A comedy of errors: Boston (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

11 February 2006

Grimsby Town 1 Boston United 0

Another still, bright afternoon in the lair of the Grimbarian gobemouche with around 350 morally and ethically correct Bostonians contemplating life in the Osmond stand. Ah, they came to the delectable mountain, where sleep is sweet to the labouring man. There is a football match going today, isn't there? Or are they recording Songs of Praise?

After reading a dissertation by Evans, the emeritus professor of philosophy at the Spud-u-Like Adult Education Centre, Town lined up in the Futcherless 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, Cohen, R Jones, Newey, Croft, Parkinson, Barwick, Woodhouse, Toner, Reddy, Mendes. The substitutes were North, Ruby Murray, the Ghost of Glen Downey, the memories of Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala and a solid Lump of old Jones. In Russ's Lucky Lotto, Cohen pulled out the ball marked right-back, Barwick central midfield, Toner left midfield and Newey at centre-back. Well, you do have to shake your ready meal when the microwave goes ping.

Boston ran out in an all red-kit with green bits on the shorts. Other than that, who cares.

Have Town found a creative way to reduce the wage bill? There was a prominent new advertising board for Croft's estate agents gleaming under the Stones/Smith/Findus stand. Perhaps Town should only sign players with businesses: that way they could offset wages against advertising charges, maybe even getting them to sponsor themselves. Has KTMA thought about that?

David Smith walked across the pitch with the sponsors, and walked back across the pitch with the sponsors a minute later. The mascots indulged in some airy-fairy penalties against each other. The Boston cat's shoe flew off and rolled towards the goal line. We must remind Sylvester that the whole of his boot must be over the line for it to be a goal. There was no other movement within the stadium.

Dish of the Day: in times of strife and woe the British always reach for the good old cuppa - but be careful. It's a drug, you know. The symptoms include disturbed sleep and irritability. If life's a box of chocolates, watching Town is like having a cup of tea. Ah, I see - the ingredients include stimulants that make us want to go to the loo. It really is the nutritional version of Russ's Town, isn't it.

There's a large red oil tanker out in the Humber and it's heading our way.

First half
Boston kicked off towards the Pontoon. That oil tanker is still heading for the open corner between Main Stand and Pontoon, you know. Stickman headed twistingly back and vaguely towards the Town area, Woodhouse did likewise and stayed on the ground, clutching one of his Yorkshire legs, made from Yorkshire water. A minute gone, Woodhouse off for treatment, the simmering, boiling tension rose over the top of the saucepan. Someone sneezed rather extravagantly in the Main Stand.


The legs with red socks moved one way; the legs with white socks moved the other; the ball just went up and down, up and down, mesmerising even the tea drinkers into glacial stares. After five minutes Town got a corner. And?

Click! And now you're back again. I promise you that you won't pretend you're a constipated chicken when you hear the phrase 'herbal infusion'.

And now they've got a corner. Hung up, headed back to the unmarked Till, 15 yards out, level with the left post. He stretched and stumbled, stabbing the ball in a sad, slow arc a couple of feet wide. If alliteration is the thief of mime, this was a speck of dust on Marcel Marceau's muffler. Someone kicked the ball out of the ground. This was cheered, without irony. There was a Town handball inside the area early on, but let's skip over this minor moment of fortune. The ref didn't see it and Boston didn't notice it either. So it never happened, right.

Toner and Silk bumped each other on the head and play was stopped. Toner's whack back to their goalie may count as a shot. This was cheered, without irony. The oil tanker turned abruptly and headed for Immingham. Shame. If it had carried on and demolished the Police Box we'd have had something to talk about over Sunday lunch.

The thighs with red shorts moved one way; the thighs with black shorts moved the other; the ball just went up and down, up and down. Herbal infusion.

Parky was having a blinder, his most effective game playing down the mineshaft. Picking up Town clearances, he subtly miscontrolled the ball back to Clarke, 25 yards out. The hirsute hipster wiggled, waggled and wobbled a superb sliding shot low across Mildenhall, who brilliantly tipped the ball just around the left post. Now that was a save and a half. One has to alliterate to accumulate.

Are you waiting for Town? So were we. Any time Town threatened to do anything Cohen was sliced down on the halfway line. Once, twice, thrice did the foul Fennish fiends come over the field to meet him. No cards, no words for the assassins: just a telling-off for the victim. The free kicks were pumped and pummelled Loganwards, never reaching the end. Logan the lemonhead, the worst kicker in football, fly-kicking horribly, but rarely to a Townite.

Sometime something happened. The chests in striped shirts moved one way; the chests in red shirts moved the other; the ball just went further up and further down. Croft ran back as a Town corner was humped back upfield. The ball dropped and as he was about to control it Newey barged into him. The ball bumbled back and Newey did some hopscotch towards Mildenhall, succeeding only in allowing Keene to race off down the centre left. The big M stood up and roared, scaring the little scamp into a slicing a shot several thousand years wide.

Just before the half-hour Boston replaced one bloke with another. Charley Farley's Rusk came on and didn't crumble or dissolve in sterilised milk at room temperature.

You know Town still hadn't had an effort on goal. Is this it? A Woodhouse free kick curled in towards Jones a dozen yards out, but a defender managed to graze the ball away and just wide of the right post for a corner. The corner bent through the area without any human contact. All in all, that doesn't count as a Town effort, does it. Off Boston went at a canter, harrumphing up the right, forcing Croft to strangle the ball out for a corner, which swung to the far post. Rusk stood unmarked and steered a header across goal and safely wide as Mildenhall brushed some cobwebs from his gloves, just in case. He wouldn't wish to cause harm to any innocent creatures.

You should know it was the 3Second minute when it almost happened. Reddy was almost free inside the area, on the right. He shuffled wide of his marker and hit the ball with his foot. The ball travelled approximately three feet before rebounding off a white sock and away from goal.

That was almost the first effort. An attempted shot blocked. A frisson of excitement shot up the spine of every true Mariner. It ain't often we have a shot. Make the most of these moments, for life is finite for most of us.

Once or twice Town passed the ball, by accident, and Boston were creaking. Parkinson alone, waving not drowning, ignored by Woodhouse and Toner, who could only see their own feet: the moment was lost. Cohen occasionally foraging, frequently turned into a bale of straw by a fleet of second-hand combine harvesters. Ah, lovely. Cohen pinged a perfect pass down the right, dissecting full-back and centre-back. Parkinson sent free down the wing, twisting out, in and back again, crossing low to the near post; Mendes stretched and a defender lunged across, sending the Mendes spinning like a wheel within a wheel, and the ball out into space.

That was nearly the moment, wasn't it. Don't worry. Only a few minutes left. We may even get to half time without a shot.

There were two minutes of added time. C'mon Town you can do it! Yes! In the 47th minute Mendes fought off three defenders, tiptoed through the minefield on the right of the area, cut infield and swerved a shot high across the face of goal. It even avoided going out for a throw-in.

The referee blew his whistle loudly, and several hundred people woke up with a start. Time for tea.

This game had overdosed on Imodium. Boston, no doubt, felt completely at home; everything was flat, though unfortunately not the ball. They had three shots, Town had one; the small bits of football that were played came from them, principally through Clarke, who was in complete charge of the midfield. Town were doing nothing. Toner was terribly uncomfortable playing out wide, not even managing to control the ball. Puffing Billy Barwick occupied the spaces he was supposed to, made many tackles and, well, wasn't awful; but the Town central midfield was flimsy, often bypassed. Reddy and Mendes ran after the ball quite a bit. No more mental energy need be expended here. The defence wasn't overly troubled. Boston hardly did anything, though that's still much more than Town achieved.

The highlight of the half was when Newey whelped the ball into the electric cable running between the Police Box and Main Stand. The lights in McMenemy's restaurant flickered; the laptops in the Press Box gurgled; but the four-plug extension cable just about kept enough contact and the lights didn't go out. We can but hope.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"But it's a table, not a night out in Nunsthorpe."
"I'll wake you up when it's Reddy time."
"Shall we watch War of the Worlds tonight?" "Nah, I don't like war films."
"Don't worry - we'll win with the only shot on target."
"What could be more romantic than a trip to Mansfield?"

Second half
As usual Town emerged several eons after the opposition. It's taking Russ and Rodger longer to bend spoons these days. Town didn't make any changes; Boston did. Hall came on, apparently. We didn't notice.

Town really came out with verve and vim, or maybe they'd been drinking tea… lots of it. And biscuits. Interplay down the left by Mendes and Reddy caused Boston some concern, but not much. It was enough to get the Pontoon up, making a noise capable of being registered on most commercial dosimeters. I suppose you'd need a dozy meter in the Pontoon, though. Reddy, again, doing his Reddything underneath the Stones/Smiths/Findus and felled by a fenland felon. Woodhouse set himself to deliver the kick and carefully curled the ball into the Pontoon.

Town were pressing, Boston starting to twang, with Reddy's pace causing some parasols to be unfurled and eyelashes to be fluttered. A corner, dropping to Mendes, flicked to Reddy, the hand-jive not disguised this time: a free kick to Boston. Pinged forward, penned back, a Town shot imminent this century. Reddy almost free down the centre but a defender sliced the ball back to Logan, who picked it up. Back-pass? We'll always remember the referee's kindness to strangers.

Seven or eight minutes into the half Town pinged the ball among themselves at the back; it was clumped across the pitch behind Croft, who retrieved the ball and tapped it to Jones. The Stick dithered; Keene kicked the ball away and raced goalwards down their centre-right. Mildenhall raced out of his area and stretched forward to tackle. Keene reached the ball first and tipped the ball to Mildew's right. The ball seemed to hit the keeper's foot and bounce up as Mildenhall's right arm swung across and swiped the ball away. Twenty thousand fingers crossed and the ref waved play on. The Boston players approached the referee at the first available opportunity and requested that he reconsider in the light of their representations, presenting a 95-page affidavit and three boxes of evidence. No dice: case dismissed.

There was immediately a kerfuffle in the Main Stand: locals riled, Mascara Man hopping and gesticulating wildly. Perhaps a representative from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs approached requesting some overdue tax returns. Perhaps it was an urgent message from his wife: he'd got the front door keys and they urgently need some soft fruit, come home now. Whoever, whatever: the Malcolm Muggeridge of the fourth was bundled out by men in fluorescent jackets, to the amusement of all right-minded people.

A minute later the ball was curled high and handsome down their right, where Newey waited and was barged aside by a striker, leaving a red shirt alone inside the area, who smackled the ball in. No goal, foul given. Boston were roused into a fury and spent the next ten minutes being the pestle pummelling Town's peppercorns into the mortar. Hall and Clarke took hold of the centre and made sure there was absolutely no juice left in the satsuma.

They fizzled left, fuzzled right and Hall swerped a shot just to Mildenhall's right from 20 yards out. No worries for the grizzly bear. A minute or so later Boston twiddled down their left, tipping, tapping, lifting the ball over the defence into the six-yard box. Joachim stretched forward and steered the ball straight into Mildenhall's midriff.

Around this time Cohen was sent up front, with Barwick going to right-back, Mendes to the left and Parky to the right of midfield. Oh, and Toner into the middle of midfield. It still didn't stop the flow, for back Boston raged, Hall smacking a shot from the centre, about 20 yards out, which looped up off a Town boot and crawled onto the roof of the net. The corner, from their right, sailed over everyone and landed 15 yards out beyond the far post. Reddy watched Holland walk forward, control the ball and curl a deliberate shot a few inches past the top left corner. Reddy then watched as Mildenhall ran out of goal and verbally dried his lovely wet Oirish hair.

Around the 67th minute Town made a substitution, Kalalalalala replacing Barwick. Right, hold your breath and concentrate. Kalala went into central midfield; Toner moved to right-back. You can breath out now.

This changed everything. Kalala instantly added a certain quality to the match: he passed it when he got it, he hustled strongly, and Clarke was no longer the pinball wizard. Town were suddenly strong and suddenly dangerous. Mendes was much better out wide, and Cohen was a pest up front. At last it happened: after 24 minutes' playing time in the second half Town had an effort on goal. The ball was pingled and pongled around, and Cohen burst from the left across the pitch, heading the ball past the final defender. About 25 yards out he swivelled and levered the ball over the Pontoon as team-mates ran into various spaces. Still, a shot. We begged for it; we cannot choose to ignore it.

Town started to apply a little pressure, keeping possession, waiting for movement, awaiting errors. Toner advanced on the right, looked up and saw Parkinson scurrying hither and thither. Toner waited; Parkinson edged out to the wing right under the Police Box and received the pass. Parky shook his hips, cut back, spun and clipped a cross into the near post. Logan came out to punch but a defender headed the ball up. Reddy raced around to the corner of the six-yard box, waited for the ball to drop with his back to goal, then swivelled, hitting a volley down into the ground. As the ball zoomed goalwards a defender slid and diverted the ball higher in to the net. Let's give it to Reddy - it was going in anyway. Reddy ran to the Pontoon corner and saluted, and was booked on his way back to the halfway line, possibly for not doing something rubbish.

Town's dander was up, but when are danders ever said to be down? Mendes was sent up the left, but with Cohen, Parkinson and Kalala pleading for a pass he disappeared in his own imagination, his touch lacking the delicate nature of, say, Jones the Lump.

A-ha! Call and he shall come! With about twelve minutes left the Lumpaldinho arrived, replacing Toner. Now, have you got your pens? I shall say this only once. Cohen, who was limping after a pavement-cracking challenge with a Boston player a few seconds earlier, was sent to right-back, and the Lumpy One was at centre-forward. The arrival of the Teddy Slowingham of the fourth was tumultuous: he's fast acquiring the cult status of a goalscoring Livvo. Immediately he gave his public a chance to marvel. Unfurling his limbs like a newborn calf, he skilfully placed his frame in front of a defender, winning a corner.

A tip over the top forced a centre-back to tap the ball back to Logan, who nutmegged himself to the left of goal, giving Town a corner. Oh, the tears were rolling down our faces. Logan had been disturbed by a low rumbling sound coming from the bushes - the sound of the charging Lumpaphant.

A minute later Reddy was tickled free by Kalala and raged down the right, bumping a centre-back aside. He hit the bye-line, looked up and pulled the ball back perfectly for the unmarked Jones, on the edge of the penalty area to the right of centre. Lumpy leant back and steered a fantastic volley against the roof of the Pontoon.

Again Town flowed forward, Kalalalalala and Woodhouse now impassable in the centre. Lord Lumpsford controlled the ball on his chest and bumbled across the face of the penalty area towards the left corner. He chased, pressured and hooked the ball back in play with a magnificent one-two against the corner flag. A corner flowed to Town and he made a darting little run to the near post and grazed the ball goalwards; it deflected off a defender and crawling over the crossbar. The referee awarded a goal kick, to the chuntering chagrin of the Lumper-jumpers in the Pontoon.

As time tickled down, Town time-wasted in the corners. During one moment Reddy and Till played rutting rhinos. As they exchanged testosterone and the referee was busy trying to cage these wild beasts, Lumpy dribbled past their keeper and kicked the ball into the Pontoon, causing Logan to lose his berries and a few more seconds to tick by. Ooh, cheeky.

There were four minutes of added time where Town missed several opportunities to score again, mainly due to Mendes having the touch of one of those rutting rhinos, over-hitting passes and under-hitting crosses. Kalala, in particular, was furious when unmarked inside the box a couple of times. In added time Boston flung themselves forward and Joachim, twice, almost nicked it again, once poking straight to Mildenhall after some jiggery-pokery around the edge of the box, and, in the last minute, being finagled free inside the area, on their centre-left. Behind the defence, about ten yards out he, too, was scared off by the phantom menace of Mildenhall's roar. Joachim just sliced it way wide of the Mildster's right post.

And then we were top.

Horrible game: one shot on target, one goal, three points - just like last week. Have we cracked it now? The secret of our success is simple: the worse you play, the higher up the league you go. We really must stop treating it seriously; this is postmodern football, and we should be in on the joke by now. It's the 'so bad it's good' school of situation comedy. There was fortune, there was fury, there was an awful lot of awfulness. The introduction of Kalala added poise, calm and authority to midfield, the introduction of Lumpy up front added much needed flesh to stop the ball simply boinging back. Town also played differently with the Lump on, playing to him, rather than humping it for a couple of quick blokes to chase. So within the drab façade there was something to grab interest, to give hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

Just remember to keep laughing. Top of the league and Evans off too: that's all you need to know about this dreary afternoon in the house of fun.

It takes only one leak to sink a ship and one sin to destroy a sinner. Not Boston's day, was it.

Nicko's man of the match
Croft had a quietly effective game at left-back, including a magnificent saving header in the last minute when, surrounded by three red men, the steepling meteor was boomed away by him and straight to a Town player. But, for playing in every position - and some twice - it's Gary Cohen, the target of Boston boots from the off.

Official warning
A very, very odd performance. Of course Mr P Armstrong gets 103 extra points for the entirely reasonable interpretation of the Mildenhall incident: there's always a perfectly rational explanation for all these UFO sightings. He could have sent Reddy off, though was very sensible in wearing monochrome sunglasses at that time of day. The floodlights can be blinding. But at all other points during the game he was a discarded bottle of Sunny Delight bobbing upon the tide, ebbing and flowing with every ripple. If I were a Bostonboy I'd say he was as bad as Singh at Meadow Lane, but I ain't, so he gets a flat 4.000 rather than a flat tyre.