochdale keeper appeared to take the ball out of his area when a dinked through ball zipped along as Parkinson approached. Edwards raced out to his left and from a perfect angle 120 yards away it looked like he kept hold of the ball for at least a yard. Nothin' doing from the officials.

Bertos wasted a breakaway for them when Whittle backed off then stood his ground, whisking the ball off the Kiwi's fruity foot about 10 yards out. Whittle looked up and whacked the ball straight back to Rochdale. In the last minute Sestanovich curled a beautiful pass diagonally over the back of their defence. Crowe zoomed in behind their full-back and chested the ball to Edwards.

Yes, celebrate. It's half time.

Town were awful, with only Pinault of the front players being consistently adequate. The defence was rarely awoken from their slumbers, though Williams still managed to cause mild peril with his inability to kick the ball. In the entire half their goalkeeper made one save. Rochdale did exactly what it said on their tin - 'hard-working'. They ran around, they tackled, they stood in the way. It was enough. Town played like they thought opponents had a duty to allow them to paint pretty patterns on the Blundell Park canvas. Only Jackson Pollock could get away with chucking it about willy-nilly.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Sounds like your car needs some colonic irrigation."
"We're making Galli look composed."
"I saw Dave Worthington selling ice creams down the Prom. He looked happy."
"How did the same eleven beat Wigan?"
"One of them doesn't like football and the other collects tropical fish."

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time.

Rochdale had the ball for five minutes. Nothing happened.

The growls started. Russ hadn't heard the Grimsby grumble before; he'll have to get used to it if he can't enthuse his players to move their limbs. In the 5First minute Parkinson flibbled free down the right after a seducing stroke of the ball from Pinault. Reddy, for once, didn't jog in a straight line. He ran across and behind the central defenders on the edge of the area and Parky prodded the ball through. Reddy raced on, drifted wide and from a narrow angle flashed a shot just above the angle of post and bar. It excited the singing ringing corner.

Isn't their keeper small. Nice to see hooped socks making a comeback, very 1960s.

Ah, that's better, two Town players moving at the same time, and one of them was Sestanovich, doing his thing, drifting in from the touchline, past a couple of bouncy castles and just missing. This time a stretching chip, which went about a foot over. Don't get off your seat; he'd lost control and it was never going in. Sounds better than it was, a bit like a mime artist with a vacuum cleaner.

Around this time a spell of Rochdale pressure ended with a shot from outside the area. The ball just crept underneath the bar keeping the scoreboard up and, as it sailed through to the lunching Lancastrians, an inflatable man flew across to make a surreal save. The novelty David James missed and someone had a packed lunch knocked from their lap. Novelty David Jameses are the latest craze to sweep through football. Even Sven has one.

Reddy bandage slipped from knee to shin.

After about 10 minutes Town gave away a silly corner. A long ball slipped off the top of Whittle's head and Williams failed to reach it in time. Over came the corner from their left, up went Burgess at the far post. The ball glided gently towards the bottom left corner, but Macca's ageing knees kneed the ball away to safety. I don't know where Williams was. I think he was on the pitch, but I wouldn't be able to swear an affidavit on that point.

Now this was something to talk about. Pinault, the one twinkling star in the night, polished a pass to Parkinson, setting the scouse scamp free in the centre. Parky sprinted to the right, taking on the final defender. Into the area, a blue boot flailed, the ball went past, Parkinson felled. Penalty! As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer. Errr, no. Parkinson got up and carried on, flashing a cross through a thicket of legs. Top marks for sportsmanship, but that's all.

On the hour Galli's mind turned to mush again. He usually goes bonkers when we're 4-0 down. Reddy and Gallimore had a pushing, shoving, gnarling wrestle in front of the Police Box. Was it something Reddy said? Did he call him a Town 'legend'? That's not quite what the Pontoon sang.

With Galli distracted by the red mists of time, Reddy burst down the right, carried on into the penalty and hit the bye-line. He peered into the distance and espied a monochrome warrior, somewhere near the Waltham Toll Bar roundabout. He waited and waited. Being a lonely soul, he tired of waiting and cracked a cross through the six-yard box. It hit a defender. A moment of hope extinguished.

Bald men with heads like turnips should not wear wrap-around sunglasses. It's a fashion faux pas, and just the sort of thing that the safety officer had in mind when he launched the instant text message service to inform the police of unsavoury ne'er-do-wells in the crowd. Text 07821 490519 next time you see someone wearing floral prints and a baseball cap. Sorry, I got distracted. So easy when bog all is going on.

After about 20 minutes Sestanovich, the beefy butterfly, was replaced by the Parkinson clone, Chris Williams. He looks like Handy Andy Pandy Parky , he plays like Handy Andy Pandy Parky: a scampy scurrier, grafting head down like Eddie The Eagle Saunders. We like people who try, and try he did. He kept running into the adults, but he did cause some consternation and confusion with his persistence.

Erm, I just lost 10 minutes of my life.

At some point Williams flapped at a corner, or was it a cross. Well, something or other. The ball was in the air and he missed it. Par for the course. You know, he hadn't had to make a proper save yet. And neither had Edwards. Are you interested in Gordon's 40-yard dribbler? If you are, you shouldn't be. What about Williams' shot? You are? Well, Williams had a shot. He miscontrolled the ball through three tackles in the middle, about 30 yards out, and rather panicked when he'd got to the edge of the penalty area. There was a big space for him to aim precisely, but he hit a hurried shot which wobbled straight into Edwards' stomach. Hurrah, Edwards had to make a save! One where he didn't have enough time to bake some scones and ring his Auntie Maureen to apologise for forgetting her birthday.

With 13 minutes left Ramsden was replaced by Coldicott. Town's formation changed. There appeared to be four at the back, though whether this was a reality only the gnomes of Zurich can tell. The rest of the team was some people up front generally, and some in the middle, sort of.

A couple of minutes after the substitution the perils of Pauline struck. The Town defence widdled about passing sideways to each other just inside the Town half. The ball was eventually rolled back to Williams, who did an appalling fly kick straight to Clarke, just inside the Town half. The ball was lofted back over the top of the Town defence, dropping around Whittle on the centre right. Jibbering Justin allowed the ball to bounce behind him and Holt bundled past, chested the ball down and cracked a low drive across Williams and into the bottom left corner from just inside the penalty area.

Reddy's bandage slipped even further from shin to ankle, accurately reflecting the mood. A mark of respect in a period of mourning.
The growls morphed into grumbles and groans, especially as Town players suddenly became incapable of controlling the ball. McDermott was the most guilty, having a personal disaster, matched in his dreadfulness by Crowe, who wasn't even running quickly in a straight line any more. If he can't do that, what else is there to his game?

Sure, Town threw the ball and bodies forward. There were frequent moments of potentially almost shots. But it was clueless, shapeless, desperate fourth division nonsense. Creativity eschewed in favour of fervour. Reddy, at last, ran quickly, bulldozing past a defender on the left, surging into the area. All alone, naturally. He awaited the cavalry, but the Rochdale Cowboys were there en masse, snuffing out danger through sheer weight, and weight of numbers.

Pressure mounted, crosses were twittered, shots were not made as players timidly sought to pass the buck, and the ball. Town crosses were cleared, and cleared again, and Coldicott lofted the ball over the top as the Rochdale defence hung around the edge of the penalty area like disaffected youth on the village green. They'll be driving knackered old Escorts around town next. The ball bounced free for Parkinson to turn and flash his right boot at it. A free shot, eight yards out and just wide of goal. Sit down and duck at the back of the Pontoon. The ball swayed off his left boot, curling, curving, cavorting into the darkest regions of the stand. A Pinault corner from the left curled into the near post, straight to Reddy, just five yards out. Reddy seemed surprised and was easily outjumped by Burgess. Rochdale broke away but wasted the chance to stick the stilettoed boot in to the complacent underbelly of Town.

In the last minute Williams was tickled free down the centre right. Inside the area he turned and completely mis-hit a cross. Or was it a shot? The ball looped up soft and gentle, like Fairy liquid, bouncing like a baby onto the top of the crossbar. If you wish, you can convince yourself that Town were unlucky, hitting the woodwork in the last minute. It's up to you, but stand by for someone calling you a fool if you do.

It ended. The players trouped off as the supporters turned their backs and walked out without comment. Town had been pathetic, by a zillion miles the worst performance of the season. Many of the forward players were either injured or too cocky, conserving their energy for greater foes. The Town players seemed to take Rochdale far too lightly and were unable to match their opponents for concerted effort or connected teamwork. A team of very, very ordinary individuals stuck to a limited game plan and triumphed. In short, they did to us what Town have done for years to teams like Birmingham and Wolves. Keep it tight, bore the pants off 'em and you may be lucky. Can't blame 'em for that, but we can blame our players.

I suppose Town were due a stinker. We can only hope that any smug self-satisfaction about the overwhelming superiority of Grimsby Town has been launched up their collective derrière, like an enema.

Town got what they deserved. Now we fans deserve something back in return for our patience.

Bored after reading all that? Well, you now know what it felt to watch it. Pain should be shared.

Nicko's man of the match
Only two candidates: Pinault, the occasional flashing blade, and Ramsden for another calm display. This time the secret cabal has voted for Simon Ramsden. The moment he walked off, we conceded. It rather speaks for itself, that one, doesn't it.

Markie's un-men of the match
A joint award to McDermott and Crowe. They were terrible. Poor Johnny: one bad game when you're 35 is enough for the doubters to squeal. Crowe had no redeeming qualities today. He doesn't know why his left foot is attached to his body.

Official warning
Oddly, a few people called him Phillip Norton, but as the programme says it was Mr Woolmer, I'll stick with that. It's not easy being green, I know, but he was a bit rubbish. Not a relevant presence for the first 30 minutes, he suddenly woke up and decided to inject some life into the proceedings with some daft decisions. Booking Whittle being the most obviously stupid decision. And how do you play advantage? See a foul on the halfway line, let play continue, then give the foul when Rochdale kick the ball out for a Town corner? The Spotlanders in the Osmond moaned a bit too; can't remember why and frankly, my dear, I don't give a Galli.

In the modern age, numbers are important. My random number generator comes out with the following: 4.754. The bonus number this week is 0.008. There was one lucky winner in the Blundell Park lottery.