All you get is pain: Rushden (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

4 March 2006

Lord Rockingham's XI 1 Grimsby Town 1

There's a moose, loose, about this hoose. No, no, no it's just Ronnie Bull, the Devon Lock of defenders. Turn to page 23 for more pictures of Ronnie receiving his ASBO.

A brisk, clear afternoon in Northamptonshire, the Nene Valley nowhereland of football, with around 600 Town fans bathing in the glorious sun-kissed plastic behind a goal. The plastic owls are still atop the plastic roofs, and plastic pop's pumping over the tannoy. Someone's brought in The Monkees' greatest hits. Yes, yes Daydream Believer, but no-one ever plays Tapioca Tundra any more, though I expect it to be Duane's Dish of the Day soon. Tapioca's full of fibre, which means it must be a Mariners metaphor.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Futcher, Jones (R), Newey, Cohen, Bolland, Woodhouse, Toner, Jones (G), Reddy. The substitutes were Croft, Kalalalalalala, Mendes, Goodfellow and Parkinson. Toner was again cast out to the wilderness on the wing, but everyone else was where you'd expect them to be.

Rushden's squad goes up to number 47 and they have a Simeon, which is very Chauceresque. "He hadde a seemly nose", as the travelling Townites chanted. Oh, look: Darren Caskey, who really should wear sideburns to complete his homage to footballers of the 1970s - the birds, booze and brilliance decade. Perhaps he'll stroll down the wing with a fedora and champagne bottle today.

Town ran out in all blue (because, of course, black and white clashes with red in a kaleidoscope), but the Town fans woke up this morning with the Irthlingborough blues.

I've heard kazoos in rock 'n' roll, but what about trombones? Have you ever heard a trombone solo?

Shall we start?

First half
Town kicked off away from the Town fans with Newey failing to kick the ball out of play, causing the Rushedenites to rattle, if not roll. Reddy twirled and, oh I don't know, a three-toed sloth escaped from the private menagerie of the owner of the Bull Hotel, where Billy Bragg played his first professional gig, factfans. This three-toed sloth distracted the defence sufficiently for Reddy to cross deeply to the far post, to the unmarked Cohen, who cushion-headed down and had a little bit of morris dancing with their goalkeeper. Most unconvincing morris dancing it was, for Crane flobbled at the ball like Bill, or was it Ben, grasping and clasping it to his bosom, like a trolley dash down Netto's wide treasure aisles.

A minute later another big bottom Betty attack from Town, booming the ball forward from a free kick. The Rushden defence melted like a Malteser, looping the ball out of the area. Jones the Stick headed back down the centre and Reddy high-kicked like a Tiller girl as Crane wobbled out towards the penalty spot. The ball squished sideways to Futcher, about a dozen yards out with the openest of open goals opening before him. In radioland they call this "an opening". Futcher swiped the ball left-footed towards the goal, with only a single defender within this lovely panoramic view of the rolling countryside. Futcher managed to tap the ball against this defender's back and weakly-meekly claimed handball, please sir?

For Town the game never reached such heights of sophistication and wit again.

After four minutes the crowd had been silenced. Town had reduced this to a home game. Bored silence and booming thwacks punctuated by players railing at the linesman. Twice Stokes turned to berate the linesman for giving him offside, but he was shouting at no-one, for the linesman was on the left, not the right. Mildenhall joined in the fun, furiously gesticulating at a photographer for not putting his flag up. You wouldn't wish to sit next to them on the bus; they may ask if anyone had seen their camel.

Crane couldn't catch the ball; he couldn't kick the ball. Town did nothing.

Wee Tom watched from his perch on his porch as Lord Rockingham's XI drove by in their jalopies, scarves trailing behind them like Isadora Duncan as they traipsed up to the party in the big house down the lane. Newey kept allowing the ball to drop over his head, with little Berry za-zoomed in the area causing the minorest of minor mayhem. Well, the ball went close enough to Mildenhall for him to stop polishing his toenails and look up once or twice.

Town had a few throw-ins. Sometimes the ball was touched by three Town players in succession without any of the Red Rushies intervening. We sighed and looked and sighed again. Only 15 minutes gone.

Oh, here we go. I did warn you. Berry burst into the area after Newey had allowed a crossfield ball to drop over his head. Newey grappled, grasped, and somehow avoided wrestling Tiny Tyrone to the floor, with the winger scrubbling a weak shot five yards wide.

Town had some pressure, some free kicks, some corners and some more throw-ins. But no shots. Newey dithered, Bolland blathered and the Irthlings descended upon them in their funny little space modules. Can you still buy an Airfix model of Apollo 12?

Now then, three passes, and a fourth! Town moving upfield in stages, like a canny game of Mousetrap, with Toner crossing and Rushden clearing. Oops. Off they jolly well go, rampaging down their left with Futcher staying back to cover, moving up for offside and finally wandering around like a dazed dormouse after being chased by a combine harvester. Macca was forced infield to mark the player Futcher had left and Kelly shuffled down the wing. Surging past the ailing Futcher, Kelly slammed a low cross into the heart of the six-yard box. Jones the Stick wafted the ball over the crossbar as Broughton lurked. They aren't very tall, so why were we worried about the corner? We weren't.

Actually, I have heard a trombone solo in rrrrock. I'll be biding my time before admitting what it is.

The referee kept blowing his whistle, refusing to play advantage and generally ensuring he officiated to the same standard as the players were playing. Playing? Playing at what? Football has supposedly formulated rules and regulations in the last couple of centuries: something to do with getting a ball between some sticks within a defined area. We were watching one of those traditional games between two villages where they try to get a sausage onto the bar at the Whelk and Woeful.

Mildenhall needn't have bothered coming out of the dressing room. He never had to do a thing in the first half. He watched Newey outpace Stokes on a long chase, so he walloped a goal kick upfield, directly to Crane. It was a lovely long kick, without any fade, hit sweetly down the fairway, leaving him perfectly positioned for a little sand iron onto the green. That was probably the only time anyone kicked the ball straight all half.

I haven't mentioned Ronnie Bull yet. Ronnie Bull. There you are. He emerged from underneath a toadstool later. He was so anonymous, we forgot to heckle him; or maybe everyone was asleep. Actually, was he worth it? Or was he just a rumour that was spread around Town?

Newey whacked a free kick towards their penalty area; Jones the Stick glanced the ball goalwards and Crane caught it. Excitement over: we could go back to musing over the plastic owls. Were there more last year? If there were, where are they? Is there a pile of dead plastic owls behind one of the stands?

After 25 minutes the Lumpster finally flipped, thrusting the ball into the referee's chest after the hundredth little bo-beep from the happy whistler. Out came a yellow card, fortunately.

With any luck the sun will fall below the roof and we'll be blinded by the light. This very unpleasin', sneezin', wheezin' calliope crashed to the ground. Help… let me out… I want to go home… please.

With a minute or so left… hang on, did I just lose 20 minutes of my life somewhere? Is this proof of alien abduction? Or just proof that football has been abducted? I am saving you from the dross when Reddy's foot moved and the ball travelled from one side of the penalty area to the other, without disturbing any farmyard animals. You won't want to have a detailed dissection of Ben Futcher's uncanny ability to be in the right place three minutes after the right time. Near the end he was hopelessly lost between two attackers on the right. The winger ran towards Futcher and passed the ball to him. Big Ben swished his right boot at the ball and it travelled between his legs, cannoned off his left ankle and away for a throw-in. Far away, across the fields to the tolling of an iron bell, one behatted Town fan acclaimed the Son of Cod. The rest sniggered or snarled, depending on the mood swing.

As one minute of added time was played Bull did a typical reckless Bull-type lunging, plunging challenge, arriving just as Macca cleared. Sir John was motionless, the Town fans far from emotionless, and Bull was a bit lucky to just be booked. But then he was often lucky last year too. Was it better to have him on the pitch though? Probably: he was having one of his more effective games for Town.

If a thing well said will be wit in all languages then dette var gjør flau malplassert will have them laughing, if not dancing, in the streets of Tromso tonight.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I've got a subacromial impingement."
"We've somehow managed to drag them down to our level."
"If I hadn't retired I could have been working today."
"There isn't a market for invisible hats."
"Futcher makes Lever look balletic."

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time. That was a shame for, like the song, it remained the same. Ah, but which song? This wasn't suicide, for it was not painless. I'd rather have a hammer and a nail. Amuse yourselves playing games for a while; it's more than those young men in red and blue did.

From the off the Rushies tore towards Town and Broughton started to win free kicks by sitting down when the ball approached; much like a Town fan when Mendes has the ball, eh. Broughton was rewarded for his sit-down protest and the ball was curled into the centre of goal from near the right corner flag. Broughton bowed and brushed a flicking header across the face of goal and just wide. Was that enough to wake up our sleeping beauties? No.

Carry on… there's nothing to report. Have a game of Monopoly if you want, or work out the square root of 134.609 by hand and in Sanskrit. Hey, boil two eggs: come back in eight minutes. Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case fry some tofu.

I hope you didn't overcook them. A long ball from Town from somewhere on the pitch went towards Lumpy, who snaggled the ball to Cohen. The Gazzster chested the ball infield and was rumpled to the ground. A free kick to Town, 20 or so yards out, just to the right of centre. Newey prepared to miss. And he did, curling the ball a few inches safely over the top right corner. It never, ever, looked likely to dip and delight. We're back to your boiled eggs again, aren't we.

These Diamonds didn't have to sparkle, just to glint a little. They finally blew across the surface, sending a layer of dust into the atmosphere, and Town were blinded.

Rushdenites ran at Town, fizzled around the fringes and pestered the life out of the ponderous and permeable membrane that was the Town defence. Woodhouse in particular was constantly the wrong side of his marker, failing to track back. Long kicks boomed downfield, yet Gog and Magog hardly won any headers. Broughton constantly flicked and Caskey tricked his way down the middle. Gasp at the sight of Goliath slain. Stokes flicked Broughton free inside the Town area, behind the defence, but Mildenhall stood tall and the shot bounced off the Mildster's chest.

The Lumpster approached, rambling forward with a rucksack on his back and some traditional folk songs on his iPod. Oh, he's gone. Didn't last long, did it.

Back Rushden plunged down this blocked sink, with another cross from their left curling into the middle of the box. Again the little Diamonds flicked the header on, highly safe. Are Town bothered, or is this a day trip out for a stroll in the park?

After 58 minutes Toner was replaced by Goodfellow. At last, a winger to wing it. Town had a period of intense pressure. In other words Rushden were unable to clear it properly a couple of times. Town ponderously pondered on the left, refusing to cross the ball three times. The referee got very bored waiting for Town to cross it, so he gave a free kick. Woodhouse sauntered across and curdled the ball into the middle of the area, about eight yards out. Futcher managed to leave the ground, remaining above his marker, and steered the ball down to the keeper's left. His leap was nothing if not monumentous. If not a classic goal, then a classic Sladian Grimsby goal: a tall man headed the ball. The Town fans were pleased the trip had not been wasted. Yet.

At this the Rushdenites brought on their Chaucerian striker, Simeon Jackson. Maybe he was the sixth Jackson brother. I can't be bothered to shoehorn in a Jackson Five song here. Do it yourself if you really want to. I'm not going to show you the way to go with this one.

Did the Irthlingboroughians quiver and quake, shiver and shake at conceding a goal to the high-rise dwellers? No. Town receded, getting worse; the goal seemed to knock our confidence. Free kick, free kick, throw-in, throw-in, throw-in, throw-in, free kick; the game flowed downstream towards the sewage plant. Ah, another throw-in. Fascinating. Goodfellow nearly passed to Reddy. That was his positive contribution: one pass which almost went to a team-mate. His other three touches were two passes directly to a Rushie and one that went straight out of play. He didn't run back to defend either.

Actually, I'm being cruel. Goodfellow did manage a twisting, hooky shot which went way over the bar following a bit of a drunken dance inside the Rushden penalty area following a Town free kick.

Do you remember that crossword from last week? Fortunately it wasn't finished, so at least we have something to do while the cows graze, birds tweet and the rest of the crowd sleeps. Here it is: eight letters, second letter 'n' - tending towards… Was that a Town attack? Ronnie Bull cuckooed by Cohen into dribbling the ball out for a Town corner. The Lump stood at the near post and was subjected to a full body search by a defender, and the referee gave Rushden the free kick because Jones didn't disclose the apple in his pocket. It's for his teeth!

There was a really tempting cheesecake at that service station near Peterborough. I really should have stayed there and sated those Irthly desires.

After 71 minutes Broughton, yet again, decided to crouch under some imaginary privet hedges while Futcher did some unintentional topiary. The free kick was pumped in from their left and Jones the Stick noddled the ball away, but straight to a tiny midfielder, right in the middle, about 25 yards out. Kelly controlled the ball on his chest and tried a shot. The ball hit someone in the middle of the penalty area. The Town defenders all stopped and held their hands in the air. Mildenhall stood still, holding his hands in the air, and one of the Rushdenites poked the ball in. The Town fans could barely see, with the sun bursting directly in to our eyes, but the tannoy announced that Simeon Jackson had scored. That smylere with the knyf under the cloke. Always watch out for them.

Town managed to crumble even more after this goal, with Rushden powdering Town's nose like an over-eager pompom girl. Ah, yes I forgot the half-time entertainment: ten little girls with enormous pompoms doing a barn dance. Town should use that as their pre-match warm-up. We need entertainment.

Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow: he who would search for pearls must dive below. A minute after the goal the Irthpeople bonged the ball upfield after Town had sent the giant haystacks up for a free kick. Or was it a corner? Who cares? Croft chased the ball back into the Town half and, on the left-hand side, tried to a hooking scrape across to Newey. He woefully underhit the pass and Jackson zephyred off into the penalty area, flashing a shot low across Mildenhall, who stretched down and scoopled the ball just past the post for a corner.

The corner cleared, Town were under pressure again when they infiltrated on the left with Berry unmarked and left to dance as he pleased along the bye-line. He crossed to the near post and Newey managed to half block back towards Mildenhall, who plumped onto the ball as a striker tickled in the vicinity.

We weren't laughing.

On Rushden roared as Town were reduced to a series of throw-ins down the right. Two down and six, as they say in American football, the game that most closely resembles the activity pursued by Russ's Raiders. Berry had another shot, high and wide; then they had another flick header inside the penalty area, the ball arcing a foot or so above the crossbar. You do remember that one of these teams is one point from the top of this division, don't you?

With about five minutes left Parkinson replaced Cohen, which did not detract from the energy, skill or aggression. I'll leave it there; it's for the best.

Rushden carried on stripping away the layers of skin on this dead Town carcass. Reddy raced back 40 yards, tracking their left winger on a breakaway as Goodfellow trotted towards the halfway line. It was the only thing Reddy did all day, except wash his hair.

During the three minutes of added time, when they had a free kick deep inside the Town half, the desperate Diamonds slung on their big player-manager. It was cleared easily and Town had what, in the context of the afternoon, was a searing break reminiscent of nothing less than Barcelona in their pomp: they got over the halfway line without kicking the ball out of play. A free kick to Town and up came the wind-farmers. Lumped, bumped, and dumped out to Woodhouse 25 yards out, who set himself for a looping, dipping McDermottian volley into the top right corner. He didn't put enough water in the mix and the ball wibbled softly straight into Crane's midriff.

The game ended, the Town players surrounded the referee and linesman and Rob Jones was shown the red card. The crowd weren't interested; we'd had our brains fried by another mind-numbingly crass 'performance'. What was that over to my left: Slade the Alchemist - turning base lead into purest green? You know the answer to that: "but we're third". How?

No-one emerges with any credit. There was no cohesion anywhere, not a hint at a plan being followed. Rushden at least could be seen to have an idea, a method worked out in training. Town were men in a foreign field. The four new players have brought nothing but confusion. Where once Town were functionally efficient, now there is just fortune. Town are becoming effluent in the language of football.

This season is like the slow melting of the polar ice caps: we know that it's going, but we hope it won't happen in our lifetime.

Nicko's man of the match
Today Mr No-One was foot perfect. The best we had was adequacy. Mildenhall made no mistakes, but had nothing to do, and that was much more than their keeper did. You can't be man of the match because your socks didn't fall down.

Markie's un-man of the match
Futcher, Cohen, Bolland, Reddy, Lumpy, Woodhouse… oh, hang on - that's the team sheet. They were all bad in their own ways. So everyone except Macca and Mildenhall.

Official warning
Mr G Sutton had sensible hair, but that's it. He managed to stop anything remotely resembling free-flowing football with his constant beeping. The free kicks from which both goals were scored were rubbish decisions, but he was no worse than most, far better than some. He stopped the game, thus allowing us all to go home and so he gets five out of eleven. He didn't do anything that stood out as bonkers. After all, it was the linesman who twitched for their goal.