Absent friends

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

30 October 2004

Grimsby Town 1 Swansea City 1

A searingly hot afternoon in Ron Ramsden's car park turned to a hazy afternoon in the Pontoon. What is wrong with the weather? It's supposed to be murky and moanworthy this time of year, not bright and warm. The Pontoon had its winter woollies on, even long johns. Of course the Main Standers would have longer johns, wouldn't they. Around 100-150 Swanovians puffed out their chests in the Osmond. They were loud and proud; they were here - just get used to it, why don't you.

Town lined up in the 3-4-3 formation as follows: Williams, Whittle, Forbes, Jones, Crowe, Fleming, Coldicott, Gordon, Parkinson, Reddy and Daly. The substitutes were Fraser, Bull, Cramb, Pinault and Marcelle. Feeling miserable already? A cultural desert: Pinaultless and unSestanoviched, who would be the creator? Who would pass? Would they bother trying? Urgh, it wasn't going to be pretty. Hang on, hang on. Where's Transit Stan? Last seen flouncing out of Cleethorpes, according to the latecomers listening to lilting David Burns. Oh dear. How apt that he's sponsored by Toni and Guy Hairdressers. Or maybe it was the only time they could fit him in. Priorities, eh.

Three of the advertisement boards were missing from above the Main Stand. Can't Fenty be bothered to get up a ladder these days, now he's Mr Chairman? Perhaps he should spend some time peering at the programme, Simon Ramsdon? And how many 'n's in Glennnnnnnnnn Downey, the mythological creature that Town forgot?

Swansea warmed up with some vigour and vim by the players tunnel, looking large, but without too much fourth division hair. Even Trundle had had it cut. They are obviously serious about promotion then. Swansea played in a simple but effective red shirts and white shorts number. Town reverted to red socks, thus pleasing the crusty, middle-aged 31-year-old traditionalists out there. I spoke too soon: Gary Monk had a proto-fluffy mullet, with Ricketts a couple of weeks' growth behind him in the hair bear stakes.

As kick off approached both teams got in a huddle. It's so passé, everybody's doing it these days. Aloof indifference will be the next fashionable thing. Argh, we did that last spring, didn't we.

Dish of the day: Rob Jones' steak and chips. We can't class tomato ketchup as a vegetable, apparently, so it has to be peas. You can't go wrong with peas.

First half
One of the teams kicked off, Town kicked towards the Osmond End.

Sorry, what was that? Did I miss something? Fifteen minutes! Fifteen minutes before either side had what a generous observer would call a shot. Daly twisted in the centre and slapped a shot 17 yards wide. Sure, there were moments when something might have almost happened. Parkinson miskicked 20 yards out and, er, well, the ref was annoying. Swansea passed the ball to each other, tapping out a rhythm with Martinez the conductor, Trundle the virtuoso fiddler. They fumbled around beautifully until the edge of the Town penalty area. Well, well, well, isn't that familiar? We'd left the sexy part of our orchestra on the bench; Town were all trombone and cellos - a cacophony. We prefer Beethoven to Stockhausen, Mr Sladen. Williams made a point of rolling the ball out to the centre-backs, but what was the point? It just meant someone else lamped the ball upfield willy-nilly.

Trundle was sinking into the space between the so-called midfield enforcers and back three, being allowed to turn and gather up some momentum. Only a Coldicott hooking slide-tackle stopped him near the edge of the penalty area as danger loomed. Well done, Yard Dog; that's what you're supposed to do. He did one more during the half, but the rest of the time he was as ineffective as Fleming. It was hard to tell who was worse. They offered nothing going forward and provided little protection in defence, the constant pigs in the middle.

Don't mention Jason Crowe. It is possible to tire of seeing him cut infield and chip delightfully weighted passes to the Swansea keeper with his left foot.

Isn't that John Redwood down there in a powder blue jumper?

Thankfully the referee was bored too and decided to spice up our lives with decisions as bad as his hair. Reddy knocked the ball out for a throw-in at the Pontoon end of the Stones/Findus/Smiths stand. Of course it 's a free kick to Swansea. A minute or so later, down by the corner flag, Whittle was boombled about by Connor. Whittle got his body between man and ball, was wrestled aside and the linesman flagged for a Town free kick. The referee, ideally positioned in his chalet near the Boating Lake, gave Swansea a free kick. Much moanage, much danger, Jones skimmed the cross away for a corner.

Much more moanage, much more danger as Town took a laissez-faire attitude to defending, leaving Leon Britton alone on the edge of the area, in the centre. The corner was headed out straight to him and his shot was deflected to Trundle, eight yards out. Phew, an alert linesman at last. Offside.

Leon Britton? Are we being plagued by former Conservative cabinet ministers? Come to think of it, the referee had Margaret Thatcher's hair, and her attitude to social justice.

Half an hour gone. Felt like three days.

Did someone stick an electric cattle prod in Town? Suddenly the leviathan awoke. Three passes, Parkinson tapping the ball through, Reddy behind the defence, Gueret off his line, Reddy falling, linesman flagging. Eventually. Another minute, another Town attack. Ping-pong passing, Crowe looping something goalwards from the edge of the area. The ball curled gracefully over the bar. Jones firmly headed straight at Gueret from a free kick on the right. See what passing does?

See what sleeping does? Swansea broke away quickly, Town conceded a corner. Britton wandered towards the corner of the penalty area, no-one bothered. The ball was tapped to the tiny tot, who dribbled goalwards and swished a low drive into the side netting from a narrow angle and just a few yards out. Wakey-wakey.

And the same to them. Town got a free kick out on the right and simply tapped it infield to Gordon, about 35 yards out. He did his thing, taking one stride and wobbling a smacker goalwards. Gueret's feet went left, the ball swerved to his right, his hands wibbled and wafted about his face, punching the ball clear spectacularly. Well, he is French.

Back to Snoozeville.

Swansea had an attack. The ball was crossed, Connor glanced it a couple of feet wide. Silence in the studio. Half time.

Short, but not sweet. No jokes, because it was no joke watching this utterly dire entertainment. Both sides appeared happy to be destructive, to hope something would turn up. For the second home game running the opposition had been superior passers, with Town direct and unthreatening. It was like watching a Nicky Law side: lots of energy, no élan.

Feel free to let out a primal scream at this point.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Do you parboil before coating in oil?"
"I got in for free and I still want my money back."
"I think my dad booked Clive Webb for the folk club - and he was barmy."
"Just because we're in the fourth doesn't mean we have to play like Scunny."
"Perhaps Sestanovich has a leaking radiator."

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

Within 30 seconds Town had ripped through Swansea and happiness was on the horizon. A thrust, repulsed, Daly suddenly sent free on the centre right behind the defence and bearing down on goal. Gueret raced off his line and Daly tried to bend the ball around him with the outside of his right boot, about 15 yards out. The keeper flung himself to his right and superbly parried the ball, which looped invitingly into the centre. Reddy rushed across and just managed to reach the ball before the sliding Monk. Reddy was felled a few inches inside the penalty area and the referee immediately pointed to the penalty spot.

The Pontoon acclaimed the stumble, but as the minutes ticked we realised he had actually been fouled, for as he was stretchered off a big gash was seen on his ankle. The Pontoon was still applauding Reddy, who was barely five yards to the left of goal, when Gordon strolled forward and rolled the penalty to Gueret's left. Gueret swept the ball aside for a corner. Many Mariners mulled over this latest pathetic penalty. Thumper Gordon tried to place it, thumper Gordon made a mistake. Whose turn is it next to miss a penalty?

Cramb replaced Reddy.

Town pressurised them, gently tightening the tourniquet around Gueret, but nothing too dangerous, mind; it's only a game. Cramb was clearly alive to the possibilities of winning a contract, for he was a non-stop blur of bleached motion, even popping up in defence to make crucial tackles.

Ooh, no, not quite, but nearly. Ah, Parkinson sent free, twisting away, drifting across from left to right, up to the edge of the penalty area. Crowe and Cramb free, Parky kept that head low and sliced a shot a yard wide of the keeper's left post. Some applauded, others raged at this wasted opportunity.

Handball! Ricketts, on the centre left of edge of the area, missed the ball as it dropped, diverting it off his left hand to a team-mate. What are we appealing for? A penalty is another way of them getting a goal kick.

At some point Swansea took off little Leon and brought on old Nugent and played with a front three. His first touch should have been a goal. Dreadfully dilatory defending from a free kick allowed Austin to waddle around the back post and head back. Jones stopped, Forbes watched, Nugent swivelled and flashed a shot into the side netting from a few yards out .

After about 55 minutes Gordon machoed his way down the left, demanding the ball. Faced by their Forbes, Gordon dinked infield, then skipped out wide, leaving their previously unseen winger on his backside. Gordon advanced, got into the area, to the bye-line and crossed perfectly in to the centre. Cramb ran around from the far post and, about eight yards out, headed firmly down past Gueret, who was going left as the ball went into the centre right of the goal. How very strange. A Town goal. How very, very strange, for it was the sort of goal Town concede, not score.

And this was the cue for Swansea to really go for Town; their front three caused havoc, their midfield hassled and Town were almost overrun. No-one could keep hold of the ball and the midfield especially was almost embarrassing in its ineptitude. The defence kept getting itself in a pickle trying to pass the parcel. They wellied when they should have passed and vice versa. Mistakes kept coming in threes. Forbes missed a cross and suddenly an unidentified object in red was free in exactly the same position that Walker of Bristol Rovers had been in two weeks ago. Again the opposition striker tried to place the ball around Williams from a dozen or so yards out. Williams seemed wrong-footed, leaping up like an electrocuted hamster rather than to the side. The ball trickled past him and... past the post. Swansea claimed a corner; a goal kick was given.

Trundle started to run at the Town defence, especially on the right, and this caused minor mayhem: only the fourth and fifth defenders stopped him. He was very Sestanovichian in his rumblings, producing heart flutters in the home fans, but, as yet, nothing tangible.

Spoke too soon? Trundle shot from 25 yards out, the ball hit a Town boot and looped up beyond the stars. Williams stuttered back, leapt up and just managed to tap the ball over the bar for a corner. Free kick to them, 30 yards out. A two-man wall, Trundle whacked, the ball zoomed straight to Williams, low to his right. He even held on to it for once.

Swansea waltzed around, often with spare men on the flanks, but rarely looking up and passing. Twenty minutes left, a Swansea cross from the left sailed through the area and away, no danger, nowhere near anyone. A striker was seen falling at the near post when the ball was already beyond the far post. No Townite thought anything of it and concentrated on the Town attack to be. How confusing for us to see the referee pointing to the penalty spot. Jones was booked, Forbes hid and I've no idea who did what. Forbes appeared to be nearest the stumbling Swan, so it may have been him. Or not. Who knows? Does the ref?

Trundle walked up, plonked the ball down and whacked it to Williams' left. Half the Pontoon roared, for Williams had gone the right way, but soon hid underneath their baseball caps as they saw the ball rolling around the back of the net.

Town continued their rather messy approach to promotion; rather speculative punting, relying on Daly the wall, Cramb the whirl and Parky the 'curl up and hide under a pebble please'. Parkinson seemed to spend the whole of the second half running into Swansea players. Ah, at last, he looks up. Sent free down the right , Parkinson hit the bye-line and fizzed a low cross into the centre. Daly slid through the centre of the six yards box, but Gueret caught the ball at his near post.

Cramb almost controlled a long ball on the right, then messed up a long ball down the left, trying to lob-volley the keeper from 20 yards when behind the defence. Daly almost reached a nice little through pass from Cramb; Gueret plucked from his toes. Gueret caught a bouncing ball, raising his foot into Daly's groin. Well, if it had been there, it would have been his groin. Get the picture? Town weren't creating but relying upon happenstance.

Deep into the half Cramb and Austin were booked for what will officially be deemed an off-the- ball incident which Arsene Wenger didn't see. Austin canoodled Cramb as the short-term Scotchman sprinted down the middle. Cramb reacted by pushing. The daytripping referee hadn't a clue what happened so took the easy way out. He only had to ask the Pontoon and we'd have told him.

Swansea had some more attacks. They looked dangerous; there were several scrambles and shots which screwed wide or were blocked. I can't be bothered to remember more about them. Perhaps the mist would creep in some more and engulf the Osmond Stand. That'd be nice and be a good excuse to end it all.

With about 10 minutes left Pinault was finally brought on for Crowe. The cabinet reshuffle saw John Redwood plucked from the stand to be the enigmatic right winger with a silly hairstyle. Or was it that Terry Fleming went to right wingish-sort-of-back-type midfielder? Pinault did a couple of passes, including a little dinker for Cramb, who raced down the right, cut in and, from about a dozen yards out, cracked a low shot goalwards. Gueret saved, pushing it out to the centre. Fleming got a little too excited and volleyed over an almost open goal from about 15 yards out. He could have passed it to Pinault or Daly but he didn't. Ball into top row of Pontoon.

From a free kick about 40 yards out from the Swansea goal the ball was dimpled in to the centre of the penalty area. Whittle was hauled down as the ball neared. No penalty. Not that anyone was that bothered about getting one; we'd rather not have our hopes raised falsely. As added time approached a Swansea player headed over from close in to the Town goal. So what.

Three minutes of added time were given, which was less than the hold-up for Reddy's injury, but there you are. I am assured by those close to me that during this period I was awake. I therefore did not dream that Coldicott almost scored from 40 yards out. Well, when I say 'nearly', I actually mean it was not beyond the limits of the present laws of probability. Gueret, on the left of his area, fluffed a punt straight to Stacy who took one touch and lobbed the ball a yard or so wide of the left post. Look, it was Stace; no-one remotely considered the possibility that it would actually go in.

Thank goodness for that, it's over, we can get on with the rest of our lives. Some people have cucumbers to cultivate.

Was it that bad? Yes, in one way. Swansea were sufficiently competent to easily repel what was sent out in our name. They spent about an hour content to pose in midfield, but when they attacked Town wilted. But they still only managed a couple of shots on target all game. Swansea appeared to be just about the best team Town have faced so far, about on a par with Bristol Rovers, but they weren't frightening in any way. Town were just, well, rubbish, which isn't surprising when the players of distinction were absent - two by choice of the manager. He selected a team that probably wouldn't lose, rather than one that could win. Town will remain in mid-table with that attitude.

If that starting XI turns up next Saturday then Scunthorpe will be happy, and the fans won't be. I'd rather not think about this game again. Delete from memory bank. Press Y for yes. Are you sure? You have successfully erased the Swansea game. Do you wish to continue?

Nicko's man of the match
Sir John McDermott, in absentia. The best one could say for anyone on the pitch was that they were all right. Cramb, perhaps, for his impact, Daly was okay for an hour or so until he tired. Gordon didn't do anything wrong. Apart from missing a penalty. Erm, erm, erm, excuse me while I meditate... no, I stick by John McDermott; you don't realise how much we need you, we could never really live without you.

Official warning
Yes, Mr M Cowburn did officiate like a bovine backside. Why he made decisions no-one knows. Without the aid of computer-generated illustrations it isn't possible for faraway Pontoonites to establish why he gave Swansea a penalty. He liked to book players, especially for dissent, and one never was sure what would happen next. Was he sleeping too? The slide rule and sextant are out, and the triangle of trash says the tangent of trouble equals the opposite of obvious over the adjacent to actuality, 4.744. We'd sure like to pull the trigonometry on him.