Whistle while you work

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

29 August 2005

Grimsby Town 2 Rushden & Diamonds 0

A warming and sunnying afternoon in the millionaires' playground that is Cleethorpes; the streets full of Porsches, the casinos rammed full of high rollers and dancing girls. Well, Skodas and bingo, nearly the same thing, aren't they? Around 100 or so people from the Northamptonshire netherlands hid in the Osmond Stand. Are they getting blasé about visiting the citadels of sport? Or is Aldwyncle more alluring than strutting along the prom-prom-prom in their winklepickers?

Stretched along the lower Smiths/Stones/Findus were two giant blue sheets. What lies beneath the tarpaulin? Town's win bonus? Or was it pigeon droppings again? Town really should catch that pigeon, Mutley.

Has Russ learnt? Has Russ listened? Has he finally got over his obsession with Parkinson's hole? Even the programme is sending those subliminal thoughts to Russ: an advert for Legoland is headlined 4:4:2. Have you got it yet?

Town lined up in the twinkly 4-4-1-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Newey, Parkinson, Croft, Kalala-bamba, Andrew, Jones (G), Reddy. The substitutes were Crane, Gritton, Ramsden, Barwick and Gliding Glen. Newey retreated to left-back with Andrew as the wide left midfielder. Once again Croft was sent into the middle to beam beatific smiles from the centre circle. Kopa-Kalala's red boots blended seamlessly with his red socks to give an all-in-one effect. Is he the hottest thing north of Havana? His knees were not so much bandaged as held together with heavy duty masking tape, wrapped more tightly than a porcelain eBay sale.

Rushden were… over there in a blue ensemble with white flickerings on their polycotton periphery. They'd brought their youth team by mistake; not surprising since they have a 40-boy squad. Yet another team with a Jonjo in their squad. Is this the name du jour? Shall we join the sheepish rush? Jonjo Lukic? Nah.

Dish of the Day: Gary Cohen's crispy duck provides the answer to the riddle of the hamstring. Fatty duck is low on carbohydrates, you see, and the vegetables are low in energy, which doesn't help muscle recovery apparently. Shouldn't have gone to the Peking Palace after the Derby game, should he.

Are we ready? Then let's get on with it. C'mon people, time is money.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand, tippy-tappying for a few seconds and trying to replicate Saturday's blundergoal. Newey eventually hoiked the ball into the Main Stand.

Five minutes of heading: horrible, ugly, distinctly dreadful. Rushden at least tried to pass the ball along the ground; now there's a novel modern theory of football. We've found a new variation on our tactics: welly it in the air towards Andrew on the wing. He does rise wonderfully, but it is, shall we say, to posit a theory which you can debate among yourselves before agreeing with me, one-dimensional. A little obvious, perhaps?

Anyone for tennis? Wouldn't that be nice.

A free kick to Town, way out on the left. Whacked beyond the far post to Jones the Lump who waddled around, stretched and noodled the ball back from the bye-line, it looping and drooping on to the top of the net. Not near, not interesting, not anything much. A neat summary of the first five minutes.

A throw-in to Town on the right, 30 yards out. Exciting. McDermott chucked it to Reddy and the ball ballooned off the riverdancer back towards Macca, who raced forward and chested the ball on. The clouds parted; the sun beamed a single shaft of light to the turf upon which the hallowed one hovered. The crowd rose: we could see the future and it was macca-nificent, for within 0.674 seconds we would see cherubim and seraphim trumpeting the glory. About 25 yards way off to the right His Maccaness the McDermott bazookered a whipping, dipping volley over Young and into the top right corner: the perfect parabola from the perfect player. The crowd were in a holding pattern six feet above the terraces, with a cry of joyful wonderment sending a shockwave out towards Pleasure Island which flattened a family of four from Rotherham as they sat down to eat some fish fingers. Macca roared along the touchline pursued by the entire team, eleven dentists from the Main Stand, the inhabitants of Neville Street, and an ice cream van playing Tubular Bells. At that moment humanity reached Nirvana. Wasn't it a breaking news item on Radio 5? Nevermind.

Phwoar, eh! Cracking goal.

It even induced the Pontoon to sing "There's only one John McDermott". Well, not technically correct, but we do have the John McDermott. Tenors, painters, writers and lawyers are much lesser mortals than right-backs for Grimsby Town. Who cares what happened in the next 10 minutes, eh - we're floating, man. Our love of Macca was the drug that we were thinking of.

The next ten minutes? Town kept heading the ball, Rushden kept passing, no-one got near goal really. Rushden had a flick and trick followed by a shot which Mildenhall forgot about before it passed the post. We must be fair to the kids: they need encouragement, don't they. We must be fair to Parkinson and conveniently ignore the fact he lost the ball 25 yards out through sheer wimpiness. Boring, but comfortingly boring, with Rushden twittering away without any thoughts of penetrating the double glazing. And then there's the referee. It was already clear he was ruining a bad game. Whistle while you work, R Booth is a twerp, he's half barmy, so's his army of linesmen. A Rushden corner was curled to the far post and after a bundle and a cuddle the ball fell to Pearson. The Pontoon, in a charitable act that is unlikely to receive publicity on Calendar, assisted the referee by audibly observing the handball. Accidental danger averted through a return to old-fashioned community singing. Ah, maybe he's not so bad, this ref.

Jones the Lump lost possession outside the Town box and O'Grady was a-twizzling through the area. Whittle lunged and missed, Jones dived and swiped. O'Grady was assassinated by an invisible sniper, right in front of the ref. Penalty? No, a free kick to Town and a booking for diving. Or maybe for a rubbish dive: O'Grady had a leg to fall over, but missed.

Twenty-five minutes gone. One goal, one booking, one shot, one pass. One linesman did a stepover. One flew over the cuckoo's nest.

The ball fizzled out to Macca, skipping off the turf past his boot and out of play. Sort it groundsman! Town were leading; the crowd was silent and the game dead. On the half-hour Town got a corner on the left and Newey floated the ball to the far post. Jones the Stick jostled with a teenager and plonked a header into the top right corner. I hope you didn't leap up and squeal. No goal, the whistle long since blown. It always was: permanently at the ref's lips; look and he shall give a free kick.

Are you looking? It's a free kick to Town on the right. The ball was wellied long, deep, deep inside their area on the left and nodded across goal by Jones the Stick towards the unmarked Reddy. The long-haired lover from Graignamanagh loped around beyond the far post and, from a narrow angle, hooked the ball over Young. A defender awaited next to the post and swiped the ball off the line for a corner.

More free kicks: the game not so much stop-start as stop-stop. What's this? A free kick? Surely not. Mildenhall boomed instructions to Croft to stand still laddie. He did. The free kick came to nothing. A minute later another free kick, this time on their left. Mildenhall ordered McDermott to remain stationary. He did. The ball hit Macca and that was that. They had the ball a lot, but did nothing with it apart from weave pretty patterns in midfield. It was nice of them to eschew shooting. One more cross stitch to do and the jumper would be complete, with a nice picture of a cow on the front.

Another free kick to Town, walloped up to Jones the Stick, who pitchforked the ball into an empty space to the left of goal. Parkinson free, bounding, the ball bouncing, steered over from about eight yards.

The ref breathed, his whistle blew, the sheep were rounded up in their pen. Half time.

Another dreary afternoon drifting along, with Town out-footballed again. We're doing our best to prove Ian Atkins right: we're a set piece team. Go on - you find that bit of teamwork that created any kind of half chance of a thought of a shot. One or two crosses that didn't reach Town players do not a summer make. Town simply gave the ball back as soon as they got it, Mildenhall kept drop-kicking towards Reddy, who was oozed away as the ball dribbled through to their keeper. The match highlights were the midget mascot making marvellous saves from the Mighty Mariner - an exclusive DVD giveaway with Thursday's Grimsby Telegraph. I'm off to eat my sandwich.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"It was either a headless bear or a windmill."
"Dad, was that Macca's last ever goal?"
"We stopped in Sleaford, but the chip shop was rubbish."
"I want their number three sent off - he used to play for Wimbledon."
"What are all these trippers doing here? Is it a bank holiday?"

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time, with Rushden left waiting at the aisle by our blushing brides. Ah, at last, here they are, delayed by a bit of haggling; the old Bentley-driving guru had put up his price. Andrew sidled off to the right, Parky to the left. Let's see action, let's see people, let's see some freedom of movement; let's see who cares.

Another free kick. Pity that the ref's whistle is still superglued to his lower lip. Newey 25 yards out on the Town right: the perfect position to curl the ball over the wall and into the Pontoon. Well done lad, executed perfectly. Not one Pontoonite rose in anticipation, all remained chewing, choking, chortling and chattering.

Diddle-di-dum-di-dee. Andrew was beginning to lean on Professor Hawkins, the wire-haired elder statesman in the Rushden defence. Look, it's there in the trees! A pass. Town were squeezing closer to the young men, inducing mistakes: passes astray, passes intercepted. Andrew nicking some sweets from a little boy, racing clear. Oh, possession lost. No, possession regained, knocked over the top on the centre right. Reddy racing, the goalie off his line, the ball bounced between Heathcliffe and Cathy. Young jumped and patted Reddy on the head like a morris man with ants in his pants, shaking his stick and waggling his ankle bells.

Reddy, stunned by this invasion of his personal space, collapsed in horror, dropping his accordion as he tumbled out of play, the ball long since confined to the history books. The Pontoon bellowed, the referee yellowed, giving a penalty, to the chuckling Pontoon's delight. Were they recreating famous scenes from the past? This week: Garry Parker ruffles Brian Laws' hair.

Penalty! Doh! Penalty! Whose turn to miss this week? The Kalala-bear strode forward with the ball after a bit of wrestling with Croft. Young stood on one leg by his left post in sultry pose. Kalala-dimba scruffled the penalty low to the keeper's right; Young arrived via Hornsea Potteries to palm the ball into the side of the net, just inside the post. For those of you watching in black and white Kalala had scored. He ran into the crowd, engulfed by manic Mariners and was booked for being happy. What was he to do? He couldn't help it. The referee should have booked the lad in the grey T-shirt who dragged Kalala in, hands clearly in use, tugging his shirt, surely a free kick to Town.

Anyway, there you are: two-nil. Forty minutes left. Shall we go for a stroll in People's Park?

Free kick, free kick, corner, free kick, free kick, free kick, free kick, free kick, throw-in, free kick; everybody's talking about free kick-kicks, or is that more rabbit than Sainsbury's. This ref's becoming a pest. A bit of Rushden paisley pattern passing down the centre, a free kick given for Jones being bigger. In the centre, 20 yards out, a huge space to Mildenhall's right, the ball slappered in to the wall: no worries. I don't think I'll spoil this piece of fiction if I reveal that the character Mr Rushden, the earnest but bumbling young vicar, doesn't marry the fisherman's daughter. In fact he barely figures in the rest of this story, just a passing reference to falling off his penny-farthing when he witnesses the hero's final flourish in the Park.

O'Grady had a shot, which went way over but remained within Blundell Park. It kept the away fires burning. A small puff of wind to the dying embers.

Around the hour Monsieur Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalalalalalalala- I-have-my-fingers-in-my-ears- I'm-not-listening hacked a little Rushie person from behind. The ref allowed advantage, then studiously ignored the attempted decapitation. Jones the Stick walked up to Red Legs and wagged his finger in a threatening manner. A minute later Jones the Lump disappeared and out of the mists came Martin Gritton. Today, Matthew, I shall be a professional footballer. And an excellent impersonation he did; well done Marty. Then a Rushie mantrapped the JPKK. Leaving him writhing in agony, clutching his knees. Perhaps the sellotape came loose.

You can relax now, it's downhill all the way; the Rushden soufflé imploded. Town were in the ascendant, even playing football. Passing. To each other. Using the wingers, crossing, that sort of thing. After some neat little flicking and tricking down the right Andrew barbecued Hawkins and crossed, and the ball was cleared out to Jones. The thinnest footballer on Earth swept a majestic pass through the defence, sending Parkinson free inside the area on the left. The scouse scamperer looked up, stepped inside and curled a cross over the keeper towards the lurking Andrew. Young managed to get his fingertips to the ball and claw it away. He had very long arms and a short body, like Max Wall.

Ooh, simper and whimper: old-style Town, attacking with power, precision, passing and not scoring. McDermott marvellously intercepted on the edge of the Town area as one of the unremarkable Rushies almost burst through. Macca scraped the ball out to Parky, who dimpled it up the left to Gritton, inside the Town half. Out came the brush, hair combed back across his forehead at a jaunty angle and a superbly weighted pass curled around two defenders into the path of the rampaging Reddy. Defenders were blown away in the cool breeze and Reddy rolled along the touchline, raced into the area with just the keeper to beat. Eight yards out: a goal? No, Reddy forgot to slow down, leaving the ball bumbling about his ankles like a bored dog on its fifth walkies of the day. Young picked it up as Reddy unfurled his parachute and air brakes.

Ooh, whimper and simper, more old-style Town, with knobs on. Suddenly Parky was free behind the defence after Town had applied some Svengali-like mind tricks upon the Rushden defence. Perhaps it was the sudden application of a false beard by Gary Croft which lured them into a web of deceit? Distracted? Hah, you fell for it just like the Diamond Dogs in defence. Andrew hit a great crossfield pass to Gritton, who tickled Parky away on the left, sinning and singing past two blue ex-Maxes. To the bye-line, a quick glance, Gritton called and a sublime pass into the Scot's stride, 15 yards out. Gritton carefully opened up his body and steered a shot across Young and about 38mm wide of the left post. Worth two oohs, that, and got them.

Let's have a rest for a while, shall we. Over there, on that wooden bench.

Not long now before you can go back to your root vegetables. Just five minutes to go. Oh, they're still here are they? McDermott arrived on his horse to head them off with a pass to Croft. Jones continued to head the ball, Whittle held his back a lot and Newey… was still on the pitch. A cross, a header, almost a goal. Andrew rising beyond the far post to head across the keeper and just in front of Gritton. In the last minute Jones was bloodied and, rather than swap shirts, Crane replaced him. Jones got the ovation he deserved. What a difference a year makes.

Is that it? No, there's more to come. Reddy sniggled past Hawkins on the halfway line; Hawkins tussled with the tousled one and they both fell over. A yellow card only, despite Reddy being beyond the last man. So what, really? This game was long since over. And still there's more. Andrew piledriving forward, Reddy rivelling down the right, crossing deep to the unmarked Gritton, who arose and headed five yards wide, with Parkinson free behind.

Finally Cyril, we could go home, those three points long since mouldering in our rucksacks.

What a curious game, for Town were hopeless in the first half, and just a little bit better in the second. But that was all it took to dispose of the young pretenders, who were nice guests. They brought the wine and watched us drink it. Now go home. It wasn't until Rushden had given up and started to leave spaces that Town began to resemble a competent attacking force.

But defensively Town were fine. Mildenhall visibly pleased the defence with his positive calling and catching. They, like us, feel safe with him around. The midfield existed and broadly stood in the right places, but going forward Town were just long-ball cloggers for an hour. Why do they do it? Russ claims it's not him, so maybe something gets lost in translation. Perhaps Town are still a work in progress: only the base colours have been applied, the details come later, for it is the detail that marks the difference between a painting and a picture.

For relaxing times, make it Grimsby times.

Nicko's man of the match
McDermott was supreme again with a gloriously glorious goal of great glority topping his cake. But let's share these things about. Over the bank holiday Macca and one other have been excellent. Macca got it on Saturday, so today it's our Cinderella Rockafella, Mr Rob Jones. We love his jazz razzamatazz.

Markie's un-man of the match
No-one was so awful that they deserve some rotting vegetation hurled at them. A couple were on the fringes of poor. We'll save the baseball bats for another day.

Rob's rant of the day
"Shoot", whenever His Exellency the Marquis de Macca went within 20 years of the ball. Town fans think in straight lines, don't they, and they never get off 'em. It was always like that in Lawrie Mac's day too.

Official warning
What a big puff Mr R Booth has, to whistle so much in 90 minutes. He just wouldn't shut up. Mr Fusspot insisted on the ball being placed in exactly the right place, and no touching you boys. A ropey penalty decision in our favour, a very kind memory loss when Kamudimba used a machete in broad daylight to stop an attack. At least he was a homer at the right times. Nah, why be nice? He was rubbish. I now detect an alien vibration here, there's something in the air besides the atmosphere. His lucky number's 3.218.