Any old iron

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

23 April 2005

Grimsby Town 0 Scunthorpe United 0

The tax man's taken all our dough and left us in the this stately football home: Cleethorpes on a sunny afternoon. Sun, sand and that Grimsby wind flying into the Pontoon, making the trippers mince in their cravats and hush puppies. A sea of bubbling claret greeted the Town fans, the entire Osmond End covered in local produce and balloons, the temporary seating 'twixt Pontoon and Main Stand virtually full, the auld ground a heaving mass of Lincolnshire liposuction.

The hibernation was over: this was the Battle of the Blands.

Town lined up in a 5-3-2 formation as follows: Williams, McDermott, Whittle, Forbes, Jones, Bull, Fleming, Crowe, Pinault, Gritton, Parkinson. The substitutes were Crane, Downey, Reddy, Ramsden and Heggarty. You can tell by now who played where; no egg sucking required, surely? A load of gristly haslet with a little French dressing. Well, the transfer deadline has passed so Rantin' Russ couldn't sign "any woman from the street" to fill in for Stacy C. Pinault was given an extra-special reception when his name was announced; the clapometer suggests he'll be back next week. Ah, Glen Downey, back by popular demand. We've missed his stylish sitting. Nobody does it better.

No Dish of the Day. Not even Players' Tipples. How do we know what to make for tonight's high society dinner party? The Town nation demands!

Scunthorpe United played in all yellow. Butler was wearing a blue golf visor. The pitch and putt is further down, mate, and take your mashie niblick with you; we've seen enough of Torpey's elbows already. Oh, he's got blue splodges in his hair. How stylish and elegant.

The Scunthorpe fans hate curry, apparently.

There weren't any ballboys. Part of Slade's master plan, we presume, to keep the tempo down to a soporific 4/4. Now is the hour.

First half
They, them, "the others", kicked off towards the Osmond Stand. Don't worry - they gave it straight to Town. Hayes, trying to be clever, twizzled around and ran straight down the middle, but only into Fleming and Crowe. Don't do clever, it doesn't work matey, stick to your basic bashings and clashings, it's what you do best.

Ooh, perky Parky pesters a pickled pepper. A diagonal run to the left, past three festering gherkins, into the area… excitement… expectation… a goal kick. Parkinson kicked the ball straight out when trying to circumnavigate the globe known as Crosby without the aid of modern satellite technology. He'd forgotten that when the Moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars. And, let's be honest, haven't we all?

What happened next? A dog ran on and headed the ball into the empty net as Musselwhite adjusted his shorts? Not quite, though Musselwhite does suffer from VPL. They really should use lower temperatures when washing his kit: too much shrinkage doesn't do an old man any favours.

Beagrie was clobbered by two Townites and tossed his pancake in anger. Oo-er, look at little missy hissy over there. Calm down, dear - it's just a commercial for fourth division football. Beagrie floated the free kick to the far post, Whittle rose like a giant redwood above privet hedge Hayes and winked the ball away. Hayes remained on the ground, clutching his hair. Scunthorpe fans murmured and play continued until Town kicked the ball out. A long delay, during which someone realised that Roy Orbison was dead. And did we have a minute's silence to commemorate this? Just count the hours of silence we've had this season as our very special tribute.

The Scunthorpe fans hate Cardiff now, apparently. At last, something to agree upon.

Pffft. Torpey, on their left, fooled the ref by crumbling under a particularly intense stare from Whittle. While Town were growling the referee allowed the free kick to be taken quickly, from the wrong place and with the ball still rolling. Déjà vu? Noooo. Ridley clipped a cross in low and flat to the middle of the area. Hayes, perhaps ten yards out at the near post, tossed his head from left to right, let the ball kiss his forehead, and watched it saunter across the face of goal beyond the far post as Torpey lumbered near. Serious questions were asked in the Town defence. Does he or doesn't he use Harmony hairspray?

Six minutes gone, just like that.

Ah, the referee, beginning to annoy with his inconsistent approach to male bonding. He clearly saw Scunthorpe as the alpha male in this relationship. Sexist pig!

Pinault dinked towards Macca, a corner to Town. Monsieur Hulot took the corner, which was half- cleared back to him, and he shaped to score a wonderful dipping volley into the top right corner. Luckily it hit a defender, thus remaining inside Lincolnshire and inside Blundell Park.

Ping-pong and some hopalong inside the area with the ball eventually falling to Whittle, 20 yards out, who scraped a low slow shot goalwards. Musselwhite finished off his mackerel roulade before dealing with matters. Whittle received a late boot for his troubles, a defender blocking. He received treatment and recovered fully before being ordered off the pitch by the referee and not allowed back on until Scunthorpe had almost finished their next attack.

Fleming, just in front of the opposition manager's dug-out, performed a full-blooded, full-frontal sliding tackle, slaying Baraclough, but winning the ball. The amateur dramatician rolled around and around, waving his neckerchief and demanding revenge for the Bloody Murder of the Foul Prince Romero. Fleming was booked. Foul Prince Romero got up and ran off.

Have we forgotten about Brian Laws? Or maybe we don't wish to feed his ego. You're history, ancient history, just one of many failures; we have so many to pick from we're spoiled for choice.

The Scunthorpe fans hate coffee now. Perhaps they aren't enunciating their vowels. They don't talk proper like what we do.

Have you got it yet? Not much happening, just the usual sturm und drang of a neighbourhood watch committee meeting. Football? Forget it, it's all about posturing, posing and not prettiness. Clang, clang, clang, went the trolley; ding, ding, ding, went the bell. But the bell ain't tolling just yet for thee, Mr Slade.

A couple of uninteresting crosses from both sides now. Almost, perhaps, not quite, nothing of consequence, just dreams and schemes in front of a circus crowd. A header here, a hoof there, defenders ascendant. "Get into them". A Bull raid, one flick, into the box, down to earth under an invisible tackle. You gotta be crazy to expect anyone to give that. Hey, refs eh? No harm trying. Bull again, sent free by a superb Jones pass. The ball carundling down the touchline. On and on and on it went, Bull inches away, feet away, a familiar final Devon Lock plunge.

You're not interested in Jones' header are you? Pinault took a free kick from the Town right, Jones at the far post glanced the ball well wide and high. Look, I did tell you that you wouldn't be interested.

How long has this been going on? Thirty of your English minutes. We're still waiting for the train.

A free kick to them; for what? Who knows. Way out on their right, way on down deep inside the Town half. Swung in flat to the middle of the goal, lots of yellowbellies darting, monochrome mumblings and Butler, in the centre ten or so yards out, stooped and looped a header straight at Williams. Now that, sirs, was a chance.

The tannoy demanded that the green seat sitters stop standing up. Yeah, you're blocking the views of the adverts. I need some industrial flooring right now and I just don't know who the specialists are. It's an emergency!

Oh, codheads - they hate codheads. We're not particularly well disposed towards Hullites either.

Ooh, you dirty little chipmunk. Baraclough, arriving 13 years too late to tackle Crowe, who was left face down in the dirt. Fleming and Forbes manhandled bilking Baraclough away. We wouldn't give him tuppence for his old watch chain. Twice they had breaks where Town were devoid of humans on the right. Twice Kell decided to pirouette into Crowe. Ah, that vision thing. They don't know what they're in for if they go up: nine months of Chinese water torture. It'll be fun for us, in its own way.

And finally, Cyril, after 38 minutes a Town chance; the first real effort on goal. Gritton was dinkled free down the inside right. Into the area, shimmering through the haze, shaking and shovelling his way past two defenders, staggering as he stumbled and shinned the ball yards wide, ignoring Parkinson unmarked at the far post. And why not. Gritton never looked like he had control of his own legs, let alone the ball; he dribbled like a dissolving jelly, though some kindly folk thought he was dancing like Salome. Or was it salami?

Another minute another chance. Pinault chipped the ball up the right and Macca raced forward, but slowed as he saw Butler and Ridley converge upon the falling star. They didn't put it in their pocket, for Butler glanced the ball back towards, but not to VPL Musselwhite. Gritton surged towards the ball and, about a dozen yards out on the right, poked it high past the grey goose. The ball lobbed across the face of goal and beyond Parky into a huge unmanned space. Crowe sprinted forward, leapt up and, from about six yards out, tried an extravagant, flamboyant scissor-kick volley. Crosby hurled himself at Crowe and the ball crawled over the crossbar by millimetres, with Musselwhite still pondering the effects of the spring tide upon Spurn Point. In fashionable circles they say Crowe blaxed the ball over.

From the goal kick Town retrieved possession, the ball trumbling to Parkinson about 35 yards out. He spun and hit a speculative, but spectacular, dipping volley. Musselwhite was pulled from his shell to race back towards his line, reach and superbly tip the ball over the crossbar. A corner, pressure, nothing to report. Two minutes of added time. Nothing to report.

There you are: a clash of titans, much thunder, but very little lightning. They had two efforts, Town had three, the rest was midfield British bulldogs. No-one was awful - save for Bull's idiosyncratic approach to controlling a football - with Town's back three very strong. They had to be, for Torpey had a referee who was lenient towards his leanings, and he made the most of his freedom to make scones. Their left-back, Ridley, could chuck long throws, but do little else. The Riddler was a source of optimism for Town. As at Blandford Park, two rather mundane teams, with one collectively more effective than the other. Town seemed to be playing off the cuff as an attacking force, but they were wearing short sleeves.

Good game of footer between the kids at half time though. They passed, they moved. Hope the adults were watching.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"We get all our vegetables from Banana Bob."
"Torpey has invisible elbows."
"I wanted a haircut from the seventies, but there weren't any."
"Fleming's eating Kell's boots."
"You won't mention my shoe, will you?"

Second half
Taylor replaced the twittering, ephemeral Sparrow at half time. And Laws seemed to have been awake during the first half, for they attacked live and exclusively down the Town left. You don't think they thought Bull was a weak link, do you?

The game was the still same: midfield macho meanderings punctuated by occasional flashes of attacking adequacy. In Town's case that attacking adequacy is relative, but then the world needs to escape the tyranny of orthodoxy to embrace relativism. Dare to think! But that doesn't include playing centre-halves as wing-backs, Russ.

Jones injured, hobbling, creaking.

At last, something in the way that chick moves. Taylor gambolled away down their right with Bull flailing, but not ailing. A cross, deep, deep, deep, beyond the far post. Williams shuffled out, reached high to the heavens and fingertipped the ball away. Whittle wrestled with Torpey as the ball bounced, Williams ambled up and tapped the ball away from Rupert and Gerald, grappling by the fireplace. The Town fans were not so casual or confident in Williams' diffident prodding.

The digitally enhanced, super surround sound scoreboard showed 49 minutes had gone.

The next ten minutes were quite cool for Townites, for Scunthorpe were rarely seen near to the Pontoon, contenting themselves in their night-shift job: bouncers on the door at the ankletappers and shunters club. All through the game they confidently clipped Town ankles when possession was lost, barged a monochrome warrior aside without fear of punitive action. The accumulation of incidents began to gall. Better stop sobbing about spilt milk and get back to the game.

Macca raided and controlled the ball out of play with a Bullian leaping splits right in front of the Scunthorpe fans. Gritton almost replayed his Meadow Lane magnificence, spinning down the left, twisting past two, but kicking the ball out of play when Butler arrived. There you are, the highlights are Town miscontrolling twice. Oh, and a decent Town move involving Parkinson and Gritton ended when McDermott crossed behind Pinault. Town nearly got inside the Scunny area. We were so impressed.

Macca limping, Ramsden ready to come on. Macca waved away such thoughts. His leg is still attached! Be away with you!

Gliddy glub gloopy nibby nabby noopy la la la - lo lo sabba sibbi sabba nooby aba naba lee lee - lo lo tooby ooby wala nooby aba naba early morning singing song. A shot! Some obbly-bobbly nipping and knocking between Kell and Hayes ended with a spin and shot, from outside the area, on their centre left. Looked good, wasn't close.

And from this moment Scunthorpe took charge, forcing Town back with looping curls over the top, behind the wing-backs. Corner after corner, drifting across the face of goal. From their left, over Williams, along the goal line, missing Torpey. From their right, over Williams, over Butler. From their left, bouncing through the six-yard box. And again, and again. The game being played on Town's goal line, but the ball sailing over, waving to the prawns below. Town players starting to rattle and roll each other. Williams mugged at every corner, the referee ignoring the back alley confrontations. Williams and Fleming bawling at each other as a corner was being taken. Music and passion was always the fashion at the Copa; they fell in love. Sort it Flemsey!

Hayes off, Rankine on; then McGritton off, O'Reddy on. Twenty minutes left. Still no sign of a Town shot. Pinault briefly alive, for he had an outlet, someone making moves when he had the ball. But Reddy was always offside. Sigh.

The Pontoon was restless, the first cuckoo of this spring day, Scunthorpe relentlessly tapping on the door, demanding entry. Jones legged up Taylor, a free kick 25 yards out, on their right. Williams quaking, the Town fans shaking as a collection of black and white striped straws bent in the wind. Beagrie sidled up and curled the ball at shoulder height straight into the wall. Or he would have if the wall had existed in anything but theory. It parted to allow the ball to clipp a Town shoulder and wibble a foot or so wide of the left post. A goalkick was given and the Pontoon was delighted, for we saw, we heard, we knew that it should have been a corner.

And with one bound he was free to go home and have a hot bath and cream bun: Beagrie was substituted. Young Sir Macca had dealt with him. He could have a hot bun and cream bath for all we cared.

With less than 10 minutes to go Scunthorpe tightened the bolt a bit further, with more corners and free kicks. Crosses in, out, Town shaken all about. A corner from the right was bazoomed goalwards by Butler's blue bonce. Williams arched his back and flipped the ball over the bar. Excellent save, but the ball was probably just going to crawl over anyway. Still, why take a chance, take a chance, take a-take a-chan-chance. Honey you'll be free in the summer.

Fleming, on the Town left, appalling, clearing the ball through the penalty area directly to a yellowboy, then hanging around at the back, keeping all onside. Then not bothering to turn and chase the ball as it was plopped back over his head. Rankine raddled free; Forbes saved the day with a sublime interception. A minute later another sumptuous Forbes glide to pick Taylor's pocket.

Look around you, what do you see? Any evidence of Town having a shot? Well, look again, for after years of development Town have unveiled their first effort of the millennium. With just six minutes left Parkinson flickered on the left, snickered infield past two defenders and dribbled a mis-hit shot towards Musselwhite's right post. He was almost too embarrassed to pick it up. He's getting paid for this? Feeling better? Town had a shot. If it had gone in it would have been a goal. Can't argue with that, can you.

Wahey, back they come. Crosses galore and Torpey's turn to glance the ball over from the centre of the penalty area. More crosses, more corners, more long throws, more pressure; Town fans getting ratty, nervous, expecting Calamity Jane to come through the doors. Foul throw! Foot on the pitch, corner taken from outside the quadrant. My boomerang won't come back. Are you watching, linesman?

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum: Town players actually set foot, actually, into the actual penalty area that Musselwhite actually stood in. Parkinson crossed from the left, high, hanging, Macca tippling the ball back in towards the near post. Pinault leapt up and tried an overhead kick. The ball went several yards further wide than this lord was a-leaping. It was a very stylish piece of nonsense though.

Two minutes of added time and more bustling pressure from the rabbits. Blow the whistle, end the game. Stop, that's enough. You can go home now. Oh, Jason Crowe already has, off the pitch quicker than the police horses came on, not even stopping for a perfunctory vague wave at the home support. He used to play for Arsenal, you know.

This was a less dreadful version of the game in November with Town slightly better defensively and the ref not quite so bonkers. Scunny are what they are; nothing fancy, no frills, but at least they know what they are, what they are supposed to be doing. But what's puzzling us is the nature of our game. We might have more sympathy for the Russ if we could work it out. How do we expect to score goals? We haven't seen a Town goal at Blundell Park since 26 February.

This season is like Orson Welles' life: starting with flawed genius and ending in cheap sherry and ponchos. Still, there is absolutely nothing left to worry about, though we may end up rooting for the Roots Hall men at this rate. There is only next year now. The gardening beckons.

Nicko's man of the match
It's the now usual candidates. Forbes was groundmunchingly imperious again, but the most prominent defender was Rob Jones. Sometimes you do get to be MoM simply for heading the ball a lot. And Whittle was pretty damn fine too.

Markie's un-man of the match
Once upon a time there was a black and white Bull, very sad because he was a black and white Bull. Every day, alone in the meadow, he'd find wingers to charge, 'til one day he really imagined, that his horns were large. Then he fell over.

Official warning
I wouldn't like to stay in Mr Bates' motel. He got in the way, literally and metaphorically, and got more in our way than theirs. There were two distinct periods when he decided Town players could not invade the Ironmongers' personal space, let alone touch them. He wibbled slightly on his toadstool by giving some poor decisions on goal kicks and corners, but generally wasn't pro-Town. He gets a very mediocre 4.978. Oh and another thing - handballs, no idea at all. He even gave one for Town when Parky caught the ball.