Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
24 March 2013
Grimsby Town 1 Wrexham 1
Score after extra time; Wrexham win 4-1 on kicks from the penalty mark
It's 6:55am: who wants to wake up to Fenty? There's snerr on the rerd, there's crashes and smashes and will it be alright on the afternoon for the gathering of the clans, that diaspora of the disappointed? Are we excited?
We're supposed to be excited. Why? It's just a game that no-one except us two fallen giants of the lower leagues know about. Nobody is watching, no-one is listening, we're at a ghost game.
I was overtaken by an inflatable fish somewhere south of Leicester. Isn't that just the way life's meant to be.
Through the snow and ice and jack-knifed juggernauts we battled to reach Avalon. Wembley, Wembley, Wembley, the historic evocative wander between empty office blocks and burger stalls. Where are those chirpy cheeky cockernees eating jellied eels with their bananas and pearls? Selling England memorabilia by the pound.
What is this sight before us? A refrigerated Burnsy posted halfway up Wembley Way as an Aunt Sally, a vox-pop verbal ducking stool, as some rather unkindly called him. Leave the localish lad alone – he's very kind to animals, sick children and other Scunthorpe managers. Or maybe TopCon John, the "majority shareholder" Mariners matriarch, didn't want him in the building and he was scalping for a spare. Poor old Burnsy, subject of an FA fatwa. Shouldn't Wrexham be in the Fatwa, rather than the FA Trophy?
All around was black and white, and some even knew the names of some of the players we used to have. The hats and hopes of a generation and a Welshman dressed as a daffodil waltzed by. Oooh look, there's a man wearing a squirrel on his head with a packet of fig rolls squirreled up his sleeve. Remember those Wembley dos and don'ts: no mopeds, no Semtex, no fig rolls.
Do formula one teams test their new cars in the Wembley concourse? Hang on to your toupée and whistle down the wind. It's cold, it's windy, it's exciting!
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Hatton, Miller, Pearson, Thomas, Colbeck, Disley, Artus, Marshall, Cook, Hannah. The substitutes were Wood, Thanoj, Devitt, Brodie and John-Lewis. There's that man with fig rolls up his sleeve and then there's the matter of Town's sartorially shocking stockings. It's the Grimsby Whitesocks. It doesn't look like Town; it's a little too fey and jolly hockey sticks with Betty and Bunty for our liking. Dark socks for a dark day.
Are we excited? Really?
First half: Money for nothing
Town kicked off towards the Wrexham fans. All nibbles are good nibbles and Town were very hungry. Where are those fig rolls?
Did something happen? Well, here lies one whose name was writ in water. Disley dredged Keates with a double-footed letter of introduction. Tut-tut, said the man in black. An Artus swirler swirled slowly high and slowly high. Pearson steered a header against the back of the stanchion. He did it again a long, long, long time later. And that is all. It wasn't anything. Marshall ran into cul-de-sacs and Colbeck spent some quality time getting to know the corner flag.
Wrexham had the ball, but only when Town gave it to them. Miller messed and Keates threshed a micro-inch over McKeown's rubber fingers. Another red muffler miffled wide after dozy and dilatory defending. A head headed headingly at Jamie Mack. The ball kissed the top of the net again. I don't know how, I don't know when, but I do know Hatton blocked six yards out in the dying moments of the first half.
The first half was full of nothing very much: two chess players having a lunch break.
Second half: The chips aren't free
Neither team made any changes at half time.
Jamie Mack slipped as a long punt squirtled through. Morrell, the mangy old cat, caught a whiff of wildebeest. You're losing your sense of smell matey, for McKeown's the predator, pouncing with paws akimbo to block away and scoop up a follow-up low be-bop a-lula majestically.
Big Wright, rather than shaven Wright, carefully placed a free-ish header on to the roof of the net. A corner, bodies kissed, a confusion, and a free shot for Big Wright, eight yards out, scriffed a yard wide. The Red Wreckers were starting to thumb through the catalogue and choose their evening wear.
After ten minutes of consistent emptiness, Thanoj arrived by the touchline, awaiting an introduction to the paying crowd. Mad Frankie hung his head and started to meander towards the touchline. Stop, in the name of love, before you break your own heart. Check it over – Hannah's number flashed and on came Thanoj to the sound of silence. Marshall was pushed into a vague, sort-of-supporting-Cook role.
And it worked for a few minutes. Town repelled, someone hoiked, a Welshman fell and Disley drove along the North Circular Road towards Neasden, releasing Artus near the Ikea car park. Frankie tinkered and teased and released the awaiting and unmarked Cook, who curled around Maxwell and around the post and around about the same time realised it was a dream all along. Offside.
Oh dear, they brought on Hatton's Christmas terror, Cieslewicz. He ran, he crossed, he teased, he pleased red hearts, and Ormerod plonked a header millilitres over the crossbar. Cieslewicz stroked his white cat and Wright thruppled lowly through legs. The unsighted McKeown plunged along the line low and right, clutching the ball as red legs appeared.
What have Town done? Nothing. We're just waiting for them to score, aren't we.
With 20 minutes left Town decided to avoid wellying wantonly and Hatton rolled towards Cook. After a ping he ponged back up the touchline to Colbeck. Possession, who'd have thunk that? The Bradford battler nicked and knocked to Disley, who swept a first-time pass behind the full back, setting Colbeck free. On he roamed as the crowd arose and roared, striped shirts arriving inside the penalty area. Joltin' Joe jinked to the bye-line. At Wembley! And looked up. At Wembley! To roll a careful pass to the unmarked Cook, a dozen yards out. At Wembley! The Cookie Monster swept goalwards, with Maxwell's silver hammerhands parrying the ball back. Cook smackerooned the rebound into the bottom right corner and headed for the hills, or Harrow-on-the-Hill, in delirious delirium as north London bounced slightly. Cook had scored. At Wembley!
Them. Free kick. Header. Onto the roof of the net. A fact.
More facts, not artefacts or arty facts. Town hunkered down in weariness ten yards outside their own penalty area. You could see their little legs withering as they wilted. The Wreckers realised that Town were a rubber wall off which they could freely bounce and that their polished Faroe Isle sweater was causing palpitations on the right. Huge, huge acres of space and time were ceded as Wrexham patiently spun a yarn in the bar. Town's cardigan was caught on a nail and Cieslewicz cut in and bedraggled low. Another super save from the super Macman.
Them, them, them, them. Town were just statues at Easter, islands in the stream of Welsh consciousness. A punt uncleared and all roads lead to their roamer, for it was he, the polished Polish winger who attracted three little black and white bees to his honeypot and rolled to the unmarked Keates. Out flew Pearson and Miller. Keates veered right and hit the turf as stripes slid. A moment's thought and an outstretched black arm – a penalty.
McKeown lunged left as Thornton calmly rolled the ball right. Ten minutes left.
They carried on carrying on, metronomically ticking over to Hatton's Terror. Crosses and moments, but just clouds in your overpriced coffee. Miles, miles and miles away, one of their bigger biffers biffed a thwacking great free kick horizontally to the perpendicular. Jamie Mack flew left and parried aside.
With two minutes left Shouty and Shorty pulled their masterstroke: Brodie replaced Marshall. There is nothing positive to say.
Extra time first half: Brain damage
It's all about the red hordes. Wrexham versus James McKeown, attack versus defence. Town were nothing, Town players were stood in places, their legs without puff to punt very far. A huge punt, Big Wright flicked on and Poleboy, 30 yards out, spun and volleyed towards the bottom right corner. Jamie Mack glided under the radar to intercept the missile with a staggeringly sublime one-handed pluck-flip. The ball rolled off his back, momentarily scuttling away and towards a lurking lad. But McKeown turned and faced down this intruder.
And again. A punt, a Big Wright flick and Poleboy sneaked around the back. Hatton and McKeown flew and diverted danger with a blank and blue blanket.
They shoot horses don't they?
Extra time second half: Eclipse
Well, well, Town had another shot. That man Colbeck, from ages out, and softly wide. There really was nothing else, just fleeting moments of almostness, when someone could have passed to someone else and they may have got near the penalty area eventually.
Big Wright again heading on to the roof of the net. The Polish pest twinkled and tingled toes, and Pearson brilliantly blocked six yards out. And again the chiseller cha-cha-cha-ed down the left and curled around and about. McKeown brilliantly flew left to claw and paw away for a corner.
And he saved the best save until the last save. Big Wright, near the penalty spot, teed himself up and swept a volley rightwards. McKeown sailed along his line, raised a right hand and strong-armed aside for another corner.
The man was sublime, surreally brilliant and unbeatable in open play. The Wreckers took it in turns to hug the blue wall in admiration. McKeown was magnificent in his isolation, a one-man army defending the Town walls from the alien hordes.
Town were zombies, dead on the their feet and dead in mind. Town were gonna lose this in the most annoying and destructive way.
Jamie Mack dived left, they swept right. 0-1
Hatton wobbled forward and caressed Beckhamly against the outside of the right post. Delirium in the distance. 0-1
Jamie Mack dived left, they swept right. 0-2
Brodie waddled up and carefully steered over the angle of right post and crossbar. Apoplexy afar. 0-2
Jamie Mack dived left, they swept right. 0-3
Colbeck marched and wellied straight down the centre. Too little, too late.1-3
Jamie Mack dived left, they swept right. North Walian wails of happiness.1-4
The massed ranks of Marinerdom shrugged, turned around and went home. We came, we saw, we were conquered.