Let it snow: Lincoln (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

28 December 2005

Grimsby Town 3 Lincoln City 0

Just hear those sleigh bells ringing and jing-jing-jingling too, or is that the rustle of wool on nylon, thermal cardigan on coat? Chilly chilly is the evening time as hundreds of Imps swarmed like flies around the battered old Osmond Stand. Brrrrgh, stamp your feet, clap your hands: it's cold. The pitch was flecked with white streaks but perfect. Yes, they are a modern rock combo; what is noisy swamp blues?

Town lined up in the 4-4-2-type formation as follows: Mildenhall (Man in Tights), Croft, Whittle, R Jones, Newey, Parkinson, Bolland, Toner, Cohen, Reddy and the G-man. The substitutes pulled their frilly nylon tracksuits right up tight and they were Ramsden, Jean Paul Kamudimba forgottenaboutala, Heggggggggarty, Ashton and Downey. Nothing to add except Gritton's absence, with his name flashing across the technological marvel that is the scoreboard right up to kick off. Can you blame him? It's a bit too cold to sit around watching football.

It's Christmas: time for the traditional Grandstand schedule-filling minority sport. Welcome to Keefball. I've just looked the rules up on the internet: running with the ball is forbidden and players may only mark a player of the same sex; apart from playing within one half of the field there are no set positions. Yup, sums up Big Keef's Lincoln, who played in their red 'n' white striped shirts, red shorts and white socks. Not at all clashing with Town then.

Dish of the Day: it's official - being cuddly and round is just not good enough for a professional footballer. He should eat a jam sandwich and pull the wings off a wasp while poking it with a stick and listening to Radio Luxembourg. It doesn't say which flavour jam though. [Don't worry, readers; I'm as confused as you are - Ed.]

Tommy Taylor. This is also a time to remember those we have lost. Is he behind the sofa in the Cheapside canteen?

Come on, let's get on with it before Hull freezes over.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon. Oh look - the referee is two foot six inches, dwarfed by Parky and Asamoah. Handy for making a snowman out of though. Has anyone brought along a carrot?

The game started in expected kicky-rushy fashion, with Town players the most likely to touch the ball intentionally. Lincoln were, erm, shall we say aspiring towards route one, giving Town the shimmering veneer of dilettante aesthetes. From the off Lincoln just looked a bunch of awful footballers, incapable of controlling the ball or kicking it accurately. Hoofing suggests dignity in their folie.

After three minutes the referee awarded them a free kick 20 yards out in the centre right as Whittle's breath temporarily obstructed the view of one of their amorphous, anonymous and anodyne strikers. Kerr weighed up his options, envisaged glory, uttered his personal mantra and passed the ball into the arms of the Man in Tights. The only sane and rational reaction to this starts with 'P' and ends in 'ffft'.

More lumping and dumping the ball over the hills and far, far away. Biff-bang-wallop, the ball boomed long and hard downwind and out of sight, bouncing off a man's head and deep into the Town area. Newey, about ten yards out near the right post, stretched back and noodled the ball over the Man in Tights and onto the roof of the net. The knotty band of Imps were excited by this, which amused us monochromers no end. In fact we are still chuckling at such desperate hopefulness.

Biff-bang-wallop, a throw-in to Lincoln 20 yards out on their left. Some bloke lobbed the ball high and distant, deep into the Town area. Croft, at the near post, stretched back and glanced the ball goalwards. Mild-in-tights leapt to his left and slapped aside the ball, which bounced free eight yards out at the far post. Johnny Logan stepped forward and crimpled a shot against the lunging Cohen's backside. No, not Johnny - Richard Logan. He must be the amorphous one. Are we the only lower-division east coast side he hasn't failed for?

All this sounds like Lincoln created pressure, chances, cohesion. Don't fool yourself: just two moments when their lumpings nearly caused some discomfort. Oh, there they go again, one of their lanky centre-backs thwacking a shot to Mild-in-tights' near post. How many times do we have to tell the opposition: Williams was last year. The Big M scoffed this festive tart without the need for cream.

Town had a shot: Toner scuffed it straight to their keeper. Not worth expanding upon, just a sighter really. With about nine minutes gone the Mild One drop-kicked the ball straight to Toner, on the centre left, who controlled it in an instant, spinning and tapping the ball to the ever-willing Reddyrunner near the touchline. Reddy riverdanced, shuffling his marker along the line, bumping him aside and snowboarding down the slope, all to a fashionably eco-friendly contemporary soundtrack.

Defenders poured back as Reddy skipped into the penalty area, near the bye-line. He looked up and awaited friends as foes stood back in awe. Parkinson ran to the far post, Reddy waited. Jones the Lump was by now past the centre circle. Reddy waited. Toner ballroom-blitzed down the centre as Reddy waited and rolled the ball gently towards the infiltrating Irishman. Like an old man in a large hat, the ball refused to be hurried. The referee made a great run from deep and dummied, leaping over the ball and, a dozen yards out on the right of their penalty area, a Town player awaited his destiny. Toner opened up his body and stab-steered the ball high across the face of goal and into the net off the top of the left post. All hail... Bolland, according to the tannoy. Bolland turned to the Findus/Stones/Smiths Stand and accepted the love that flowed.

Actually, that long throw Croft thing might have happened now. Who cares.

Town stepped up the pace, confidence clearly oozing from every bootlace. Lincoln decided to be that team the Harlem Globetrotters always play, whose sole function is to provide a tablecloth upon which the real stars can dine. They were great in their rubbishness, even throwing in some physical comedy. Had they put on clown football boots? Whoops! Wahey! Their back four took it in turns to miss the ball and kick it with their standing foot. Big Keef should have put on a red coat and top hat, rather than a rapper's wrappage around his head.

Ah, some banana splits from Town with one-touch passing down the left. Parky to Reddy, the ball fizzing sideways to the Lumpmeister, 25 yards out. He rose, high-stepping like a Tiller girl to fleagle a ministry-of-silly-walks volley which soared, seared, swerved and sank into the snow two inches from the corner flag for a throw-in.

Ho-ho-ho, they're at it again with their Mr Grimsdale shenanigans. Parkinson and Reddy flambéed down the centre left, the ball squirming across the face of the penalty area towards Mayo, who swung his left foot and did a lovely triple salkow, landing perfectly with a fixed grin. Cohen ran around Jayne Torvill and flashed a cross towards the near post, six yards out. One of their Big Macs (without the Mayo, of course) sliced the ball a yard or so over the crossbar. Town pressure was incessant, Lincoln wobbling like an ill-set jelly in the shape of a rabbit.

Reddyrunner, Reddyrunner, going faster miles an hour. Lumpy loved the ball down the right wing, near the Police Box. Reddy shivered McAuley's timbers, spliced his mainsail and off he sailed, tacking left, then right, fending off an Impish brigand with a whip and a quip and heading for Treasure Island. A quick glance at the tatty map and, with a rusty shovel in his back pocket, our hero dispatched two more pirates with a yo-ho-ho. Inside the area, eight yards out, Reddy levered a left-footed shot goalwards, which lolloped into the top left corner off Marriott's forearm. He flits from box to box just like a butterfly, eagerly pursuing all the latest fads and trends - like scoring.

Lincoln did not improve. Asamoah twinkled his toes but never threatened to expose. He must be the anodyne one. The other striker was... was... who was he, Ethel? A name came up on the scoreboard: Brown. Big Keef should have known - a gentleman never wears brown in Town. Was he playing? I thought he was a defender? Did they have eleven players? Oh look, another shot. Anodyne cut in from the left and softly curdled the ball into Mild-in-tights' arms.

On the half-hour Cohen was subject to some push-me, pull-me, with the ref seeing no evil, but hearing some evil words from the multitude. Cohen rose from the turf, chased after his assailant and subtly legged him up in full flight. A booking followed, and not at the Theatre Royal, Lincoln for his one-man show Travels with my Pants.

Did they have another shot? Yes, typically scruffled and lacking in devilment. Stifle that yawn at the back - it's only another long throw. Open the podbay doors, HAL; Jones the Lean can snaffle those truffles all day, and all of the night. For you completists and towel-straighteners Matthew Bloomer replaced hobbling Lee Beevers after 33 minutes of the association football challenge match. Hobbling Lee Beevers: is he a noisy swamp bluesman?

Oooh, it were pleasantly lovelyful, the dark days of derby misery flung like a snowball into the Osmond. Town players blossomed into masters of flickery: one-touch backheels and stepovers a-go-go. Reddy chased the ball into the corner 'twixt Findus/Smiths/Stones and Pontoon, espied Marriott off his line and, from the touchline, tried a lob volley. The ball brushed against a Big Mac and canoodled into Marriott's chest. Still, nice try. Corners, crosses, Lincoln still dossers in the underpass: last year's kings reduced to grovelling in the rubbish bins. No time for gloating, it's Town time again.

With a couple of minutes left a dozen policemen went to the toilet, and Town won yet another corner. Newey floated the ball into the centre of the area and Jones the Lean roared a header goalwards. Marriott, on the goal-line, saw the ball late and instinctively flung his right arm up, diverting the ball onto the face of the crossbar. It rolled slowly on the woodwork and out for another corner.

Newey again flung it high towards the centre and a defender nodded it out to the edge of the area. Parky challenged, then stood back as the ball bumbled towards the left of the area. A Town player challenged the clearance and the ball rolled back out towards Parky about 25 yards out, just right of centre. Parkinson watched and waited for the ball, fine-tuned his radio telescope and thwanged a right-footed curler around the giant red-striped trees in front of him towards the top left corner. Marriott set off early to avoid the rush hour traffic, but still failed as the ball smooched in off the inside of the post.

What a perfect pitch, what a perfectly pitched performance. What a hoot.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"No matter how many times you look it won't turn into a chicken."
"They've got four Mark Levers at the back. And three French hens in midfield?"
"To me almond nougat is a Swiss full-back, not a Christmas present."
"Yeo will be resigning before he signs if he sees this."
"When I drove up the hill there were lights flashing I never knew existed."

Second half
As the teams trotted out the occasional flecks of snow turned into a shovel load, hurled over the top of the Pontoon by desperate Lincolnites. Cackle maniacally and twang your guitar. White-out!

Asamoah was allegedly replaced by the less than marvellous Marvin Robinson at half time. Hmmmm, those bells are a-clanging again. Robinson, Robinson... wasn't he one of the many failed trialists against Brigg Town last year? Oh yes, an older version of Jermaine Palmer. Praise as faint as the view from the Pontoon. Hello? Hello? Is there anybody out there? This snow really does clash with the kits. The ref should get it to change colour.

The snow drifted down, settling upon the pitch, the touchlines barely visible. A beautiful scene of tenderness and tranquillity, the snow sheets mesmerising as they wafted past the floodlights, casting scintillating auras. Hang on, enough of this codpoetry: how long must a game be played before the result stands, whatever happens? "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snooooooow." Stop singing you Impies, your fire is slowly dying.

The first ten minutes were played behind a discreetly positioned sheet, perhaps to cover up Alexander's embarrassment as he took off his dirty underwear. Noises were heard infrequently from the pensioners and pedagogues in the Main and Findus/Stones/Smiths stands; out of the gloom City strikers poked their heads, but not a lot seemed to happen. Reddy ran down the touchline a couple of times; Parkinson tried to chip the keeper from the dressing room; but it was all half-paced, half-seen stuff. Town lowered the pace and invited their guests to come closer, come closer, darlings come closer, but Town couldn't break away. Lincoln's resistance was not so low this half.

Ah that's better, it's stopped. We can see now. Are you still here, Lincolnites?

On the hour Town scored again. Reddy raced down the right and crossed into the centre; there was some kerfuffling involving Cohen, and Toner walloped the ball in from 20 yards. The whistle had long since gone, as had hope for Lincoln. Do we really want to rub their noses in the snow? Yes, we flippin' well do, Russ.

We were now just passing the time, not passing the ball. The regulations state 90 minutes have to be played. Can't we skip the next bit and just go to the post-match interviews heard on Radio Humberside while waiting to turn left out of Brereton Avenue? Is the referee getting smaller? I suppose things contract in freezing conditions. Toner had a shot, drivelling low and slow to the keeper after some Cohen/Lumpmachine/Bolland interplay. We're just waiting, but not for a girl like you.

Town sat back and allowed Lincoln to dictate the play: ouch, my neck hurts. Eventually they began to kick the ball into the area in places where Town were slightly uncomfortable. Robinson, 15 yards out, unmarked but untalented: he headed safely wide and wider still. Mild-In-Tights looked on with the air of a clockwatching till girl in Woolies; if he looked suitably bored the customer would go elsewhere. And again Cyril, one of the Big Macs headed the ball towards the Pontoon from the edge of the area. They really are poor. Last year they had good players playing horrible football; this year they've got the players to match their tactics. Aye-aye, another long throw, nice of the stewards to dump the ball in the snow.

The referee started to get in the swing of things, making bizarre decisions like a goal kick for Town when Newey scudded the ball behind off the soles of his diamond-encrusted feet. Even the Pontoon claimed a corner for Lincoln. How long gone? Still only 62 minutes; it said that ten minutes ago. Is time freezing too? Or maybe Town wish it could be Christmas every day?

Here's another daft decision: free kick to Lincoln just outside the box because they asked politely. And another, and another. Kerr and Mayo took turns to dimple the ball into the centre. Bodies collided; the ball followed instructions and avoided contact with red and whiteys. Moments of potential danger, where the application of the laws of probability says something could turn up eventually. It didn't. The nearest they got was when Mild-O wandered out to whisper in Whittle's ear. The ball trumbled off a Lincoln head, over the bored keeper and some anonymous and anodyne striker way beyond the far post glanced a header even further wide.

As Lincoln started to press forward Town started to catch them on the break. Cohen performed some juggling with a large baked potato, a banana fritter and a bobble hat. Two defenders applauded as the Gretna ghost za-zoomed away from the touchline towards goal. They backed off, he looked up, saw Reddy racing to his left and played a perfectly weighted pass to the Kilkenny flyer. Reddy pushed the ball to his left, dribbled into the area and chimpled the ball way over the bar, hitting the underside of the scoreboard. How long gone? Sixty-two minutes.

Robinson started to kick Croft, leaving his foot hanging in the air for an 'accidental' collision, but Town rarely got a free kick. The crowd were roused and railing when Cohen was penalised for winning the ball, the crowd wailing when Cohen was clobbered full-on in the cobblers area, but no free kick awarded. At long, long last, a free kick to Town: Robinson booked and Newey launching the ball deep into the Lincoln area. Jones the Lean got on his spacehopper and loop-glanced a header goalwards, Marriot arcing back and comfortably plucking.

How long gone? Sixty-two minutes? Still? That's not a clock - it's a thermometer. But on which scale? The Fentyscale, where it's the temperature you'd like it to be? Where did the last 20 minutes go? On 82 minutes Croft was walloped again. In the 80th minute Ramsden replaced him. Now that's management - thinking two minutes ahead. No wonder we concede so few goals.

Lincoln still pressed on with their jumping-a-Town-player-to-get-a-free-kick tactic. The Impies indulged in some binge dinking into the Town penalty area, resulting in men rolling around on the floor and forgetting where they were and what they were doing. Mild-Still-In-Tights rabbit-punched one away and there was the very minorest of hints at a shot from them when a dink arrived at Robinson's feet four yards out. With his back to goal he was simply ushered into the nearest cubicle and told to wash his hands before he left.

Town's infrequent raids were characterised by flickery and trickery, the Lumpmachine acting as some kind of bloated Tony Rees, holding the ball and rolling it aside for Cohen to mis-kick straight to the keeper. Parkinson shot straight at a defender's ankles after Bollandian hussling and Reddyian rolling had set him free. It's party time.

With a couple of minutes left Heggggggggarty replaced Reddy, who got a huge ovation. Reddy wasn't paying attention and had to be tapped on the shoulder by his marker and told to leave the pitch. And that was just about that. Hegggggarty touched the ball twice and was introduced to the harsh world of man-football as Town launched the ball in the air towards him. Town just wasted time in the corners for the last few minutes, much to the annoyance of the crowd. Does it matter now? No. Game over, three points in that big bumper bag of goodies. Lincoln just got the plastic kazoo.

How satisfying: a stroll in the snow with the job done in half the time available. How wonderfully efficient. See, Town, that's the way to do it: rock and roll from the start. Most pleasing, locals content; let's open another box of chocolates.

Nicko's man of the match
Everyone will pick Reddy for his typically Reddyian performance of shugging and chugging, and he was an immense pest to them, creating the first two goals. But hey, Nicko's from Grimsby; it's in the DNA code to be contrary. Toner had his best game for Town by several eons and, really, everyone played well; even Lumpy was effective for the whole match. However, for being a human dynamo from first to beyond the last minute, it's Paul Bolland; he even controlled it twice. What further proof do you need to convict?

Official warning
Mr R Olivier gets a seasonal bonus of an extra five clubcard points for letting the game start, and finish. But the bits in between were a problem. Every little thing he did was not magic, managing to infuriate the home fans by imagining slurs upon the good shirts of Lincoln but ignoring some rather obvious man-not-ball challenges, particularly by their forwards. He kept giving free kicks when Town players looked at Lincolnites, but then ignored the Reddy shuffle, where he yanks the centre-back's underpants down and runs off sniggering and pulling faces. Far too many words used already; you just want the last line "...for a while". A rather kind 4.671 for the Anti-Crouch.