Countdown to ecstasy?: Leyton Orient (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

17 April 2006

Leyton Orient 0 Grimsby Town 0

A clear, bright and sunny afternoon in the hinterland of London's Doglands with around 1,000 Town fans squeezed into the most uncomfortable seats in football, facing the most unusual stand in football. Atop a bog standard modern slope of plastic stood a bonded warehouse, probably full of bananas. So this is Barry Hearn's synergistic future made of corrugated iron sheeting.

They still haven't built a stand behind one of the goals; it's still boarded up like Scunthorpe town centre. That lady in number 52 is doing her washing again. I told you she'd have pink bras. And next door Mrs Grey; she's proud today because her roses are in bloom.

I thought their pitch was supposed to be like a snooker table; pot the reds then screw back for the yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black. Ah, I see why: their groundsman walked out, nylon jump suit crackling, his locks flowing down to his pitchfork; he'd just got back from an all-nighter at the Dog and Duck, which would explain the wobbly 18-yard line. He painted the line to the accompaniment of a tinkly piano and a pink rabbit.

The Reddyless Town lined up in the 4-5-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, R Jones, Croft, Cohen, Bolland, Dr Kalala, Woodhouse, Goodfellow, G Jones. The substitutes were Toner, Barwick, Parkinson, Futcher and Cohen. Ah, Reddyless, but was it rudderless?

Orient warmed up in front of the Town fans by doing the hokey-cokey: knees bent, arms out, rah rah rah. Well, it amused us; perhaps you had to be there to appreciate their collective inability to jump in time with the music.

The Orient mascot, whatever it is, wore white socks. Only men who'd had six and a half pints of London Pride could be scared of such foam-filled foolery. There is still no answer to the universal question: what is the meaning of Leyton Orient's mascot? Maybe it was the last thing left in the fancy dress shop?

Russ Abbot would've loved this party. We even had some balloons and a little Herb Alpert: the Tijuana Taxi does run north of the river.

Town played in blue. Why?

First half
Orient kicked off towards the open end and then it was half time. The sound and the fury, the agony and the ecstasy: these are films that have been shown at the local Roxy. Football? Hmm, yes - there was some.

The Orienteers did not kick the ball out of play immediately: they waited two seconds before doing so. In context, that falls into the category of a free-flowing move. From the off Town were comfortable in numbing the Leyton lads, the five-man midfield being the smothering laughing gas on the face of the toothless Cockernees. There'll be no more aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! for Town, and Orient may feel a little sick of this.

Oooh, look - Goodfellow jinkling and dinkling, with Jones particularly lumpy, turning like stale cheese and Garner gathering like a buxom milkmaid, me-dear. Another minute and another moment of almostness. Goodfellow again, Lumpy again. Repeat sighing and sitting. Was that a handball? Perhaps. The ball dropped behind Lump as he did one of his turns and rolled down the front of Mackie's favourite satin shirt. Goodfellow again, drifting in from the right and curling beyond the far post, but nobody home.

Town were dominant, if not particularly dangerous. Orient couldn't get the ball, nor keep it when they did. All roads kept leading to the Lump, but for him the lights were always red; like driving down the Leyton High Road. Macca raided; Jones faded towards the ball; Goodfellow, at the far post, stretched his little stretchy legs, but Garner galloped off his line to galumph the ball away.

After about 15 of their London minutes these red ravers roved down the Town right. One, two, three, four, make them wait outside the door. Five, six, seven eight, it always pays to make them wait. Nine, ten… good save Mildo! Orient heckled Town with a series of crosses that the Stickster ladled, cradled, and fadled away, only for the referee to put in a great sliding tackle on the edge of the area, keeping up the pressure. From the fourth cross the ball came back out to Corden, about 25 yards out on their left. Waddling Wayne Kalalabum-dee-ayed away, swished past another blue boot and crackled a left-footed shot straight at Mildenhall from inside the D. The Big M walked tall, walked straight and looked Corden in the eye, parry-punching the ball away from his chin and setting Bolland free for a breakaway.

Whatever happened afterwards is lost in the haze of a George Kerr hour, for Heaven knows Lump was miserable at the end of it. But hey, why should he give valuable time to people who don't care?

For the avoidance of doubt, that was their shot, that was their moment, the sum total of them, The Story of the Os in the first half. Town, on the other hand, were peppering Garner with long shots. To be more precise, Mildenhall clumped four free kicks beyond the stars and straight into their keeper's arms. Or perhaps the Orient fans shuffled forward while we weren't looking - 'til Birnam Wood doth remove to the middle of the home side penalty area (as per the original text before metropolitan luvvies got their hands on it).

After 20 minutes McDermott was replaced by Mendes, with Cohen retreating to right-back. Macca had been limping for several minutes, with Whittle and Jones furiously and frantically doing the universal sign for substitutes towards The Management. Or they were just doing some hand jives to keep themselves amused. A few minutes later Orient took off their right-back. Is this chess? Queen's pawn takes king's knight: check.

Town just kept getting free kicks and just kept wasting them. The only goalmouth incident was caused by Mackie, who insisted on headbutting Jones the Stick's elbows. What a nutter. Literally. Take the money! Open the box! Town pressed, but Orient's Gog and Magog guessed correctly each time.

From a Town corner the ball jumbled out to the edge of the area. Copa-Kalala did a merengue and the cha-cha and, while he tried to be a star, Goodfellow propped up the bar, drowning his disappointment at an un-passed pass. It wasn't a shot, more a scoop of raspberry ripple that blew away in the Clacton breeze, landing on the stripey windbreaks beside the goal.

For the avoidance of doubt, that was our shot, that was our moment, the sum total of us, The Story of the Blues in the first half.
The Stick was snapped by Alexander when clearing down the touchline, for which the ex-Hullite was booked. It didn't stop him whinging. You can take a man out of Hull, but… obviously excepting Whittle and Woodhouse; that's different. They've been civilised by exposure to the sophisticated wit and repartee that is Cleethorpes café society. No-one was bemoaning "Sort it Sladey" today. It was, as everyone would agree, sorted into neat little piles, all labelled and colour-co-ordinated alphabetically, chronologically and by chart position in the UK top 40 too.

Just after the half-hour Cohen, made a fabtastic sliding, hooking, swooping challenge to swish the ball out for a throw-in. The silly linesman underneath the fruit importers' depot flagged for a free kick. Cohen was booked for kicking the ball away. Silly free kick, silly booking. Orient sillily bonked the ball high and mighty. There's always Jones the Stick.

Noisy, raucous, rabid and rampant in the stands, but devoid of shots on the pitch, the game was bumper-car riding its way to half time. Town were still overwhelming Orient, with Goodfellow and Mendes lung-bursting forward to scrape away at the wall, chipping little bits of mortar away from between the bricks. So many nearlys, no actuallys. Mendes blocked a clearance on their right and the ball ba-boomed back towards goal. Lumpy leant on his marker and turned, turned, turned. To everything there is a season: a time to laugh, a time to weep with laughter, and his is now. You may be reading this in the future; who knows when. Humanity may have evolved beyond present scientific comprehension into pure energy, without physical form but sentient. A bit like every other episode of Star Trek. Lumpy is still trying to turn and move those extra two yards.

Just before half time the last remaining Lumpasaurus Rex in football pounced as only he can, plumping upon the ball six yards out and making it move towards the goalkeeper. One could say he wasn't putting his weight behind these efforts. That was it, that's all there was: one shot on target from them and two bookings. They looked insipid, but capable of stopping one slow striker. Town looked as disturbed as a narcoleptic hermit on mogodon wearing earmuffs in a sound-proofed room on a remote Scottish island.

So far, so simple. Now let's have a shot or two, shall we. Russ: over to you.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"One pair of socks and a sausage roll."
"They've got two lumpy strikers, we only got one."
"It was NOT a woman's bicycle!"
"This is not the same Goodfellow we signed, but unfortunately it is the same Parkinson."
"Are we queuing for the burgers or the bog?"

Second half
Neither side made any changes at half time.

Within a minute or two Connor had been brutally assaulted by the pitch in a disgraceful off-the-ball incident which can only question the morality of football as a whole. There are too many big divots in the game today. He tripped up in one of the big bare sandy areas in the Town penalty area and had to be hauled away to have some WD40 applied to his knees.

All of this divot talk diverts your attention away from the fact that Orient came out a bit less pinky and a bit more perky than in the first half. Like a firm but fair bouncer they politely pressed Town against the lobby wall, though they eschewed the slap and tickle because of the CCTV cameras overhead. The Town defence smiled, uttered a cheeky quip and with one bound they were always free. But the game was now afoot.

Woodhouse had a shot. It was rubbish. Still, nice to have one.

Back came the Os, starting to tickle Town's furry underbelly on the flanks. Crosses were flung and hung and Mildenhall clung onto all that the Stickman didn't hoover onto his forehead. Like a black hole circling on the edge of Leyton's galaxy sucking in all matter, Jones the Stick stood tall, stood proud and loud. He was in charge. Cordon drifted in from their right wing and shanked a shot a few feet high, a few feet wide. A little later one of their central midfielders badoombled a shinned shot into the later rows of the home stand.

Town were reduced to isolated breakaways, using Lumpy's pace as a decoy, Orient's centre-backs being confused by some enforced leisure. Their defending was full of care; they had loads of time to stand and stare. Kalalalalala burst forward, Mendes's legs and arms whirled, and Tann was forced to tackle. Hey. You want to know the good bits - that was a good bit. Mendes again, drifting to the right, cutting infield, outfield, and his cross deflected off Lockwood's hip, looping, curling, arcing slowly towards the top left corner; the Town fans rose, the ooooh rising to an OOOOOH then an oh as Garner hurled himself across and caught the ball. Darn it, we should be smiths of our own fortune though.

They wanted a penalty. It was a useless fall by Alexander the crate; he was turning red with embarrassment even as he fell. He was also Alexander the late, as he never got to any of the crosses that pinged in. Oh look - Parkinson replaced Kalala after about 55 minutes. Town moved to a 4-4-2 formation, Mendes playing up front with Lump, and Parkinson on the right.

Parkinson's very first touch was his best. He twirled past Lockwood and bunged a flat cross in from the right. Lump lurked at the far post and Tann managed to graze the ball off his splittest end and away for a throw-in. Ah, shame. One away day, Lump will score.

With all this re-juggling of the pint pots Orient started to take over the game, using the space freed up to play triangles down the flanks, particularly the Town right. Cohen kept being sucked a bit too far up the pitch and Parkinson kept forgetting to mark the full-back as he sneaked by. The result was a series of crosses and blocks by Jones the Stick and headers away by Whittle. The noose was being fitted very loosely around the Town neck - but do they know how to tie the knot?

Halfway through the half Orient had replaced the lumbering and limping Connor with lanky and lithe Ibehre. I wish they hadn't: that's a little too much like trying for me. Ibehre was a right pest, arms and legs akimbo, bamboozling with power, pace and party tricks. It was all a bit disconcerting, where previously there had been a lot of certing within the bowels of the massed ranks of mighty Mariners support. We made some noise to make up for it, cheering every throw-in, every clearance and block, roaring on any break; any old hump forward was treated as a defence-splitting pass. We raised the roof and the players raised their game.

A lone Orienteer stood up and started to chant "even if we draw we'll be still above you in the table". It didn't catch on, for lack of a decent tune, even if factually correct. From the way he stood up it's certain that his chewing gum lost its flavour on the bedpost overnight.

Parky nearly through from a Lumpy flick; Mendes surging, robbed by the third defender on the edge of the area. Two more isolated moments to keep the home fires burning for those listening down the crackly medium wave frequency. An isolated moment of Mackie madness followed. The Lump, on the halfway line, flicked the ball over his head and set off in pursuit. Well, when I say "set off", his body did eventually turn to face the crowd. Mackie decided to haul Jones down by his shorts. Like Jones would beat him for pace, eh? Woodhouse swung the free kick to the far post and Lump, unmarked eight yards out, stooped, succeeding only in taking the pace off the ball and diverting into the keeper's arms. That was a rather excellent chance, that was.

Around this point Cohen and Joe Keith held hands inside the Town area, skipping gaily between the buttercups, lacing daisy-chain necklaces and drinking some Tizer. This was not the dawning of the age of Aquarius, for the referee's moon was in the sixth heaven. "Handball!" cried the crowd, but who by? Either, neither and both: play on.

A long punt upfield dropped on Jones the Lump's head. The referee awarded Town a free kick for excessive shoulder massaging by Mackie. Twenty yards out on the Town centre-right, Goodfellow and Woodhouse converged and conversed. One, two, three steps and Goodfellow curled the ball over the wall and a few inches high and wide. I think we've finally found our free kick wizard - one we can guarantee to just miss in the grand old tradition of Gary Childs and Kingsley Black. Stand by for the manager's intonation that "he's lethal in training".

Ibehre continued to tease Town and please the home support, bumping Jones aside, wobbling Whittle away, turning and dragging a shot from wide out on their left straight at Mildenhall. Cordon drifted infield again and, again, wafted wide. Town were slowly being peeled, layer by layer, on their left with Parky acting as an inadvertent glamorous assistant to their magicians. It was getting a little fraught, for they may strike it lucky one of these minutes.

With 15 minutes left Steele replaced Alexander, but their shaving razor was cold and it didn't sting. If anything he was blunter than the crew-cut Alexander; lucky, eh. At about the same time Goodfellow received a pass on the halfway line. He levered one opponent away, turned infield and spun back out to the wing. He surged upfield and then infield, drifting past a second and third defender. He reached the edge of the penalty area, drawing the final defender to his white boots, and flicked a pass out the unmarked Parkinson. Dear, dear Parky, such a lovely lad too. He stretched out and missed the ball; the moment gone, the Town fans indulging in not so sotto voce grumbling.

Oh, Parky again… no. A free kick chipped to the far post, the Scouse scamp rolled around Lockwood, and man and ball disappeared six yards out. Parky poked and the ball apologised straight to Garner, who did not move. Back surged the Leyton Os, crossing left, crossing right, corner, free kicks, and flights to the east. All dealt with comfortably, thank you very much. Town are guilty of institutional meanness. We'll just ignore the time Ibehre rolled Croft like a herring and caused minor mayhem deep inside the Town area. We may as well: nothing came of this but a rueful grimace from the estate agent.

Right on full time Orient dinked a crossfield pass to Corden at the far post, perhaps 15 yards out. He drifted into space behind Croft, pulled the ball down with one foot, swayed on to his other and shuffled across goal as two defenders caught the central line to Tottenham Court Road. That big Virgin Megastore will still be open if they rush: four CDs for £20 isn't bad. Hold your breath, he's about to shoot… over the bar. Corden seemed to spend the entire afternoon cutting infield to his left foot and curling a shot over the crossbar.

There were two minutes of added time and Town should have, could have, won. They broke down the left and Goodfellow jinkled infield from a Lumpy lay-off. He stopped, stepped back on to his left foot and, from the right corner of the Orient area, stabbed a chip goalwards. The ball sailed upon the London air, raising and rising on the polluted pre-Olympic thermals; the crowd rose up on its feet, falling silent. The E10 postal area was hushed, expectant: most fearful, some hopeful. The ball spun onwards, dropped and drooped over the plunging Garner.

An ASDIC ping punctured the aural void as the ball kissed off the face of the crossbar and was half cleared down their left. Bolland and Parkinson snarled and won back the ball, which bounded away towards the bye-line. Bolland chased after it and levered a cross towards the far post. Lumpy was unmarked; he stretched and stretched and stretched to head the ball back in to the centre. Parky challenged. The ball bumbled out to Goodfellow, perhaps a dozen yards out on the centre-left and totally, utterly and wonderfully unmarked.

Again the crowd was up and silent while Goodfellow composed himself a little ditty to celebrate promotion. We could hear the sound of Bow bells imploding as Goodfellow pulled back his left foot, the ball zoomed across the turf, past the goalkeeper, towards the bottom left corner. The Town fans were in mid-air, the fingertips of the taller Townites touching the rafters, the champagne cork about to burst… as the ball managed to avoid the goal and shimmer micrometres wide.

Exhausted, momentarily deflated, but then elated, for the game was all over. But it isn't all over. Town, generally, had the better of the match and as they trooped off wearily the Mariners multitude roared them in, for it is a point gained for us and points lost for them. Orient looked rather dull and linear in their approach while Russell Slade's Grimsby Town surprised all with some deft tactical shufflings which Orient failed to counter. They only had space and chances when Town let loose the handcuffs. Those that were there will know: the momentum seemed to be with Town.

The curve is coming back up: the performances are getting better and the goals will surely flow. The belief was there in both team and crowd, with the support magnificently pure, positive and perpetual. The monster is finally stirring: beware all who lie in its path!

Nicko's man of the match
Some fine, disciplined performances today, with the pick of the pops being Goodfellow's saucy swervings and the rocks that ye shall not pass, Jones and Whittle. Despite his comedy sabre dances it is not Shearer's slayer; today, Matthew, we all want to be Rob Jones.

Official warning
Shamefully decent, disgracefully not pandering to home support, appallingly consistent, and infuriatingly leaving no scope for indignation. What is the game coming to when they send competent referees to fourth division games? It's enough to make you lose faith in football. Mr K Stroud gets 8.761.