Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

16 March 2013

Grimsby Town 0 Cambridge United 1

Norman Collier. Kenny Ball. And now Gubba's gone. Each day a little bit of our glorious island history dies. 

There were 133 of them. There were more of us. It was drizzly, mizzly and miserable in the Mississippi Delta. I woke up this morning, I got the Grimsby Town blues. I say I woke up this morning and put on my old brown shoes. I'd obviously forgotten to put my socks on. It was one of those days. 

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Hatton, Miller, Pearson, Thomas, meandering Marshall, Naylor, Artus, Devitt, Cook, Brodie. The substitutes were Wood, Wilson, Colbeck, John-Lewis and Hearn the Hunter. Shall we go home now, then? 

If you were expecting a humdinger of a game, forget it. If you're hoping for a humdinger of a report, forget it. The pitch was stodgy, cut up and divotting freely and Cambridge's players looked bigger. There is no poetry in a sewage farm and alchemy is a double album by Dire Straits. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. 

First half: Something in the air

Cambridgeshire kicked off towards the Pontoon and it started to drizzle; we're not talking balsamic vinegar on your parsnips either. 

A tackle missed, a pass missed, I wish I'd missed the bus. Have Town missed the promotion bus? Tie a black and white ribbon around the old oak tree. Get on the bus, forget about us, but put the blame on, ooh, Brodie. He rhymes with things, which is his sole contribution to road safety. Waffle? I've never won a waffle in my life. 

The Fensters fiddled about and Townites scraped them off the mud and into some little plastic buckets. Dunk was dunked into the tea stall, Shaw was never sure when black boots were arriving, and Elliott headed wide. Oh yes, something nearly happened once that didn't involve their physio. 

Long balls, short balls, longer balls, and all very balsamic. Devitt cut and cropped high and wide. Some oooh-ed, most arrgggggh-ed like cartoon cats. That's all folks in the muddy Mariner mundanity.

The drizzle turned in to a full meltdown rainstorm. All the Town subs ran off to the dressing room to splash on some hair gel and put on a big quilted coat.

Dunk was dunked again. He's a tough cookie, not a soggy chipper. I never had a Chipper. I got a red Tomahawk for Christmas in 1972. That probably explains my aversion to Richard Brodie.

Ah. This is where we score. Our tried and tested method of success, of course. We're rubbish, we're rubbish, we're rubbish and then we score from a set piece. Devitt dripped a corner from the right and Pearson glancy-fancy-flicked on across the face of goal. And missed.

After 25 minutes of mid-table, end-of-the-pier shuffling and huffling, the referee decided to arbitrarily award the Fenland funsters a free kick as Artus slid and slopped the ball off amber sockage. In the shadow of the Police Box, Dunk dumped a teasing, inswinging coiler into the heart of darkness. Jamie Mack stayed on his line as massed Mariners tangoed left to intercept the danger. The ball was curling in a delightful arc towards McKeown's awaiting arms as Naylor, ten or so yards out, strained his tea leaves and glanced the ball on into the bottom left corner of the goal. No Amberman was near, no sound was made. I haven't had a cup of tea since 1975, and I'm not going to change my life now. Mmm, that was the same year I first saw Town. Is there a causal link? Not in this Town team – it's a just a mess. 

Cambridge immediately started to waste time, with keeper Pope the purple and plum prevaricator-in-chief. 

Two lumps of amber clashed with Marshall and remained upon the earth. Eventually the referee stopped play as Marshall clatter-slid into one of the fallen Fenmen. Brodie moaned and persuaded the referee to have a contested drop-ball, with much Cambridge chagrining. Brodie robbed, Cook slobbed sideways, and Marshall bedraggled a foot wide.

There was nothing pretty, but much was pretty vacant. Style, substance or method? Words, not action. Occasional moments of infrequent hope, based on the statistics of chance. A Cambridge corner was flip-flopped flimsily away by the hand of McKeown, walloped upfield near Wassmer, who wallied and wailed as Brodie watched. Hatton retrieved and tickled Brodie free and a pathetically underhit return pass was eventually scribbled away by their keeper, straight to Cook, 30 or so yards out. With stripes aplenty waving around, the Cookie Monster kept his head down and thrappled daftly. Town got a throw-in. Yeah, groovy, we've all wasted more precious seconds of our finite existence on contemplating nothing of consequence. Why are we here? Why, oh why, oh why? Will the windows continue to mock me? And the walls? 

What's Anthony Newley got to do with it? Ah, stop this world, we want to get off.

Another Amber corner, another McKeown flip-flap, straight down, straight to a lurking lad. McKeown and Hatton threw themselves towards him and Fireman Sam brilliantly parried the shot away. Hey, you can't expect the referee to see that when he's standing five yards away with an unobstructed view.

Another Cambridge circus for the miserables out there. The show must go on! Miller and Pearson failed, failed and failed again to clear. Cambridge ticked and tutted as the referee brilliantly obstructed their fulcrum and Town ran away. Devitt slid a rule, Cook cleaned a pool, and Brodie stepped inside and carefully shrugged well wide and high.

There was no reason, because there are no reasons, what reasons would you need? Do I need to tell you why we don't like Brodie? Waste management is a lucrative business for his agent.

Oh alright, he did something useful for once. Artus robbed a post office and was pursued by the FBI across America. Hey, all he'd taken were some book tokens and Findus vouchers! Mad Frankie fed the Brodie. And we all know what happens when you feed the Brodie. 

It's half time.

If you insist, if I really must be fair and accurate. Brodie crossed dangerously in to the middle of the six-yard box, forcing some chap to slidey-welly away as Marshall and possibly Cook lurked beyond. Can I stop watching now? 

Shapeless, hapless, but warm enough to be hatless. There was nothing on which to hang the hat of hope.

Second half: Where did you go to, my lovely?
Neither team made any changes at half time. 

I'm sorry. Forgive the brevity and brusqueness. The second half was less interesting than the first. I'll give you the moments: you can fill in your own blanks between the lines. 

A punt, a poke, a deflection, a header and Brodie on the lash but straight to the purple Pope. Town's first shot on target. Don't get excited: it may be the last. Hang on – popes are red; bishops are purple. Enough papal bull – let's go on with the show.

Under the Findus the university challengers threw in with triangles. Town were strangled with Awol and Artus missing in inaction. A cross, a slide and miss inside Town's six-yard box. What lovely passing and movement. Football that flows. Football. Foot. Ball. F. Grimsby F.

A corner to them. Cleared. Naylor blocked, Cook lofted on, Naylor bounded free down the centre. Out came the keeper in his Popemobile, waving at Naylor from the 'D'. Naylor hooked his bunker shot two yards wide of the hole and into the rough.

It was rotten and rotting, two strikers in search of an ice cream. Never shall they meet on the mud of battle, a partnership in name only. Brodie hiding by the corner flags, Cook reduced to mid-air flopping. Crosses, crosses, crosses, nowhere, short and long, no Townites attacked the ball, no Townites attacked the near post, where every cross was intercepted. 

But just once Cook turned his marker into a knitted scarecrow, drumbling low to the near post. Brodie! The ball! A goal kick. And off he finally went with a slow shrug, replaced by Hearn the Hunter, Hearn the Hero. The crowd ovated. 

You know, Hearn even stands more quickly than Brodie.

There were moments, glimpses of what was and could be, but Hearn is clearly way off being ready for competitive football matches. His presence was enough to cause some palpitations, his natural movement to dangerous positions stretched and hinted at salvation, but the snap, crackle and pop wasn't there.

I suppose you want to know that Colbeck came on at the same time, for Marshall. Like that was going to add to the gaiety of the nation. Colbeck played well about a month ago. He ain't going to do that again in a hurry. Cynical, cruel, moi? It's the appliance of science.

Noodling and googling by the amber Cambermen and Shaw was suddenly wide and Town were not sure about Awol Thomas. Wakey, wakey! Googling and noodling by cambered Ambermen suddenly saw Dunk free, behind Awol. His cross-shot made everyone yellow unmellow and cross as Jamie Mack flung low, hung out a hand and clasped the roller to his big blue chest. 

Poor old Frankie Artus's legs finally packed up as Dunk drifted by like a carefree debutante at the ball. How was danger averted? Frankie used his charm to end this nonsense – he legged him up. Finally the referee found his yellow card as Frankie took one for the team.

Remember, I said fill in your own blanks – you're only getting a potted version today. Watching the rain fall is more intellectually stimulating than remembering that game. It's just a repeat anyway.

Naylor nicked, Hearn ticked, Thomas crossed, Colbeck nodded back and Naylor's header deflected off a ruddy East Anglian face. Of course we wanted a penalty. It was so clearly a stonewall face-ball. 

With five or so minutes left, as Doooooooooooooooooooougie Wilson waited, the linesman's flashy thing flashed number 11. The ailing Artus was to be replaced. Pearson sat down, clutching his knee, and off he went instead. Naylor sank back to centre-half and we had the dream team in the middle, Artus and Wilson.

There were four minutes of added time and only in the last of them did Town apply any pressure. Someone fell over 30 yards out. Devitt and Hatton stroked their chinny-chin-chins and the Oirish Jinker swept a high curling dipper which Pope finger-flipped away from the top left corner for a corner. Up came McKeown for a bit of head tennis and mugging and the ball dropped on to Hearn's thigh, to the right of their goal. He volleyed as a wall of amber crushed his grapes. Another corner, curled in cutely. Jamie Mack leapt with the Pope on the goal-line but a purple hand punched away and the game was not afoot: it was a-finished.

Oh, oh, oh, what a frightful bore.

There was nothing but a collection of random moments of isolated connections. Town looked like they were a cobbled-together ragamuffin hotchpotch of the unwanted, borrowed and jaded. Town looked the worse of two mid-table teams fulfilling their fixture list.