A tale told by an idiot: Notts County (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

4 February 2006

Notts County 0 Grimsby Town 1

A still, grey afternoon on the dark side of the Trent with around 1,200 mirthful Mariners laying siege to Meadow Lane. Ah, we faddling hedonists, travelling light.

Town lined up in a dispiriting 4-3-1-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, Cohen, Futcher, Newey, Croft, Bolland, Woodhouse, Toner, Goodfellow, Mendes, Reddy. The substitutes were Murray, Barwick, Parkinson, North and glorious gliding Glen. Jonesless, wingless and confused, the narrowboatmen crept out in all blue. Cohen at right-back, Newey at centre-back, Goodfellow in the infamous hole; Town were not so much patched up as caricatures of the living constructed from the detritus of life: modern art.

So, Tombola Taylor - was it all a dream?

County seemed to line up with an awful lot of defenders, perhaps in a 3-5-2 formation. Or maybe that's a lot of awful defenders. Hey, come on - these guys canNOT be serious. Mike Edwards as an attacking midfielder? Every club has its Kingsley Black hole somewhere.

They still have a player who sounds like a sausage.

Take a deep breath, close your eyes and wish upon a star: we might just get through this if we're lucky.

First half
County kicked off towards the Town fans. Probably. Does it matter who kicked off? It did start; I can confirm that.

From the off it was obvious that the wings had been labelled the outer reaches of Mongolia on the Town map. These were off-limits to Town players: no-one even attempted to enter, no-one had a passport, valid visa or a pair of jeans to bribe the inscrutable border guards. Goodfellow looked lost, stuck in the middle, afraid to venture outside of the imaginary lines between the penalty areas. Town lobbed it long, this time with a little variation, for Croft kept reeling away into space, pleading for Mildenhall to release him, to let him go. All very fine but... Croft looked up and saw nothing, no-one to pass to: he had to lamp it long for Reddy to chase.

After about five minutes one of the punts allowed Reddy to riverdance down the right, resulting in a corner. With Newey now officially one of the big men at the back, he wasn't allowed to curl the ball into the keeper's arms. That's Woodhouse's job now. Woodhouse failed, for the ball never reached Pilkington, instead drooping in the middle of the area. Knees bent, arms stretched and Reddy fell as only he can, as only he will. A couple of minutes later Town had some sort of attack down the right when Bolland intercepted a woefully weak pass. Reddy miscontrolled near the edge of the area; Woodhouse was fleetingly free, but twizzled and stumbled to earth, claiming a penalty. You'll have to do better than that, laddie; even Reddy does it better. And that makes me feel sad for the rest.

Warning: Notts County approaching. Send up a funny-shaped balloon: that may scare them off. It did. Futcher pretended to be an ostrich, or was it a slumbering giraffe? You never can tell, can you.

Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you? We need some help from you now. Ah, there you are with your mates, Bugs Bunny and Darth Vader. And Cuddles the Monkey? You're not fooling me, cause I can see, the way Town shake and shiver.

County occasionally wandered towards Mildenhall, but just kept on ignoring the oceans of space on the flanks where Town players feared to tread. Cohen, particularly, was isolated frequently and bending in the breeze, a twig ready to snap, but a combination of Bolland and County's nature meant this was only ever a theoretical possibility.

Ah, at last, they do something. Around the 15th minute a simple Pieman wandered down the centre, beefing past Woodhouse. Futcher stood 20 yards out and had a little wibble, eventually swiping down the infiltrator just as Newey and Bolland slammed the safe door shut. The wall was dragged back past the penalty spot and Dadi curled the ball against Cohen's head. It lampooned upwards in a huge spiralling arc [the ball, or Cohen's head? - Ed.] and Mildenhall caught the plummeting asteroid on the right of the area. Who's the Grand-dadi now?

That's the action, the only effort. Absolutely nothing else happened in the first quarter of an hour. Countymen passing the ball out of play is not a highlight. What's worse: passing the ball out or hoofing it aimlessly out?

Now when did Woodhouse have that shot which squirtled away for a throw-in? Magnificent in its slicing rubbishness, it would, at least, have got round the tree at the third hole at Grimsby golf club. For once his boomerang did come back. Ooh, another Town shot. Mendes and Reddy managed to shin the ball across the face of the penalty area and Punxsutawney Marc emerged from his hibernation to smersh a first-time left-footed drive scootling a few inches wide of the right post. Or was that later? When was later? I remember a staggeringly dreadful bit of control from Goodfellow, who, when unmarked in the centre, managed to control the ball over ten yards straight to a bored Countyite. Was that earlier than later, or later than earlier?

Bolland was booked. That just about counts as goalmouth action and a bit of passing and movement: he passed Pipe out of play as he was moving down the wing.

Don't mind me over here, I'm just waiting for something to happen. Carry on with your life for a few more minutes. I've brought my own sandwiches, thank you, so you don't have to provide lunch.

No, please, I'm fine. Oh, go on then. Coffee, white and one sugar please. Have you got any biscuits? I didn't realise they still made lemon puffs. Didn't they just handball it away? Is that a Town attack? Someone got inside their area. That'll do - I'm having that as a shot. Newey tried to lob the keeper from inside the Town half. Or perhaps he belted a clearance without looking and it bounced near Pilkington.

County broke away down their right after a Town attack broke down in midfield. Croft was upfield; De Bolla ran into the vacated space and received a pass. Please note that that sentence is to be placed in a time capsule and buried underneath the centre spot. Posterity demands evidence for myth to become a fact. He looked up, saw a snowstorm careering into the Town area and flicked some other bloke free. He crossed to the far post and Edwards, unmarked a dozen yards out, leant back and flambéed the ball a couple of yards over the bar. That was their shot. Terribly exciting, isn't it.

Woodhouse, without even looking, suddenly spun and hit a brilliant 45-yard crossfield ball to the winger. Winger? We aren't playing with them. Exactly. County ran off down the unpopulated right of the Town defence and burrowed themselves into a molehill. Right pass, wrong game.

Like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and sees you thru. With five minutes left a rather vague advance into the Town half was swept under the carpet by Newey, who exchanged passes and advanced a few yards upfield on the left. He looked up and pinged a perfectly weighted long pass diagonally across the pitch towards Reddy. Wilson backtracked and stumbled, and Reddy was free on the centre right, about 25 yards out. The ball bounced twice; Pilkington took a step forward; Reddy, a dozen yards out, slapped a right-footed shot across the keeper and into the bottom right corner. When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.

The rest of the half was taken up with further Town irritation with the referee, He'd started out fine, if a little fussy, but nothing sinister. But as the half wore on he started to look less favourably upon Town challenges. And then he decided to ignore the rules, just to spice up his life a little, I suppose. It must have been very boring for him as well.

In added time the ball rolled along the touchline in front of the linesman on Town's right, The ball was out, Town stopped, play continued. Pipe tickled the ball to Dadi inside the Town area. He bundled and humbled around Cohen and got to the bye-line. He tried a trick too far as the ball rolled out of play. Play continued with the Town fans in frothsome ferment. Croft stopped Dadi a couple of yards from goal. The corner rumbled through the area with Cohen eventually chesting the ball down and hooking clear. And that was it.

Well done for getting this far without your head spontaneously combusting in terminal ennui. Town had one shot on target, County had none. Town's tactics were to huddle together in the middle for safety, like wildebeest on the savannah. County were raggedy, myopic lions, incapable of seeing a free lunch, let alone eating it. Town were getting away with it, for Cohen was lost in space, and Futcher was a lost soul swimming in a fishbowl when the ball was not eight foot in the air; he headed OK though. Bolland's battling and Newey's nous were enough to get through the small droplets of sticky toffee that County tossed towards Town. Going forward? No, don't go there. For we didn't. It was horrible to watch. We finally get a winger and he's dropped down a mineshaft - he played like a timid Parky with a fringe on top. Goodfellow doesn't like to tackle, or be tackled. Maybe it's the time of year.

Only another 45 minutes, then we can go home.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I did not do this skiing!"
"Who's dragging who down to what level?"
"He didn't have legs like that in A-level physics."
"Goodfellow isn't."
"But these are Burt Reynolds' trousers."

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time. Town emerged several minutes late, just as they did at Blundell Park. What fiendishly fiendish plans have been cooked up at half time? Round about the cauldron go; in the poisoned entrails throw: eye of Newey and toe of Ben, wool of Reddy and tongue of Glen. So that's same again lads, but slower.

County upped their pace and threw themselves into tackles. Well, when I say 'threw', I mean advanced more briskly than before and looked as though they might be interested in getting the ball. They had window-shopped in the first half; in the second they actually walked into the shops and touched some of the handbags, but recoiled when a shop assistant asked if they could help. Town sat back, or sank back... no, they stank back towards Mildenhall, relying upon the limestone cowboys in defence. Well, hustle is the name of the game, and there's been a load of compromising. County had some corners and crosses, but a combination of Newey's feet, Futcher's head and Mildenhall's glares kept County beyond the tree line. The potion was working.

A few minutes in, or it may have been a few hours, Reddy chased an aimless tip down the left. County's little wing-back fell as he cleared, clutching his face. Wilson barged at Reddy, who voiced his discontent with events. Baudet trotted over and grabbed Reddy by the throat, causing a re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings, without the arrows for safety reasons, of course. Players piled in from all directions, and Reddy continued to aurally project his frustrations. The referee eventually pulled Reddy and Wilson aside and booked them, leaving big bad Baudet alone. He indicated that he'd seen the Frenchman's grip, but that it was caused by Reddy being smaller than him. This happened right underneath the massed ranks of mighty agitated Mariners, who came to regard Baudet as the pantomime villain.

County pressurised. Town coped with this fey sewing circle by taking some tea and iced gems around and having a game of Boggle - the crazy word game for crazy people. Funny how you never see what's before your very eyes, playmates. They had three corners in quick succession: Newey headed away, Futcher thundered one clear, Croft squeezed another out for a throw-in. Pressure, but no shots, not even the suggestion of a potential question concerning the possibility of hint of a shot. From a final short corner the ball was chipped to the far post where the Old Grand-Dadi stretched and dived underneath the ball inside the six-yard box. The home fans were heard to "ooooh".

A Town attack! Whatever next. A cross deflected by a County hand, ignored by the referee. The ball fell to Goodfellow, in the centre 20 yards out. He jinked, jived and jammed a shot goalwards. The ball was deflected by a County hand, ignored by the referee. Town fans were hopping in frustration at the creeping misan-town-thrapy.

On the hour Reddy obtained a corner through some hickory trickery on the left. As they waited by the left post Baudet whacked Reddy in the back of the knees. Reddy turned round and had a fly-kick at the gruesome Gaul, causing a re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo, without the pantaloons of course. The referee decided to have a chat with both of them, as the Town fans called for summary justice to be issued, preferably using a ducking stool and a vat of boiling acid as the jury. We believe in fairness and justice for all.

Futcher had a word in both of Reddy's ears, swapped positions, and stood next to Baudet. The ball sailed over and, careering down the aisles like one big psychopathic carnivore, Baudet hauled Futcher to the floor, then stamped on the prostrate Son of Cod, causing a re-enactment of the Battle of Copenhagen, without the ships of course. The referee put his telescope to his blind eye. Which one?

They still haven't had a shot in this half, and neither had Town. It was all huffing and gruffing, a playground fight with the dinner ladies distracted by a stray dog. Some people called for Parky to come on to add some steel. It's a mixed-up shook-up muddled-up world for sure, but Goodfellow was frustratingly ephemeral, offering the briefest glimpses of reasons why he's a professional. A County corner was cleared directly to him 30 yards from the Town goal. He set off down the middle, with a couple of defenders retreating; Reddy and Mendes peeling left, purring right. He ignored the unmarked teammates and ran around in circles when he got inside the County half, allowing the whole defence to get back. He then simply ran into two of them and lost possession. This could translate in more charitable minds into a great run from inside his own half: phwoar, unlucky, eh, but he runs quick!

Get out the bunting, lay out the trestle tables, let's have a street party to mark this special occasion. Notts County had a shot. With about 20 minutes left a long ball over the top saw Dadi, underground, overground, bundling free on their right. On the far corner of the penalty area he stretched and poked a volley across Mildenhall. The ball dipped, bombled and skipped gaily a yard or so wide as the Big M left it, sure and secure. Again there was an "ooh" from the home stands.

Woodhouse was penalised for admiring the cut of a County jib. The free kick, about 40 yards out way out on their right, was swingled to the far post. Dadi nodded, the ball tiptoed through tulips towards goal. Knee-deep in flowers, the ball strayed, boots swayed, Mildenhall stayed on his line. A County foot and Mildenhall collided, the ball stuck in Mildenhall's midriff near the line. That's their lot: wasn't much, was it.

Goodfellow was finally removed with just over ten minutes left, with muscular hardman Andy Parkinson coming on to put his finger in the polder. Ah, but not until Goodfellow had Town's shot in the second half. There was some kind of approximation of passing and the ball fleagled out towards him, in the centre 25 yards out. He twisted left, hooplaed right and swung a rising drive just over the bar.

What happened next? Reddy could have been sent off, again. He chased a pat down the right and did his hand jive to knock the ball past the final defender. The linesman indicated he'd slightly nudged the full-back.

And Bleach Boy Barwick replaced the tremendous Bolland. During his ten minutes' sojourn Trembling Terry touched the ball once.

With County imitating a team intent on seeking a goal, a lot of their players stood inside the Town half. This allowed our collection of Speedy Gonzaleses to please the battalions of braying Mariners. Woodhouse flashed the ball to the unmarked Reddy, just inside the County half on the right. Reddy slowed down and waited so long that a defender tackled him, playing a perfect pass between the centre-backs to the right edge of their penalty area. Pilkington sprinted off his line as Mendes raced through. They both reached the ball at the same time, a yard outside the area. They crunched together, and the ball spun sideways straight to the last defender, who cleared.

The game dribbled away with Town dribbling into the corners. The only County player who still fought was the Big Bad Wolf, who clattered Reddy from behind twice more, and still was not booked. He also indulged in some posturing chest-beating with the Town fans behind the goal, who had called upon him to renounce violence. Oh, and the referee got in the way of Parkinson when Town had a sort of attack. It ended up with Parky doing a Goodfellow, and spinning round so many times he fell over, all dizzy like.

There were three minutes of added time, which just added three minutes of footballing boredom to the life of the average Pieman. For them there was no milk today. Their bottle stands forlorn.

As the players walked off Reddy made a very particular point of shaking every County player by the hand except Baudet, and Slade ostentatiously ran over, stroking his nylon club badge.

There we are - we did get away with it. Town were fortunate that the other team were so, so, so, so, so very poor. Even a barely adequate opposition could have torn the Town defence into a mangled Shreddie. All it took was one long ball and one shot, and that's all we did. Town were still rotten going forward, relying on the big boot for Reddy. Mendes didn't look appreciative of chasing the hoof and Goodfellow was not floating comfortably in the Sea of Tranquility. The midfield occupied space and could do no more, as there were three against five Poorpiemen. The defence, considering its cobbled nature, performed admirably. There was a lot of hard work and, er, that's it. Another game to forget very quickly.

How about an eight-word summary: they were so poor they couldn't beat us.

If the secret is to win ugly then this game was the Elephant Man.

Nicko's man of the match
Bolland was in one of his omnipresent moods, and Croft organised the back line well. But thank heavens for Tom Newey, the leader of the gang. Who'd ever believe it? Perhaps centre-back is his natural position? It's where he normally stands anyway.

Official warning
My grandma always told me: "If you have nothing positive to say, say nothing." For once I shall follow her advice. Mr J Singh gets 0.000.