A bridge too far: Carlisle (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

2 January 2006

Grimsby Town 1 Carlisle United 2

Start spreading the news, Crane's leaving today: he won't be a part of our New Year, New Year. Ah hello, there you are. A grey, still afternoon, with hope in our hearts but not in our heads as the last survivors of the cargo ship Nostromo return from their mission to the furthest corner of the galaxy. Around 500 Carlislians sat around the Osmond playing spoons while waiting for the ceremony to begin. They looked happy enough; wouldn't you be if Anthony Williams wasn't in goal for you?

Town lined up in a, if not the, 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, Bloomer, Whittle, R Jones, Newey, Parkinson, Bolland, Toner, Cohen, Reddy and gallant Sir Lumpahad. The substitutes looked pretty good together and they were Gritton, Jean-Paul who?, Heggggggggarty, Barwick and it's... it's Glen Downey!!! (as he is officially known).

Barwick: I thought we'd accidentally left him at Tibshelf service station on the way back from a dim and distant away fixture. Mr Bloomer returned at right-back, looking every inch a Town full-back, one of the last to come off the production line before Buckley's Passing and Movement Ltd was forced into administration. Everyone else was where you'd expect them to be standing. But would they be able to move? Dave Moore applied some Castrol GTX to Whittle's hip and a big roll of Band-Aid to Jones the Lean's ankles.

As the teams wandered off for their pre-match jives the two mascots indulged in some fake fur bonding in front of the Pontoon. The Carlisle mascot had a squashed head, like when you watch a normal programme on a widescreen television: please do adjust your sets. Nice to see
Anthony Williams is of use to somebody.

Dish of the Day: we're back to healthy eating plans again. If you are a professional sportsperson it would consist of slightly different things to that of an average factory worker. Or put it this way: John McDermott eats differently from Tony Crane. You must also remember alcohol. Did you ever forget? It reduces willingness to train and play, apparently, and one kilogram of fat equals 38 pints of beer. Get that calculator out; I know what you're thinking.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond and had a pretty torrid opening five minutes or so, with Carlisle constantly pressing, passing and pinging crosses in. All courtesy of the referee, who wouldn't allow Town players to invade the personal space of any cantering Cumbrian. Town couldn't get the ball more than 30 yards away from Mildenhall, with clearances half hit, scooped, sliced and swiped. "We're breaking up, we're breaking up...". Whittle and Jones the Lean appeared to be disintegrating with every step; the glue hadn't set, Russ. Can you rebuild them? Hawley fizzled, Holmes barundled and there was a blur of blue movement in front of the Pontoon. Yoikes, Scooby.

Hmm, they aren't bad at all. Too much running about for our liking; we prefer opponents who lump and hump. Are we going to get a free kick, ever?

At last, after about eight minutes, a little pushage and shovage just inside the Carlisle half under the Findus/Smiths/Stones produced the elusive elixir of Town life: a free kick. Newey wallooned it high into the middle of the area, Westwood advanced and flippity-flapped and the ball dropped. Various Joneses lurked, Parkinson hung about and the ball squirmed, bumbled and squished towards Toner, about 25 yards out on the centre left. He took a step back, adjusted his underwear and poked a flat floaty shot towards goal. The ball drifted over the leaping Livesey. Westwood ran back and jumped and the ball continued back-spinning, caught on a thermal like a ski jumper etching out those last few metres. A final defender on the line failed, as what goes up must come down, spinning wheel around and around, Toner had scored. One attack, one goal. Why waste energy when you haven't got any?

Here they go again, Hawley a major irritant with his pace and persistence, rolling Whittle, running through Jones the Lean's legs. One-two-three - roll your eyes in frustration: more free kicks to them because Whittle wouldn't walk two paces behind Holmes. Actually, Whittle could hardly walk, but that's another story: the final part of an epic trilogy to be filmed with an all-star cast in an exotic location, like Mablethorpe. In the off-season, of course. Is there an on-season in Mablethorpe?

Town were leading, but Carlisle were leaving them in their wake. They look alive, always useful in motion-based events. Around the quarter-hour mark one of their players stumbled slightly as he made his way across the Universe. What else could it be but a free kick to Carlisle? Pools of sorrow, tears of joy coming up within ten of your Earth seconds.

Dimpled into the box and half cleared, the ball fell to Hawley eight yards out to the centre-right of the area. Surrounded by stripes, he was unable to turn goalwards, but a small slither of land was unpatrolled by Town border guards. Hawley rolled the ball back to Aranalde, near the right corner of the Town penalty area: security breach in sector 7G. Four Town players raced towards him as Aranalde took a step and swooshed a firm drive high across the face of goal, the ball managing to avoid all the humanity crowded in Mildenhall's house and smacking into the net off the inside of the far post.

They were happy, we weren't, but a resigned air of acceptance was tangible. They were good enough and deserved at least parity.

A couple of minutes later Reddy went on one of his standard issue bursts-into-the-box-down-the-left beat-a-man-and-fall-over routines. The ref pointed with great determination towards the penalty spot for a goal kick. Carlisle brushed this annoyance from their shoulder like a stray cat hair on their crushed velvet lapels. Tip-tap-top movement around the edge of the Town area. Before you could sneeze Hawley squirreled a swerving shot towards the near post but Mildenhall was perfectly positioned to sleep on the ball.

Shall we mention the linesmen? One for us, one for them. Town got their second free kick of the game after 20 minutes when the lineman flagged for a foul on the rocky Reddy. Newey, 20 yards out to the slight right of goal, played with his new chemistry set and stunk the ball slowly over the wall and a couple of feet past the near post. Some people "oooh"-ed. Not many.

Town had hardly passed the ball; Mildenhall's drop kicks kept landing on their midfield's toes while clearances were hackney-marshed in Calamity Jane fashion. But finally a pass: Bloomer swizzelled past Aranalde and pinged a perfect pass from right to left on to Parkinson's instep, setting up a brief moment of anxiety for the Cumbrian candy bars. Bet he was never allowed to do that in Impland.

Back they came, back came the ref's whistle. Murphy, on their left 25 yards out, tickled a teasing curler through the middle of the six-yard box. Had the music stopped? Nobody moved and the ball skipped past the far post for a goal kick. A moment of almostness. Holmes and Hawley, the potential H-bombs, flicked and clicked on the edge of the area. Holmes flashed a first-time curler goalwards through the merest of gaps, but straight at Mildenhall, who decided to hover for the photographers, with eyebrow raised and a twinkling smile upon his teeth.

And still they drove in their car, though it's not quite a Jaguar, more a lovingly restored Capri, complete with vinyl roof and alloy wheels. A quickly taken free kick down their right caught Newey tending his winter bedding plants. Their right winger, Mr McGoo, slipped into third gear and chortled down the wing, cut into the area and honked a cross low into the middle. Whittle diverted the ball with several parts of his body, some of which were still attached when he got up off the ground.

Half an hour gone, we're waiting for them to score. Ah, here it is. Hawley shuffling across the edge of the area from left to right, Whittle wobbling in his slipstream. Two touches, a sudden spin and a cracking right-footed shot boinging off the underside of the crossbar and back past Mildo's left ear. Ah, no it wasn't. Maybe now? Hawley wiggled and waggled through Jones the Lean's legs; Whittle waited and Mildenhall considered the 2006 Argos catalogue. Just as Hawley returned to nibble his leftover mince tart Sgt Rock boomed the ball away. A little torrid, sir, can we have a period of quiet reflection; or perhaps a Town attack or two?

We only had to ask and here they come. Newey boomed a free kick into the box; the ball was skedaddled back, whereupon he managed to chip and ping to the far post. Jones the Lump awaited, unmarked, half a dozen yards out. With half of the population of North East Lincolnshire standing unmarked inside the six-yard box, he curdled a soft header straight to the keeper.

Reddyroaming, ripped to the ground, a Town free kick. Hibblage and bibblage inside the area as Westwood again ran around like a Morris dancer, the ball dropping to Bolland, 15 yards out on the right. The shot was parried by Westwood with Bolland's follow-up dumped into the ground, bouncing high over the keeper. Up came an arm to superbly crawl the ball over the crossbar. Newey pumped the corner into the middle, bodies barged and the ball ballooned up. The Lumpster controlled the ball on his five-drawer chest (without vanity mirror)and hooked it into the very heart of the Carlisle support, mildly disturbing a tiddly teenager.

There was a Parky moment after a Lumpy through ball where the keeper did something to stop a goal. There were legs, heads, tails, colours and sounds involved somewhere along the line but, apart from that, nothing else. Town were weary and dreary for the most part: outrun, outpaced and outplayed by a compact, organised team. Half the Town team looked like they were sleepwalking. Bloomer had been perfectly adequate, the sharpest of the Town back four. I didn't mention Cohen once, did I.

Maybe a half-time nap and a couple of extra strong mints would do the trick.

A mystery solved: whatever happened to Tommy Taylor? Onto the pitch hobbled a young man in a duffel coat. It's Tommy Taylor's half time tombala bonanza. So that's why we signed him.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Where's this Hawley sprung from?"
"If you know so much, tell me about the metamorphosis of the frog."
"I'd forgotten about Barwick. And hoped Russ had too."
"I was hanging out of my window holding the gutter up when the cat ran out."
"Bloomer's shirt seems to fit this time."

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time and Carlisle still engaged in a guerrilla war around the barbed wire on the edge of Town's area. From the off they oozed into spaces and schmoozed down the flanks. The water was boiling on the stove as Carlisle threw in the potatoes, carrots, stock, celery and a bit of bay leaf to add a pungent aroma but, just as the meat was about to splosh, Toner put the lid on, scalding himself badly. Off he was dragged, limping back after a minute or so.

Another minute, another Carlisle attack; Hawley was mugged by Leanyman as he burst through the centre. Shall we have a rest? No time, no time. Town were exposed on the right after Bloomer had hurtled forward in support of an attack that never came. Arnison brushed the ball inside for Mr McGoo, unmarked and chugging into the penalty box. The ball rolled across the face of goal, about 15 yards out. Mildenhall advanced, stopped and stared at the winger, who was vapourised by the super-strength superhero's X-Ray vision. The Big M, strength sapped, sank to the ground, and Newey waltzed over to clear.

Town opened the throttle and went full pelt up the other end, Reddy racing to the left and Toner supporting, rolling the ball infield to Bolland, about 20 yards out on the centre left. He looked up, saw the keeper melting and thwanged a zizzling shot towards the top left corner. Westwood hopped, skipped and jumped soaring skywards and magnificently parried the ball over the angle of post and bar.

Town got out the screwdriver - none of this electric nonsense, a good old-fashioned yellow one with a long handle and bits of paint on it, and Carlisle were secured to their own penalty area through sheer force of personality. Toner and Reddy again combined down the left with give-and-go interplay smuggling Parkinson through a gap in the fence. He jinked, he jived, Parky was alive and inside the area on the left, about a dozen yards out. Defenders emerged from their potholes and the shot ricocheted off the two central defenders, ping-ponging around, and was cleared for a corner by a panicking boot.

Reddy's batteries started to flicker after a further tap dance with his new partner, Mr Bojangles Toner. The lights started to flash behind his ears and a strange whirring noise came from his boots. He tapped the ball back for Newey to swing his pants, crossing low towards the near post. Parkinson, about eight yards wide of goal, hurdled a low privet hedge, flung himself forward and headed moderately wide.

This is better, this is Townalike football; the last dregs of energy scraped out of their socks. Reddy's power pack finally failed as the ball was clipped low towards him on the left. He moved towards it but his lower limbs had seized up; he descended to earth with a swan dive, like he was leaping off the cliffs in Acapulco.

Oh hello, they're still here: Hawley twurzling past Jones on their right and lashing as screamer into the crowd, near post not disturbed.

Just after the hour (times may vary according to local scoreboard operators) Gritton replaced the Lumpster, both receiving warm applause; and Barwick flapped on for Cohen, to universal indifference. Yes, Barwick played wide on the right. I saw his hair flop a couple of times; it's a bit feather-cutty for the fourth.

Still Town pressed on. A Bloomer long throw nodded on, the ball shimmering sexily across the edge of the area. Parkinson straightened his bow tie, licked his lips, brushed back his hair, remembered he didn't have any hair, and mis-hit a twisty volley into the ground through Gray's legs and towards the bottom right corner. Westwood scrumbled across his goal and plunged upon this hobbling nuisance.

Bolland was booked for handball, then Reddy. So it's still against the iron law of football to catch it if you can? Or is this just a return to traditional values? Ah, a period of calm, neither side bothering to do Chinese burns for a while.

With a quarter of an hour left Westwood drop-kicked the ball right down the middle. Hawley backed into and around Whittle. The ball was ladled to the right and a couple of midfielders suddenly burst into the box. One prepared to shoot and a Town leg managed to divert attention, the ball rolling further right to another unmarked Carlisler. Mr McGoo looked upon the field of battle and saw a friend free in the distance. He lollipop lollipopped the ball to the far post, where Aranalde waited a few yards out, shaped his body and steered a firm header into the left-hand side of the goal. How disappointing.

Town didn't give up despite having Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson at centre-back and a wicker man at centre-forward. Reddy was almost incapable of moving, he had no more love to give. A final fling, a final corner, or was it a free kick; who knows? In all this excitement I kinda lost track. Jones rose on the right and powered a header towards across goal. Reddy awaited, leapt up and nodded the ball goalwards, from about three yards out. Gray jumped at Reddy, arms aloft, and turned the ball aside, then turned his back to the referee and tried to be Mr Cucumber. What - me? A penalty and a red card. Town fans joyous. Town fans worried as Newey picked the ball up and waited for Carlisle players to stop complaining.

Westwood did some amateur aerobics on his line, flew to his left and watched as Newey's penalty went down the middle, thumped against the underside of the crossbar, bounced down and back into play. Gritton leant over a defender but looped the ball wide. Some people claimed they knew all along that Newey would miss, but they're just the amateur punners from Waltham. How disappointing.

Can't we just bring Kalalalalalala on for penalties, like American 'foot'-ball?

A minute or so later, with Town abandoning any notions of sophistication. Parkinson chased down a clearance and Bolland chased the chase-down, hitting the bye-line on the right. He looked upon the field of battle and saw a friend free in the distance. He lollipop lollipopped the ball to the far post. Gritton waited a couple of yards out, shaped his body and steered a firm header into the outside of the post. How disappointing.

With Jones permanently stationed at the North Pole, Town launched ICBMs into the heart of the blue menace. Hegggggggggggggarty replaced Reddy and got stuck in from the start, adding verve, vim and a bit of va-va-voom to the attack.

Corner after corner, long throw after long throw hurled in by Bloomer; the pressure constant, incessant, the strain almost intolerable for the thin blue line. They creaked in the Town wind, billowing left and right. Jones powered a thunderous header a yard over the bar from a Newey corner. They were fighting in the streets leading to Westwood, but we knew he wouldn't be beat. The ball dropping, rebounding, ricocheting squirming, squelching, barging, barnstorming, dribbling, drowning; the crowd howling and hauling Town on. Bolland smirked a low drive through a thicket of legs, the ball hitting Westwood in the chest and bouncing out towards the penalty spot. Gritton stretched for the loose ball, but the keeper clutched and his team mates made much of the challenge, eeeeeeeeeeeeeking out several seconds more with faux indignation.

Take a breather. OK? Ready? Let's go. Boom, boom, boom, the Pontoon roaring. Bloomer, near the Police Box, hooped a long throw towards Jones, who snickled the ball on. Hegggggarty, near the edge of the penalty area, hot-dogged in mid-air, spinning, twisting, turning in one movement to volley over the Cumbrian mountains. Westwood leapt; the ball curved over his fingertips and bonked against the face of the crossbar, hung above the goal and slunk off, head buried inside its fur-lined hood for a goal kick.

Despite all the time-wasting, six substitutions, the injuries, the bookings and the sending off, there were just two minutes of added time shown. Town pummelled the Carlisle punchbag as Mildenhall crept up to the halfway line. One last Town attack, a free kick inside the Town half launched long into the centre of the penalty area right by the penalty spot. Jones towered above all, the keeper stuck in the lift, his sentries gathered together in the lobby. BANG, Jones bazookered a header towards the empty goal, the ball arcing a foot over the bar. That's it. How disappointing.

It was always ambitious to use gliders to sneak around heavily fortified defensive positions. You see, gliders have no power. By the time your artillery arrives it's too late - they've dug in. Carlisle were jack-be-nimble, jack-be-quicks. Impressively certain in their style and tactics, they knew where their mates would be and, crucially, they didn't look like they'd just stepped off a magical mystery tour of the outer fringes of football. Their H-bombs didn't quite make us morons, but they gave our ailing artisans at the back as big a runaround as anyone so far. As for Town, well, given the context, nothing to be ashamed about in this defeat. A draw would have been fair given the way Town sliced and diced the remaining Carlislians in the last 15 minutes, but we've mugged enough teams in far more brazen hussy fashion away from home, so we can't complain.

Time for bed, Russ Van Winkle: let's dream of those delicious January sales bargains.

Nicko's man of the match
Toner was a flaming presence in the first half, but after his crockery was smashed at the start of the second his fire flickered, rather than roared. Jones the Lean assumed control towards the end and Bolland was a magnificent growing presence. Who shall claim the crown? Let's share the spoils: Ciaran Toner, with Bolland getting an oak leaf to put on his medals.

Official warning
Cuh, dear me. Mr T Parks went out of his way to show he wasn't a homer, far too one-sided in punishing Town players for existing within the same dimension. He couldn't avoid sending off Gray, after having booked Bolland and Reddy for handball a few minutes earlier, so a deeply unimpressive 4.001 for general rubbishness in Town matches going back to the last millennium. One couldn't decide what decision he would make when he blew his whistle: it could have been anything.