Something in the air: Mansfield (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

14 January 2006

Grimsby Town 2 Mansfield Town 1

A drab, grey day with a fine mizzle hanging over Cleethorpes, the upmarket Mablethorpe: a taste of the jet set for around 450 Mansfieldians. Did they eschew the siren clinking of the waterfront casinos? Should Town follow Sheffield United and build some luxury B&Bs in the open corners, with slot machine arcades to pull in the high-rolling punters in a perfect sport/gambling synergy?

Town lined up in the choo-choo train, 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, Bloomer, Futcher junior, R Jones, Newey, Parkinson, Bolland, Toner, Cohen, Reddy and Lumpaldinho. The substitutes were Gritton, Barwick, poster boy Downey, Croft and yesterday's tomorrow person, Danny North. The Son of Cod is tall and most of his limbs move at the same time, mostly. Do you think there was an economic reason in signing him: he's the only professional footballer who'd fit into Tony Crane's bespoke tailored kit?

Before the match Russell Slade was presented with his prize for being the Grimsby manager of the month for December. We haven't had any other managers in December, have we?

Mansfield looked pretty in yellow and blue, bringing along, as you do when you go to the seaside, an inflatable lilo. Pressman had better watch out for sea breezes, or he'd end up in Tromso. Jelleyman is still a funny name for a footballer, though one wonders how they expect to score goals with Ronnie Barker up front.

Dish of the Day: detox. They've obviously run out of players to turn into vegan hydrophilics and branched into a little etymology, or is that entomology? If you want the executive summary of Duane's ditherings: don't believe experts, especially Chris Kamara, who doesn't eat enough broccoli.

Lock up the streets and houses, settle down in your seats: we've got to get it together sooner or later at home.

First half
Mansfield kicked off towards the Osmond and just kept the ball, passing to each other, running away from Town players and running towards their own in support. Within a minute Futcher caused four thousand people to whistle innocently as they contemplated the random nature of existence. So he's got his mother's footballing DNA then. Mansfield kwik-fit flitted around the Town right, tingling a pass to the edge of the area on the centre right. Futcher stretched forward and Russell nipped around this slow-moving glacier, tipped the ball into the area and tumbled over the chip off the old pine tree stump. The referee avoided eye contact and play continued. Hey, great ref.

Reddy fell, Reddy hurty leg; a hair out of place. Two minutes gone.

They're still at it, you know, these mellow yellowers. It's quite lovely to watch. We used to play like that. We never scored either. Fizzing left, thrusting right, the Nottsmen had Town in knots with exquisite polkas and paso dobles. Stick and Brick in the centre of Town defence were windmilling arms and legs to repel the yellow peril. Danger lurked. Bing-boing, a chance gone. From right to left, crossed back again low and hard, the Town defence twisting the night away. Barker, about a dozen yards out in the centre, smurfed a volley a yard or so wide of the hand post.

Crosses, corners, the pressure constant, their dominance total: Mansfield were strangling Town's game at birth. Barker headed wide, then half-volleyed softly to Mildo when Futcher set him up. The referee's rubbish, awarding free kicks when nobody asked. Town attacked, the ball was cleared and the whistle blew. Crowd apoplexy, player pandemonium. The referee pointed upfield towards Mildenhall, the Town players ran back complaining, then ran towards the Pontoon, with Mansfield complaining. He'd given a free kick to Town. Why?

After about eight minutes Town won a throw-in underneath the Stones/Smiths/Findus stand. This was something to be proud of: a set piece in their half; this is progress. Newey looped it in the vague direction of the Lumpmobile, who grazed the ball on into the penalty area. Parkinson pestered; a defender knocked the ball against Parky's chest and on it tumbled behind the defence. Reddy burst through, took one touch and, from a narrow angle about seven yards out to the left of goal, rolled the ball between the spacehopper's legs and into the net. It's the old Town tongue-twister goal: perky Parky pestered, Pressman pickled, Reddy rocked and rolled. Yes, that's right, Mansfield - you've won Dusty Bin.

Did Mansfield crumble with cream or custard? Did Town surge forward with gay abandon, energised by the goal? No, the Stagsters just kept on playing pass the parcel while Town had a game of musical statues. Town hoofed, Mansfield passed and retained possession, attack after attack built from the back through the midfield. After about quarter of an hour, Mansfield curled a free kick from their right beyond the far post. Barker rose and nodded back into the centre. The goal a-gaped, Russell stretched and Jones the Stick soothsayed the ball off the line, pulling out a line of multicoloured ribbons from behind his left ear at the same time.

And that, in essence, was that for them. They continued to worry 20 yards out, but no shots for Mildenhall to deal with - just moments of concern played out at a safe distance. For all their dazzling dashings they had no-one with any nous. Uhlenbeek spent half of the first half unmarked on their right, with Newey and Parkinson drifting slowly infield like some old dead seaweed upon the ebbing tide. Fortunately, none of their players ever thought to look right. Uhlenbeek - is he stalking us? Isn't there a law against that sort of thing? He seems to play against us for several teams every season.

As the minutes ticked on, the decibels dropped. The dull thud of indifference was clanging in our ears. Oh look, there's a bird on top of the Osmond Stand. A large crow, apparently; it soon flew off, as the rabbits weren't dead yet. The Pontoon roof leaked: drip, drip, drip onto one man's lap. Stewards were called and an international incident averted without need for the Security Council to be convened.

Cohen slid across a full-back as he cleared upfield, just catching the end of the biggest of his big toes. Just a free kick, that's all, nothing to get hung up about. A minute later Cohen was upended by the wobbling Jelleyman as the beaded wonder started one of his magneto-powered surges up the wing. The free kick was pumped high, the biggest aspidistras in the world came up from the back and Mansfield's tent started to sway slightly in the breeze. Newey curled a corner from the left and Futcher gurned goalwards, with a Stagman winking the ball clear.

Newey took the next corner from the right and Futcher attempted some light therapeutic massage upon his marker's neck, but the pressure was not reduced.

Hey, Town might even have a shot soon.

Passing! Bolland breaking, Parkinson purring, Reddy ruminating and Mansfield chewing their cud. The ball was flicked to Parkinson, about 25 yards out on the centre left, who hit a tremendously terrific pass with the outside of his right boot, the ball curling perfectly to Bolland, beyond the last defender on the far side of the penalty area. Yeah, awful shot. Told you Town might have a shot soon. Well, it cheered us up a bit.

Mansfield had a couple of breaks where they got to the bye-line with Jones and Futcher averting danger, and their eyes, with sliced clearances over the top of the crossbar. These were just two of the moments when the ball remained inside Blundell Park.

As the game progressed Cohen became more and more prominent: running from deep at his full-back, pinging crosses through the box, forcing hackneyed clearances, being a downright pain in their blue-shorted backsides. He was assisted by Bloomer, who started to pass the ball to him on the ground. This was such a shocking departure from the norm that many refused to believe the evidence of their own eyes and claim a conspiracy involving the CIA, Fidel Castro and disaffected members of the Louth rotary club.

Another Town corner! Cleared, returned, cleared again: the pressure rising. Lumpaldinho, on the right, broke through the glass ceiling and into the sunlit uplands known as the opposition penalty area. He looked up and curled a perfect cross in to the near post where Reddy, six yards out, leant across his marker and glanced an apologising header across the face of goal. So surprised were the massed Mariners that Town had created what broccoli eaters everywhere would call "a chance" that we forgot to "ooh" for a few seconds.

Flim-flam, Town on the lam down the left; Reddy snorted free, turned inside and, from the centre 20 yards out, bedraggled a soft shot along the ground straight to the incredible bouncing bomb. No bubbles in this glass of champagne, just a bit of sour wetness.

And finally the cheery bit at the end of the news designed to send you to the toilets with a smile. Cohen, somewhere near the outer fringes of the known universe, perhaps near Chapman's Pond, collected a pass in midfield. He surged forward, past one, two, three, zooming from right to left. Flash Cohen approaching. Mansfield dispatched war rocket Alex Baptiste to bring back his body, but Flash jinked further to his left and sneagled a shattering drive from the edge of the box. The ball hit Pressman near his air valve and a little air escaped before the cap was replaced.

Is that it? Yes it is, unless you are interested in steward chic: dig the groovy cat with the Peruvian llama hat.

Oh, hang on - I forgot to tell you about… no, it's nothing.

So how many shots did each team have? How many saves? It was a skiddy shambles of a helter-skelter ghost train ride to nowheresville. They were better, we were winning.

Reddy wasn't that bothered if the ball wasn't within a millimetre of where he might want it. On at least three occasions he simply stopped, though the ball was within a foot or two and he was within ten yards of goal. Jones the Lump was more obtrusive than normal, which means he was at least closer to the ball. He didn't win that many headers, considering his size, shape and raison d'être.

By half time three balls had already been dispatched over the stands and far, far away. The question on everyone's lips: have Town enough balls?

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Unfortunately my flatbreads are too salty."
"It's rubbish, but at least it's end to end rubbish."
"They said it was dead people, but I think it's my bedroom radiator."
"Toner's OK now - I forgot he'd played for Lincoln."
"Where in the FIFA regulations does it say goalkeepers can't wear hats made of velcro?"

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time, though Mansfield brought their own ball boys. In newspapers and other vague sources of information you'll find them described as substitutes.

What's going on? Same as the first half, but a bit slower and a bit more rubbish really. Oh look, another yellow sphere launched beyond the stratosphere, a small disc planted in its centre containing details of the finer aspects of the human race in case aliens should come across it.

Cohen ran at them; they quivered, if not quaked, and he quacked the ball against someone's shins. The crowd rested, restive, but no longer festive, awaiting something. Here it is: Bloomer ignored his Lincoln feelings and found the inner youth team product deep within his shorts. Hey kids, he just said "no" to the long welly up the line, instead cutting infield, dribbling forward and exchanging passes with Toner, before tipping Cohen free behind the defence on the right. Bloomer continued his run and Cohen crossed into the near post, forcing a Stag to stutter the ball off a lesser-known bone and behind for a corner.

Futcher and Jones the Stick mumbled and rumbled forward, with Newey curling the corner deep into the heart of the penalty area. Jones ducked, a defender hugged, and another corner followed. A couple more corners, and that's your lot for a long while.

About ten minutes into the half Reet replaced Russell. A reet little geet he turned out to be, niggling and naggling any defender within nudging distance. Within a minute he'd won them a corner. Curled low to the near post, the ball was deflected out to the unmarked Dawson, on the right edge of the area. Two steps forward and one thwack back towards goal. The ball refused to veer off course, the sniper's crosshairs set for Mildenhall's throat. The Big M walked tall and blocked with his chest, Cohen eventually swivelling the ball out of the area as Dawson and Barker shrugged close by.

Mansfield dominant again, with Town gradually sinking further and further back towards Mildenhall; the midfield was camped ten yards outside the penalty area and Gary Lumpo sat between those two banks of four. Reddy? A lone figure, barely visible in the swirling mizzle, the ball seldom near. Clearances were whacked downfield with Reddy rarely close enough to horse whisper in the ears of centre-backs, possession tossed casually aside like stale bread at a duck pond. This game had a rhythm - their rhythm; Town just defended.

No, here's something. Parkinson attempted to turn inside their penalty area and was given some cheek by a big defender hanging around outside the local mini-mart. Penalty, cried the masses. Play was waved on, Bolland free, shooting straight at pneumatic Pressman. Offside anyway.

More changes from Mansfield, more youngsters thrown on. Perhaps things will go better for them with Coke.

Last man Bloomer stepped on the ball allowing Burchall to skip away. As the little mermaid advanced on goal, across came the big bad shark to eat this little sprat. Futcher surfed across the turf and lobbed boy and ball into the Stones/Smiths/Findus stand. Just what the boy Futch needed, and from this moment he grew on the Town fans for his ability to place opponents into the empty seating. His distribution improved to Leveresque shinadequacy.

Buxton, the farmer's lad, drove his oxen over the cattle grid and into the Town area, on the left. Three defenders bumped into the hedge, Futcher swiping clear. Barker, free on the edge of the area, dragooned a bumbly-stumbly shot across Mildenhall and a couple of yards wide of the right post after a typically whirling dervish across the pitch from left to right to left.

The pressure was incessant, but had Mildenhall yet made a save?

With about 20 minutes left the crowd were roused from their rising groaning at Town to vent fury at the officials. Reet pursued an overhit pass down their right and Jones the Stick ushered the ball out of play for a goal kick, whereupon Reet decided to push the back of Jones's head with his forearm. Crowd crescendo, Jones infuriated, Reet gave a snidy smile. Mildenhall ran across to remonstrate and was booked; Reet was told to be nice next time. This was exactly what Town needed - a healthy howling from the Pontoon to raise the temperature; it's the only thing that seems to get us going these days. A minute later Uhlenbeek performed an outrageously obvious dive over an invisible Toner boot and they got another free kick, 25 yards out: the crowd uproariously unrepentant in their loathing of the village green idiot.

A brief respite as Town got a free kick on the right. Newey whacked it high and far, Jones the Stick rose and steered the ball goalwards from a dozen yards out. The ball yawned and Pressman plopped. A good job there were no sharp implements around; otherwise he'd have popped, causing severe discomfort to those within the blast zone.

More Mansfield pressure, more free kicks given for staggering rather than fouling. They didn't even have to ask. On their right, level with the penalty area, a free kick curled around the wall and towards the near post. Some yellow boy ducked and glanced the ball loopily high and droopily wide. Another crashing wave of yellow and blue as Burchall spun a little web on the left. He crossed and the ball fell to Dawson, 20 yards out on the centre right, who steadied himself, set Big Bertha to an angle of 45 degrees, and ka-boomed a dipping volley towards the right corner. Mildenhall shuffled and swerved across to his right, spectacularly, brilliantly, parrying the ball aside. The save was quite magnificient, my Lord. A statute shall be erected in the town square to commemorate the event.

Don't pat yourself on the back too soon - they're still at it. Burchall again, twizzling and wurzelling with menace, and a shot exploding goalwards from the right corner of the Town penalty area. Three Town players threw themselves in the path of this torpedo; the ball ballooned off the Mansfield piggy in the middle and arced up, up, up and onto the roof of the goal with Mildo caught in the netting like a distressed dolphin.

And still they drove on. An attack half repelled, the ball at Newey's feet inside the Town area. He cut infield to his right and passed the ball directly to Uhlenbeek 30 yards out, who swirled the ball back towards the far post. The ball drifted over Bloomer to Barker, and there was a series of stepovers, twirls and all that jazz. Futcher made a superb sliding tackle eight yards out, the ball squishing out towards the edge of the area. Bolland lunged, Coke hung in the air and there was a collision. Penalty given. Town in uproar; Bolland prostrate and dragged off the pitch by the physio. Barker walked up and waited. Mildenhall fixed the steeliest of steel stares and dived to his left. Barker walloped the ball down the centre left. It travelled an inch or two above Mildenhall's right boot and into the middle of the goal.

Twelve minutes left to hang on to the point.

Town launched themselves at Mansfield, winning a corner. Newey hung it high into the centre; it was half cleared and headed back, then headed out, headed back, Jones the Lump grazing it into the centre. In, out, back in again, the ball headed across goal and Jones the Stick bundled in from a couple of yards. The linesman had his flag up for something or other: goal disallowed. From the perfect vantage point of the Pontoon it was, of course, a perfectly legal goal, as was pointed out in words of few syllables, and fewer words.

With ten minutes left Gritton replaced Jones the L and Croft replaced Bloomer. Croft managed to push Burchall back fifteen yards and didn't allow him to turn. That's called Premiership experience: even if your legs don't move, you know where to park your zimmer frame. Within a minute Cohen had been assassinated by their war rocket, who was booked. Newey, about 25 yards out on the centre right, took an age to carefully chip the ball into Pressman's midriff. It's one way to waste time, I suppose.

A Mansfield attack petered out down the Town left and Newey, about 20 yards out underneath the Police Box, dreamed his dreams away. He stepped inside a stray Mansfieldian and just kept on going. On and on and on he went: infield, upfield, Mansfield ploughed and scattered. Newey exchanged passes with Toner and zithered on up to the edge of their penalty area. He pootled past the final defender and, near the left corner, Reddy cut across and scootled a low shot back across goal. Pressman plopped again, parrying the ball along the edge of the six-yard box. A huge expanse of netting, the ball rolling alone, who shall be our Prince Charming? Parkinson scampered forward and swept the ball through a diving defender.

Now that's what I call cheering. Mildenhall went bonkers, almost joining the Pontoon. He'd better sit down soon or else he'd be ejected. Ah, that's better.

Mansfield continued to press, but achieved nothing. They scurvied about the periphery, threatening to knock on our door but being scared off by the big rottweilers by the gates. In the remaining minutes there was just one more shot, from Gritton, who chested the ball down 20 yards out and mis-hit a scribbler to Pressman's ankles. They huffed, they puffed, but Mansfield had put all their air in one Pressman basket.

There were four minutes of added time. Surely this is Terry time, especially with Toner and Bolland hobbling. In added time North replaced Reddy and did two tackles. Newey chased his winger and scythed him down; underneath the Police Box on cobblestones he lay. [He took the ball, I tells ya - ed.] A free kick: mild peril, no scenes to scare youngsters though. The Mansfieldian decided to hoopla the cross behind the goal. That's nice of him. Bye-bye and thank you, that's three points.

Town defended Mildenhall adequately, but offensively yet again there wasn't much going on. The only times Mansfield were troubled were when Newey and Bloomer decided to run upfield, or pass to Parky or Cohen, rather than knock it long for Reddy to hassle over. Town showed glimpses of something more aesthetically pleasing, but the ruthless machine grinds on, eating all the little bright flowers in its tracks.

There were seven lost balls, and that kind of sums it all up.

Nicko's man of the match
Mildenhall made one wondrous save and one excellent block, but apart from that had nothing to do. Cohen was Town's most devious attacker, the man most likely, but just to make you drop your coffee, it's Tom Newey, for that late surge. It won the game.

Official warning
Hopeless. Not worthy of any more thought or words, Mr L Mason gets 4.432: random numbers for a random whistler.