Whatever happened to the likely lads?

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

9 April 2005

Grimsby Town 0 Whoever 0

A blustery, cold afternoon in Comedy Central, with around 150 Wycombites wrapped up tight inside their frilly nylons down at the Osmond end. It was so quiet we could hear them yawn.

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, Downey, Bull and Heggarty. Ramsden was, as trailed to the incredulous populace, at left wing-back, with Crowe somewhere in the middle of the middle, piddling about. And Parkinson was up front with the shrinking violet.

Some will try to say it was 3-5-2, but that's a very thin whitewash applied to a crumbling garden wall. Count them: there were nine defensive players in the Town team, with three more on the bench. Now that's the way to get the crowds back. No Pinault, so no passing. Russ had left the cake out in the rain; I don't think the fans can take it, 'cause it took so long to bake it, and we may never have that recipe again.

Justin Whittle wore a pink tie; before the game, obviously, not during it, for that would be entertaining, which will not do.

To Grimsby a travelling circus came. They brought an intelligent elephant and Claridge was his name. They also had Bo and Luke Duke's midfield general Robert E Lee moonshinin' in the middle. Oh yeah, and that Tyson bloke; scores lots of goals, supposedly fast, blah, blah. Hang on - did you say "goals," Bert? What are these things you call "goals"?

Dish of the Day? Like this season, it has disappeared up its own alimentary canal. Today's it's players' tipples again, with Russell Slade driven to drink by March madness. He likes a pint of bitter. How appropriate for the mood.

First half
Wycombe kicked off towards the Pontoon, interrupting a hundred conversations about a hundred disparate matters. No need to worry about a thing. So did you read the G(E)T on Friday? Man eats breakfast, riot police called. There's a lesson for us all here: never wave a wooden pig at a policeman, nor taunt them with cartons of milk. Something must be done about milk: that lactose rush really kicked in.

Football? Nah, don't bother, come back in five minutes.

Two teams hanging like a striped pair of pants.

I said five minutes. Go away, my mind is wandering. You have to amuse yourself somehow.

Ah, hello again. A Town corner, Whittle headed high, headed wide, no children hurt. It wasn't worth coming back from the fridge for, was it. Oh, you want all that flow-of-the-game-feeling sort of thing, do you? Town passes over-hit, Wycombe fiddling about, nothing going on to disturb those farmyard ducks trailing their chains in the mud. Call the RSPCA immediately.

What's Crowe doing? Good question; maybe there is no answer? Ah, I remember: the Government passed an act giving ramblers the right to roam over vast swathes of Britain. He was everywhere and nowhere baby, with his hippie rucksack.

Twelve minutes: Wycombe break. Bloomfield free down the centre, za-zooming unmolested by retreating armadillos. Inspector Gadget Jones extended his left leg out to block; Claridge drumbled a follow-up straight to some other Town foot. Kick off your shoes, lay down your head, have a little snooze, dream a little dream of brie.

I prefer hard cheese, myself, but there you are; everyone is different. A bit of Wensleydale, Gromit, with a soupçon of pickle. Is this an allegory or an elegy? What's it to do with football? About as much as this match was.

Ah, something to get hung up about. A strawberry cheesecake clattered Gritton and was booked. Foul, howl, growl, the crowd awoke. After 18 minutes another thing happened, and it was another chance to grimble-grumble. Wycombe tickled the ball through the Town defence on their left. Tyson, perhaps 12 miles offside, flickered a way into the area. Williams advanced, jumped up, crouched and flung himself to his left. Tyson, from a narrowish angle about a dozen yards out, smacked the ball a foot or so wide of the far post. Slade sneaked up behind the linesman and muttered from behind a closed fist. Wild? He was livid.

A couple of minutes later Wycombe had a corner, it was cleared but squinted back for a goal kick with a dreadful mis-hit shot from one of their tall centre-backs. Bill? Ben? Does it matter which of these flowerpot men it was? Ah, now here's another clue for you all: the walrus was Paul. Oh sorry, that's some other reference from some other game. Ah, here we are - it was tucked down the back of the mental sofa. Does that make Parky little weed?

Here we go Looby-Loo. A tipple over the top, Town fans panic. Williams hurtled out of his area as Forbes held off Tyson. Williams continued to hurtle as Forbes indicated via semaphore that he should remain on land. Forbes hoiked the ball out for a throw-in as Williams swung his boots, his pants and his barn doors open.

Another minute, another dink and drop. The ball was sent to exactly the same position, with Tyson aboard the Gatwick Express. Williams was stuck in a queue, not quite working out how to use those new ticket machines. Out the Welsh wanderer came; Tyson nicked the ball away and left Williams digging for worms near Wonderland. Jones pursued and blocked the resulting shot. Williams did not act upon the advice proffered by the Pontoon.

Some more Wycombe pressure. Ping-pong, won't be long before they score, will it? They look slightly more interested than Town, but only slightly. Crowe was booked as Uhlenbeek was spectacularly felled by the breeze; a Gus of wind, perhaps?

A large boat drifted by. A pigeon struggled against the wind towards the Upper Smiths/Stones/Findus, narrowly avoiding a Whittle clearance. Talia drop-kicked directly to Ramsden, the only human on the left-hand side of the pitch. Minor moments of mundanity in a miserable game. Did I see a Town pass? That sound you hear is laughter. We're laughing at Town, not with them.

Half an hour gone, not a Town shot to be sung. A Wycombe corner, from the right. Clipped by Lee to the far post, about 15 yards out willowy Williamson thumped a header goalwards. Williams fell left and Claridge, six yards out in the centre, stuck out a leg and passed straight to Tyson, who swiped the ball into the back of the Pontoon from about eight yards out. Take a few seconds to ponder that moment. Pondered? Rubbish all round, wasn't it.

Gradually the Pontoon emptied as the lure of the pie stall proved too much. We few, we snappy few who remained, amused ourselves with punnery and flights of fancy so wayward they met Town's passes on the M180. Wycombe fans finally got around to singing about fish. Yes, and you only sing when you're whittling wood, too, Chairboys. At least we haven't got a manager who was in The Scaffold. Ah, but we do have a player who is notably bony, who would never eat his meals, and now we move him round on wheels.

Ooh, what's that? No, nothing. A crisp packet blew across the goal. Are crisp packets the modern version of tumbleweeds? Especially flaming steak flavour.

A tray of sandwiches walked along the front of the Pontoon. Not literally; that may have made page 9 of the Evening Standard. Is this Fenty's way of saying thankyou to the few: free egg and cress sarnies for the masses? Nooooo, they're off to the dentists in the Main Stand; the glitterati munching and crunching as Town burns.

For the fourth time Tyson fell to Earth clutching his head. Contact lens displaced? Ear fallen off again? Hair out of place?

And then the moment came. Forty minutes and Town had a shot. A bona fide effort, one where a player deliberately attempted to place the ball within the posts guarded by Talia. Gritton, on the left edge of their area, chested down to Parkinson, who pirouetted and hooked the ball twelve or thirteen years wide of goal. Hey, we're gonna have to claim that as a shot. There are just a few crumbs left on this table; beggers can't be choosers.

Kevin Drinkell walked by; traditional shout for old boots to be found. I suppose these ex-players would be offended if someone didn't say it.

On half time Parkinson was released behind the Wycombe defence on the centre-right. Williamson took a shine to Parky's shirt, admiring the texture and smelling the quality hand stitching. Parkinson eventually fell over, and the referee eventually gave Town a free kick 20 yards out to the right. Williamson was booked, could have been sent off, but wasn't. No-one is that bothered these days. Let's save our righteous anger for 23 April.

From the free kick Town tried a trick but failed miserably. Ramsden hung about looking like he was going to wallop it but Parkinson touched it to Coldicott, who rolled it back for the shiny scalped Scouser to trundle the ball slowly along the ground to Talia, who briefly broke off from his yoga session to scoop the ball up. Yeah, that worked. Great.

I nearly forgot: three Town passes, Macca free, Macca shoots, Macca demoted in the peerage. From 20 yards he wafted the ball against the row F steps, 10 yards wide of goal.

Two minutes of added time. Wycombe attack, the Town clearance ballooned off one of them back into the area. Claridge shambled free and from a narrow angle about five yards out tried to swish the ball goalwards. Williams came out and saved superly. Look on your Dulux colour chart: you'll find superly just below superb, and above good. A sort of mint green, if you will.

There you are - satisfied with that? No, we weren't either. A defensive Town created nothing, with Wycombe getting just three chances, from a poor bit of linesmanship, a corner and a lucky rebound. Rotten is the word. Ramsden didn't know where to stand, resulting in Senda getting acres of room into which to run, with Town having no attacking options down the left. Gritton and Parkinson spent most of their time doing 'link play' in midfield, so there was no-one up front on the few occasions Town got within 30 yards of the Wycombe penalty area. You know the score, you know the team, you know it all.

You know the very worst thing is that nobody expects the Grimsby inquisition any more.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"So the Vatican has animatronic Popes-in-a-box?"
"What's Williams drinking? Anti-freeze?"
"It's like a game of chess with no pieces on the board."
"I saw better football in your veterans' five-a- side game yesterday."
"You promised me we'd never see Bull again."

Second half
No changes were made by either side at half time. Could they walk back on to the pitch any more slowly?

Here's a highlight: Crowe ran down the left, looked up, picked his spot precisely and crossed softly into Talia's hands at the near post. Fabtastic wasn't it.

Twiddle your thumbs.

How do little old ladies open bottles of bleach? They don't, which explains a lot, I suppose.

Don't mind us, lads - carry on humping the ball out of play; we'll just continue nattering about this and that. It's one of the last chances we'll get to see people for a few months. Going anywhere nice on holiday? Having a fourth storey built? Is there any point in this football club? Why do birds suddenly appear? Why do fools fall in love? Why don't they do it in the road? Why? Why? Why? The computer usually blows up at this point.

Ah, it did. Steam came out of the crowd's ears as pass after pass winged its way out of play. No-one could pass it, no-one could control it. Requests for rearranging the deckchairs were made. Our Gallic charmer was demanded by most, though a couple had a hankering to actually see Downey actually play, actually. Some people want to see the Taj Mahal, others the great wall of China. But me, yes, me, I'd like to tell other people's grandchildren that I saw Glen Downey play. Get 'im on, Russ.

Ooh, look at that, a pass. Another, ooh, and another. Hey, good old-fashioned Town football down the left, Crowe nicking, tricking, flicking to Parkinson and back as the Crowe flies down the wing and into the area. One more time, Ringo, as Crowe tapped the ball back to Parkinson at the near post, who laid a first-time pass to the unmarked Fleming. Sit back down, it's Flemmo, the pretty dire Flemingo, please go. Alone, vastness before him, so many options, so much choice; ah, choice, the holy grail of consumer capitalism. What's wrong with choice? In the wrong feet, it's a disaster. With thirteen channels to choose from, Fleming's amazing powers of observation spotted the only defender between him Gritton, Coldicott and half of Oliver's army: he passed directly to the defender. The Pontoon laughed and demanded Le Professeur on the pitch, now.

There had been a steady drizzle since half time, which had, curiously, followed the ball around the pitch, rather like the rain cloud that used to hover above the Creepy Coupé. Yeah, Grimsby and Wycombe, the gruesome twosome, yeah.

Wycombe had a corner on their right. Some bloke headed it downwards and goalwards, the ball shizzling back out of the area as quickly as it came in. The Choirboys behind the goal cleared their throats. Who cleared the ball? Is his identity known? May have been close, may not, we'll never know, nor care.

Rodger and Slade stood together on the touchline, comparing notes. Perhaps they were playing Pictionary? Is it 3-5-2, Russ? No, it's a car crash, Graham.

With 20 minutes left Town gave the ball away on the left, with Ramsden floundering in the middle of the Humber. Tyson hit a return to Senda, who sped off up their right, trailed by no-one. Forbes sidled back into the area, stood his ground and eventually headed off the war party. The ball was pulled back into the centre and Whittle's backside proved its worth. It either blocked the ball or blocked the sun, one of the two; either way, danger dissipated.

Finally Cyril, a change, with Pinault replacing Fleming and Bull swapping for Ramsden. There was an immediate upping of the tempo, Town just looking more likely to… get near the Wycombe goal. Pinault's passes were marginally overhit, inches out, but at least it was something. Bull provided attacking width, overlapping, passing crossing; just doing things rather than looking like a lost soul swimming in a fish bowl. A great Bull slide to dispossess. He was OK; his absence had made our hearts grow fonder for him.

Wycombe took off someone who nobody had realised was on the pitch and brought on Philo the pastry boy. Stonebridge, it was Stonebridge who was taken off. Had anyone told him he was playing? It was money for nothing for him. Pinault: great pass. Parkinson: asleep and stumbling. Moment lost, Wycombe break, Jones has long legs.

With ten minutes left the Wacky Wycombe assistant manager was sent off for throwing the ball away twice within a couple of minutes. I think he'd sussed out a way of escaping this prison. Tunnelling out with a spoon would have taken too long.

Have you noticed that Town haven't had a shot in the second half? We had. Five minutes left, that leaving ritual almost upon us: the warm fire and toasted teacakes beckon; the lilting tones of John Tondeur scrabbling for something to say about this festival of dung; the complaints from those dedicated Town fans who didn't come. We just need to concede to complete the day. C'mon Wycombe, you're supposed to be going for the play-offs. C'mon, you can do it if you really try.

Ooh, a substitution from them, the lovely-haired Dixon gambolling down the right. Oops, a deep, deep cross swung to the back post. Dixon unmarked about eight yards out, Williams flailing, ailing, trailing the floppy-haired fopster. Dixon stopped, nodded and headed down vertically, the ball bouncing up into Williams' chest as he dived forward.

That's it, is it? Can we go now? No, he's at it again, hairboy Chairboy haring down the wing, leaving paceless Staceless ruminating about his choice of transport to the game. Onwards, onwards, inwards, will he shoot? Will he heck as like. Forbes made a brilliantly timed tackle, sliding in from Spurn Point without the aid of the Humber Lifeboat.

So, is that it? No, Town bothered to have a go at goal. After a small spell of pressure dictated by Pinault following a free kick, McDermott swung the ball in from the right to the far post, Jones rose and missed the ball. Gritton lurked behind, unmarked and from six yards out, ducked his head and guided the ball a foot or so wide. Marty did well to avoid getting his header on target.

So that's definitely it, then? No. In the third minute of the one minute of added time Wycombe swung a loopy, droopy cross from left to right. The ball wobbled down through the area, Jones missed and Williams stayed on his line, while Bull stood still. There was a bit of hibblage and bibblage and a shot that hit some Town players somewhere inside the area. Ooh, Matron, that was painful. And that really, really honestly was it. The whistle was just about heard above the cacophony of silence.

Gorman thanked Russo Slado for his efforts. "Thank you very much, thank you very, very, very much," is what a mad, bad lip-reader claims was said. If they'd tried harder they'd have won, but they didn't. More fool them.

Town must be saving themselves for the Big One. It's the only explanation I can find. Gritton acted as Wycombe's libero, sweeping up in front and behind their centre-backs, snuffing out danger with a flick of his quiff and a shake of his hips. Town's only tactic seemed to be 'chip it behind for Parky'. When Pinault came on he shrugged his shoulders a lot when he had the ball, asking for movement, getting none. Crowe didn't have a backwards gear, which is a nice way of saying he wasn't interested in defending. He stood around a lot when the ball was lost.

Enough analysis: it was just rubbish. Is there nothing to positive to grab hold of? Perhaps a couple of electrodes?

Now, Pauline, would you say this game was egregious?

Nicko's man of the match
Keeping his fashionably woolly hat tight around his fashionable ears, Nicko heard voices in his head. Jones was perfectly adequate, doing that defending thing, not giving the ball away too often when clearing, but Mr Terrell Forbes, just, for a marvellous sliding scooping saving tackle, and all round trying and OK-ness.

Markie's un-man of the match
Take your pick from Fleming or Crowe, with Gritton trudging up on the far side by the stands. We've forgiven Ramsden: he shouldn't have been playing at left wing-back; that's plain stupid, that is. And at least Parkinson never stops trying. It's coming up to summer: PYO soft fruit.

Official warning
Mr Dame Edith Evans - sorry, Eddie Evans; I have a cold - didn't even have the good grace to be rubbish, or make any daft decisions to liven up this dead parrot. Sending off Brown was an act of kindness. He gets 6.66, because he's a referee and it kinda feels an appropriate number.