Groundhog Day: Leyton Orient (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

22 October 2005

Grimsby Town 0 Leyton Orient 1

A grey, mizzly-drizzly afternoon in the stadium of sighs with around 350-ish Orienteers lined up in strict military order down at the Osmond end. A dead air of indifference hung over the ground; are we unhappy at being happy or simply realists? C'mon, let's be positive, we haven't lost yet.

Town lined up in the 4-4-Lump-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, R Jones, Newey, Francis, Bolland, Dr Kalala, Parkinson, G Jones, Reddy. The substitutes were Toner, Barwick, Ramsden, Gritton and Cohen. A dull formation for a dull day. The crowd bored before the start, doomed to see history repeating itself: hoofing for Reddy to chase; Lumpyman caught in the minefield, never exploding. The Town fans were praying the opposition weren't playing living tissue down their right. This is barely a plan A, isn't it.

Dish of the Day: Alan Lamb's king prawn omelette, which is fine as long as you have some vegetables; that's one way of describing fringe first-team players, I suppose. Or even first-team players with a fringe. It sounds like a foo yung to me, or did I mishear the description of the Morecambe game?

Hey look, they've got Keith Alexander playing up front for them. Ah, sorry, that's Keith and Alexander, so no inverse curse of the ex there then. And finally we get to see the Zucchini play, though whether he's fried, roasted, toasted or boiled only Reddy can decide. They played in red. Ah, the laddies in red, looking for a little dominance, given half the chance.

It's the big game in the division, what a fabtastic atmosphere. Stop dropping those pins. Has it started yet?

First half
Town kicked off with the usual tap back to Newey and welly upfield and zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Let's dream about the land of chocolate. I don't know why we bother with first halves.

After five minutes Orient crossed, Mildenhall punched and there was a Benny Hill chase inside the area as Ibehre turned, 20 yards out, and drivelled a low shot towards the right post. Mildenhall's view was blocked by bathing beauties. The ball swerved and scuttled a foot wide. Orient looked quite good: two wingers winging and two strikers working together to manoeuvre the tall ships out of port. Their midfield swept up every loose pass, closed down Town players and did strange things like pass the ball. It was just a replay of all the games so far this season: we spent the first half watching the opposition.

Heard it all before? It's getting a bit samey, isn't it, but I can't help what's going off out there.

And here they go again, Tudor flashing past Newey, crossing to the far post and McDermott forcing Keith to steer a header wide from the edge of the six-yard box. Ah, wingers: we used to have them, you know. Don't blink or you'll miss it. Fortunately, Ibehre and Alexander did, for a cross that tribbled through the middle of the area managed to avoid contact with the human race.

Have Town attacked yet? What do you mean "attack"? Is kicking the ball a long way attacking? We don't create: we pressurise. Yeah, but who uses pressure cookers these days? That's so 1977. Wahey, a free kick to Town midway inside their half. Whittle and Jones trundled forward and Newey carefully caressed the ball onto a defender's head, nowhere near any Town player. Francis finished packing his suitcase and dinked a little volley into the vacant area between goalkeeper and defence. Garner half came out as Reddy lurked, then did a star jump, with the ball bouncing off his chest and out into the mists of time. Reddy and Whittle barged about trying to get to the ball, but failed. A momentary moment, nearly near, hopefully hopeless.

It's all a great big blancmange of gooey mankiness: what happened when, who did what? What is memory anyway? Did Dr Freud renew his season ticket, or did he only come to the Wycombe game to get a voucher for Wednesday? Typical. Town had a shot, and a tickertape parade was organised to commemorate this momentous occasion. The man with three names flapped a fizzer low to the left of goal, the ball hitting the M in the Ramsden's sign.

Handball! Nah, forget about it. Orient broke from their left to right, Tudor dreaming past three, cutting back infield and drifting a shot a foot wide. How did that happen? Simple: he moved, his mates moved, Town were all over the shop. Ibehre and Alexander kept running out to the wings, drawing Jones the Stick and Whittle away from the centre and leaving a huge space into which their midfielders ran. When they didn't, it just meant Orient had two players against our full-backs. Interesting.

Newey spent several days preparing to lever a free kick into the back of the Osmond stand. On that basis he succeeded. Awful. Reddy fell over a defender's foot and… that's so boring that I can't bring myself to finish the senten…

If Hell is a city much like London, what is Slade's Grimsby?

Parkinson had a shot. If the keeper waits long enough the ball will arrive, possibly after bird flu has mutated into humans. Now that's an interesting concept. That's not a Scunthorpe fan; that's H5N1. Of course my mind is wandering, random thoughts tumbling out with as much sense as Town's tactics. Jones the Stick headed over, or wide, from a free kick on the left, or right. As young people like to say, whatever.

They attacked again, crossing, shooting, that sort of thing. Town could not cope with any of their front four, really; Ibehre and Alexander in particular kept leading our Alices up the garden path. Newey, threatened by shadows on their right, exposed in the floodlights. Tudor skipped away and crossed deep and low into the Town area, a bit like Barry White. McDermott managed to block Keith's volley at the far post but the ball squirmed across the six-yard box. Whittle watched, Ibehre pounced and spun a shot a yard wide of the left post as Jones the Stick and Bolland slithered towards Jabo the Hutt. Whittle received some advice from the Stickman.

I can't lie to you about Town's chances. Do we have your sympathy?

Town got a free kick on the right for something or other; Newey banged the ball in and it was headed out straight to Kalalalalala-what's-his-name, who lampooned the ball towards the bottom left corner. The ball flicked off a defender's ankles and ballooned away for a corner. In context, that was tremendously exciting. Someone stood up and made a noise.

A few minutes later Francis tried to seduce the local ladies one more time before his holiday ended and cha-cha-cha'd along the edge of the area, wiggling his hips and a-shakin' his lips, rubbing a lovely pass inside the defenders. Parkinson surged in from the left and Garner raced off his line. They both sneezed and fell down, the ball rebounding back out towards the corner of the area. Francis tapped the ball past a defender and was bumped away by a red backside. He fell a little too obviously and no penalty was given.

You already know far too much about this disease-riddled rabbit's carcass of a half; let's skip Horace the cheeseboard and go straight for coffee and mints. I'm sorry, we only do decaffeinated coffee, sugarless sugar, and dehydrated water. As the half ended Town had a sort of attack but Orient whelked it clear down their right. The ball seemed to drift out, then back in again, but it kept rolling, rolling until Ibehre had a raw hide when Jones the Stick swiped the ball out for a throw-in under the Police Box. The Main Stand moaned and groaned as the Leyton buzzers chucked it back in. Parkinson and Newey were not paying attention, perhaps discussing whether to have curry sauce or watered-down vinegar on their chips, and Orient were allowed to set up a crossing opportunity. In the ball came, flat towards the penalty spot. We watched the Town players watching the Orient players watching Easton trot in and thump a header low across Mildenhall and in to the bottom left corner. Francis was the nearest Town player to Easton, but he was just the last man standing in a short line of cosmic indifference. It was the very least Orient deserved.

A couple of minutes later those remaining awake were given the chance to resume an old favourite: the half time boo-boo-boo. They couldn't be bothered to do that much either. The booing was rubbish, and symptomatic of a lack of ambition in the boo boys. Perhaps if we had a new shiny stadium, hopefully downwind of a sewage farm and a fishmeal factory, the standard of booing would be higher. That's what ambition is.

Yeah, it was over, same old, same old, blah-blah-blah. Top of the league and we're having a bath. Analysis not required, you know the drill by now. How long will Jones the Lump last this time?

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"There are fifteen more of these left this year?"
"Your hair has obvious bouncebackability."
"As long as you don't mention fish we won't stalk you."
"They're like Wycombe, but with a defence."
"Would it be quicker to fit Croft with a wooden knee, like George Washington."

Second half
Neither side made any changes at half time. I was so bored that I forgot to eat my sandwich.

Working on the assumption that basic rules of association football were followed, Orient must have kicked off the second half. The fascinating stain on the concrete floor temporarily distracted me, as some weak tea had settled itself into a 1:25,000 scale map of Latvia. But where was Riga?

From the off Town tore into them, the half-time team talk clearly having galvanised the players, and they roared forward, the crowd frantic, a seething mass of frenzied passion. No, wrong radio station - that's Hucknall Town. Our Town were as vapid as before; Orient continued to dominate everywhere, quicker in thought and foot.

Within a minute or two it should've been 2-0. Some bloke or other, possibly Miller, maybe Keith, drove his four-wheeled pick-up truck in from the fields and across Town; the locals stood in their doorways with the ghost of a smile. A flick on the edge of the area and Alexander was free, perhaps 15 yards out on the centre left. Without breaking stride he smithered the ball low and very hard down towards the right-hand corner. Mildenhall, magnificently, levitated and licked the ball aside for a corner.

Has Blundell Park ever been so silent? Was that five lumps or six? In all the excitement I kinda lost count. Passing is so passé.

It was horrible. The giant beast in its death throes, a plaintive wail and a final attempt to exhume some dignity floundering in the middle of the pitch. Jones the Lump failing, the vultures circling, dinner about to be served.

History teaches us that men and football managers behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. After 55 minutes Jones the Lump and Parkinson were replaced by Gritton and Cohen. The silence was broken, the crowd enlivened, a hum of expectation suddenly audible. There was an atmosphere: it felt like a public event again, not a period of national mourning for all the dead ducks to be; the switch had been flicked and hills were alive. Immediately, Gritton turned Cohen free, who dribbled up the wing, forcing a corner. Orient under pressure, defenders finally having to earn their win bonus.

The crowd were up on their feet, even chanting, almost singing. Supporters supporting, believing that there's something to believe in, and the players rose with the crowd. Finally we have some kind of sporting contest. Cohen teased with pace, Gritton pleased with a laced pass inside two defenders for Newey, who barged a rucksack-carrying Orienteer away and dribbled into the area. Along the bye-line, cutting infield, Newey curled the ball towards the top left corner. Garner flung himself across and parried the ball away from goal, behind and above onrushing Town players. We say "oooooooh". What do you say?

Town's rhythm was constantly interrupted by time-wasting and the ref, who was petty in the extreme with a drop-ball. An exasperated Bolland ended up grabbing the ball off the preening prevaricator and kicking it back to the their goalkeeper. The referee made them do it properly, his way, dropping the ball for Bolland to kick back to their keeper. The world is a safer place now.

Orient were still a danger: where was the man from Doctor Congo? Ibehre flaggled wide from outside the penalty area; Alexander ambled into the spaces between McDermott and Whittle to shoehorn a shot from a narrow angle, which Mildenhall saved well down to his left. At some point the biggest scrambled egg in the world was made inside the Town area, with everyone treading down the grapes at some stage. The referee got stage fright and gave Town a free kick because a Leyton Orient player didn't look in his mirror enough and he wasn't impressed with a three-point turn. A three-point turn? That's what they're gonna get out of this game, isn't it?

Halfway through the half Town should have equalised. Mildenhall wellied the ball upfield; Reddy, for once, won a header, flicking the ball daintily onwards, right down the middle. Gritton burst through, unmarked, free as a bird. He let the ball skip a couple of times and watched Garner sprint off his line. On the edge of the area Gritton decided to loft a sand iron over the stranded keeper. The ball squirted off the side of his boot and squinted a foot wide of the right-hand post. A terrible miss, not unlike Reddy's against Spurs. Ah, the League Cup - let's not get injured, lads.

A minute or so later Mildenhall punted a free kick right down the middle, Cohen flicked the ball on and Reddy, 15 yards out, turned and cushioned the ball with his right boot. Zucchiniboy slipped and Reddy had a wondrous sight before him: the goal, inviting, the keeper a little bit frightened. Reddy glimpsed the prostrate defender and did what he does best: fell over, claiming a penalty. No way, José: you don't get 20 goals a season by falling over. Did Norman Wisdom ever get 20 goals a season? Or Bambi?

Another minute, another Town moment. A free kick on the left was curved into the area by Newey. Cohen glided and steered the ball a foot or two over the bar.

Wycombe apparently made a substitution, which was very interesting, but hardly relevant. What? The tannoyman had confused himself. Perhaps, like us, he'd got into a grinding loop of bi-weekly enema football. Home games under Slade are like rock groups' world tours: you look out of the window and every town seems the same. Echanomi came on for someone who I have already forgotten, but may have been Tudor. Oh no it wasn't; it was Ibehre. Boy, was this boy quick. I think the happy haddock-eating Howard Jones fans in the Osmond started singing his praises. They like you Echanomi, well.

The last 20 minutes were essentially Town desperation and Orient counterattacks. As the minutes ticked down Town resorted to the big whack upfield. This tactic brought a total of zero chances, for Orient had some cool, capable characters at the back. The Zucchini was brilliant for them: he had Reddy tucked inside a secret pocket in his silk suit, and you couldn't even see an outline. Our compliments to the tailor. The nearest Town got was when Francis got off the bus home and waved to the crowd one final time, dancing infield, dimpling a measured cross through the area towards the far post. Reddy awaited and the Zucchini floated down and whisked the ball away with his aura.

There were isolated moments to get the crowd roused up into a fury, such as Easton's neck-high kung fu challenge in midfield to win the ball and set up a counterattack. No free kick. With about ten minutes left a Town cross flew into the Pontoon. The stewards really should have thrown out the fat, and I mean fat, stupid, and I mean cretinous, teenager, with "1 May" written on his back. He picked up the ball and threw it way past and over their goalkeeper, wasting Town's valuable time. You are big, and you aren't clever. Isn't that what banning orders are for?

Mildenhall was marvellous, keeping the score down with some timely blocks and athletic saves. Assisted by the penchant of Echanomi to fall over when he should stand up and to stand up when he should fall down. Once down the left, Echanomi zipped past a couple of old men and received a final tap on his ankles as he burst free in the area. Oddly, he tried to stay upright, and Mildenhall whipped the ball off his toes. Later, after dribbling past three Town players from the halfway line, he decided that was the time he would try and get his British Amateur Swimming Association badge for competitive diving, rather than shooting.

Oh, I forgot that shot from Reddy which is just about reaching the goal-liiiiiinnnnnnnne… now.

Alexander burst through their left, cut infield and Mildenhall saved low at his feet. A bit later he cut in from their right, unmarked a dozen yards out, and Mildenhall again did a superb save to his right, parrying the ball back out towards the edge oft the area. Easton followed up and shot against Whittle. And finally, in added time, a long, long, high, high, punt was flicked on. Reddy, four yards out, unmarked, miscontrolled and the ball tumbled off his foot and rolled out for a goal kick.

Three minutes of added time just faded away uneventfully, like Auntie Irene's 75th birthday party. Was all passion spent, or just being kept in the piggy bank for Wednesday?

If you've got this far without self-harm or booking an appointment with a psychiatrist then you are well capable of joining all the dots. You know, Fentyboy, if we were only interested in the result we'd stay at home and watch Grandstand. What happened to the hope that one day we might be entertaining? We could at least try, now and again. What happened to two strikers, to wingers, to width, to passing? Sitting tight and hoping something'll turn up isn't much for £15, Mr Micawber.

Another game over, another light switched off. The question we have to ask ourselves is which is the blip - home form or away form? The big picture is pretty clear, isn't it. The facts are staring us all in the face: how many home wins since February? Maybe Town should have two managers, one for home games and Slade for away games.

This was worse than bad. It is also the norm and that really is bad.

Nicko's man of the match
Not many of that lot can look in the mirror boy. Yet again Bolland ran Kalala's socks off, with little reward. The dreadful thing is that only one of our players could get near to the standards set by their team, for without Steve Mildenhall Town wouldn't have just lost; they would have been humiliated.

Markie's un-man of the match
You can choose from many dead fish in this putrid barrel, but the old man of the sea holds the ultimate responsibility. For constantly serving up the same dish of maggoty gruel it's Russell Slade. Town life is first boredom, then fear.

Official warning
Sometimes you have to wonder why they bother. Mr P Joslin had no idea at all really, when the ball went out of play, who had touched it last. He got the penalty claims right, purely by default; it is so much easier to say no, kids, just say no. The farcical mystery tour of the drop-ball summed him up: far too busy doing the Charleston, dissatisfaction guaranteed. He wasn't a factor in the defeat, just a bit irritating. If we look at the scoreboard, Isla, we see the score on the door: 5.893.