Dry bones

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

2 September 2005

Grimsby Town 1 Stockport County 3

A warm evening with a cheeky breeze funnelling down the pitch into the faces of 150 to 200 stocky Stockportians jingle-jangling their loose change in the Osmond Stand. Another Friday freebie for da kidz and the allure of big match tickets for those occasional adults meant a huge crowd thronging. Well, a bit more than usual. Throngs ain't what they used to be.

Town lined up in the a la carte menu 4-4-1-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Croft, Andrew, Diet Koka Kalala, Bolland, Parkinson, Jones (G), Reddy. The substitutes were Crane, Gritton, Ramsden, Barwick and Newey. At last, the past is the future and England's dreaming: Macca and Croft back together in their rightful positions. The left-footed Andrew played on the right; the right-footed Parkinson played on the left. Tactical masterstroking from Russ Slado Blofeld? Or plain barminess on a balmy night?

Stockport brought along an eclectic mix in their electric blue kit. Shall we boo their keeper, on loan from Britain's official worst city ever, officially? Ah, Dr Dje, one of Town's 633 squadron of foreign trialists. With his knee bones connected to his hip bone it's the dem bones of Ezekiel Tomlinson! Ooh, hel-lo, ding-dong. Will the raffish, rakish Adam Le Fondre take time out from his pursuit of lovely ladies to play? And if it's not a Jonjo it's a Jermaine - the unwritten law of lower-league football. This time it's Easter: that's either his surname or when he gets transferred.

Dish of the Day: John Lukic's cheese and ham pizza. Kids' size, presumably; his dad'll have the 12" with extra cheese. Eating five a day is good for you - as long as the ham is a sultana and the cheese is an apricot. John appears to like a simple toppings, which may explain his hair.

Shall we start?

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand, the details lost in the giddy excitement of Town not launching it up in the air immediately: they waited at least five seconds. Town up and at 'em, urgent, snapping, clapping into tackles. At least we're awake today.

Don't jump to conclusions when you have the thinnest of factual trousers in your wardrobe. The defence spent the first ten minutes in standby mode. A free kick on their left, 20 yards out, curling into the centre with a Stockyboy dipping and glancing a header loopily over. Moments of nearlyness, the wind cried wary of this evening. Three times the ball was zipped through by Stockport, three times defenders dozed.

With five minutes gone, Mr Macca pursued a bouncing ball to the edge of the Town area, right in the centre. Mildenhall waited, Macca nodded, Easter toodle-pipped around the back to stick out a boot and flick the ball against Mildenhall's huge piratical chest. Macca apologised and the Pontoon raised its collective left eyebrow in surprise. Jones, then Whittle allowed the ball to roll through with Easter lurking, the ball slowing and Mildenhall still negotiating the purchase of his second meat and potato pie. Inches from embarrassment, and haven't we all been at some point.

Reddy running quickly with the ball and falling over: nothing new there. Has he a problem with his ears, or was he, in a previous life, a fey Victorian fopster prone to fainting? What are Town up to? What are they doing? In the air to Andrew, who beat his marker every time. Flick and chase, Stockport under pressure, but no chances created. That's better: passing, on the floor, the ball fizzing and whizzing between the red stockings; Bolland surging; Parkinson gavoting through the area on the left, a shot blocked. Bolland followed up, and from 20 yards, ba-doom! A searing, slicing shot across goal, a foot or so wide. The crowd awoke: Town's footballing heart revived after 15 minutes.

Stockport did not even wink at Mildenhall for the next 20 minutes. All Town, all good, all's right with the world.

Oo-Kalala, spinning, hustling, muscling a shot over the roof after some marvellously masculine passing and movement from Town. Jones the Stick had hit two Hatmen, swatting them away, leaving Jones the Lump to trundle forward and release the dog of war for the shot. Bolland: omnipotent, omnipresent and omnivorous. Scooping up humanity in the centre circle, bursting forward imperiously. Wolski stood and stared, waving, but not yet drowning. Wolski beat a retreat, raised a leg and hooked Bolland down with a scythe. The crudest, most obvious foul ever. Laughably rubbish; and remember we've seen Tommy Widdrington.

The ball rolled on. Jones the Lump took up Anneka's challenge, bumbling forward on the centre right, attracting flies. He reached the edge of the area, ignored the unmarked Andrew and Parkinson, and stubbed a flat chip safely over the bar. Wolski suffered a stern finger-wagging from the referee, but no booking.

More Town pressure, Reddy rocking down the right, into the area, along the bye-line and... down he went. Is he incapable of standing up inside the penalty area? Andrew lung-bursting through a tackle, doing his best to fall over a leg, then fall into the area. Great strides taken, so little reward. A Macca raid, Jones the Lump steered a header softly to Duke. A Reddy cross, another Lumpy header. Pressure mounting, Town improving. The G-clamp ever tightening around Stockport's table leg. The grip firm, the saw came out, ready for the final chop. About six inches should do the trick.

Just after the half hour Town slapped them down with power, precision and passionate passing. Down the right, Andrew stretching, Kalala beating his tambourine, floozing a dipping, swirling cross to the unmarked Parkinson at the far post. Parky watched, the ball dropped. Yer rubbish! Gary Childs would have volleyed that an inch wide. Parkinson retained possession, spun and clipped a cross over. The ball sailed, Andrew soared and, from beyond the far post, at a very narrow angle, plonked a header back over the dizzy keeper. Ooh, close that, onto the roof of the net. Err, no, off the face of the crossbar, and dropping to Jones the Lump, who volleyed in from six centimetres out. Oh, we're winning, jolly good.

Town players started to show off a bit, displaying the arrogance of apparent adequacy. They were treating Stockport far too lightly, for these winless wonders were not bad at all. They had a pesky pest up front and a bit of organisation, even an idea or two how to attack. They had potential to upset us, that was clear. But we're Town, we're winning, why bother with the opposition? They're here for us, like a late delivery of beefburgers at a barbecue. Crack open a Tizer and chuck some meat on the griddle; they'll cook themselves while we play Twister by the pool, all to a surfer beat.

Kalala started to diddle about inside the Town half, oblivious to the sea of blue about to engulf him. Passes became more artistic, flicks flourished, possession frittered away, time ticking down. Flippin' 'eck! A walloped clearance from a Town corner and red light spells danger. Croft sprinting, Easter easing by, fiddling and flinging a cross into the centre. Briggs arrived unseen and nodded the ball rather nicely into Mildenhall's saucepan. Using a little cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil and a dash of worcester sauce, he tossed the ball from hand to hand and boomed it upfield towards Andrew. Yes, the tactic remained the same.

Nothing else really happened. Town continued to thump on the Stockport door, but nobody was home. Andrew and Parkinson were often free, but frequently momentum was lost through them wanting to shuffle the ball to their stronger foot. Even the Stockport defenders realised that all they had to do was allow them to go on the outside. It was rather odd, as this was by far Town's best home half of the season. Bolland and Andrew were immense, whirling dervishes of action, the principal actors in this play. The crowd were buoyant and pleased, for it was simply the urgency and the occasional pass that corned the Town beef. The goal was the pickle that topped the evening off nicely.

So, same again Slade? Or will Turner do something to nullify Andrew and tell his midfield to tackle? Was it wise of the tannoy to give the half-time scores and then say where Town would be in the league with 13 points? Questions, questions... turn to page 42 for the answers.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"If I was a cannibal I'd dine well off Dje's thighs."
"Is Macca's Town XI the same as yours?"
"I thought it was a cat but it was a chicken with a chest infection."
"Who invented posts?"
"My dentist's coming up for the Spurs game." "Will he sit in the Main Stand?"

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time, though Stockport clearly made amendments to their tactical constitution. Whenever Mildenhall had the ball they knew he would kick it towards Andrew, so their big centre-back wandered over and won everything in the air. Bolland and, especially, Kalalalala-lee were subject to routine body searches, the forces of law and order deeming them potential troublemakers. The result? Anarchy is coming some time.

Events, dear boy, events. Jones the Lump had a shot. There you are, an event. Their keeper was required to rise from his armchair and turn off the television, the remote control lost down the cracks in the Town edifice. The crowd were silent; Stockport already ascendant, forcing Town back and back. Bolland and Kalalala stamped back towards Mildenhall, acres of lovely green grass unsullied by a Town boot. Easter a permanent pootler down the Town right, Whittle wibbling, Boshell free and shooting high, high, high into the sky, sky, sky. Hatters' happiness imminent; Town shocking.

Passing? Some lovely passing from Town straight to Stockport. Kalala passed to Hamshaw rather than Croft; Croft rescued the day with a wonderful man-sized bulldozer, advancing and fouled near the halfway line. Free kick to Town. Phew, danger over. Town's sneaky wallop up to the big men was being readied. Arrghh! Reddy took the free kick quickly, tapping the ball straight to Hamshaw, alone on the halfway line. Off he went, Town panicking back. A cross, hibblage and bibblage, with arms flailing and Town ailing and the moment passed. The crowd stirring towards the Grimsby groan. Something must be done, something must change, they've worked us out. Swap the wingers around? Take off the leaden, lumpy Jones? If Town remain the same, the score won't.

After about ten minutes they had another attack. Nothing much seemed to be happening, Easter wheeling away down the right. A low cross into the centre, no danger, Whittle was in front of the striker, so you can return to your snooze now. Oh. Whittle slid across and, about a dozen yards out at the near post, scooped the ball over Mildenhall: an own goal. Shocked. And stunned. Err, sort it groundsman?

Stockport inflated, Town cremated themselves with an ever-decreasing circle of competence. The game plan remained the same: hit it in the air towards Andrew. Twice Mildenhall eschewed Croft when the little one was free and calling for the ball to be thrown to him. We used to do that, didn't we. Build from the back, through the full-backs. I suppose keeping possession is so 20th century. Kalala piddled about again, and was dispossessed again; only Macca saved the day with some old-fashioned defending without tackling.

The worst crime I ever did was playing rock and roll, but this was an indictable offence. C'mon Town get a grip on yourself! A long punt forward, straight down the pitch, and Jones the Stick allowed himself to be outmanoeuvred by the little happy Easter. The ball bounced once, twice, and Easter was alone inside the area with just Mildenhall between him and glory. A swish, a miss, the ball bumbled wide. Lucky Town, terrible defending.

Ah, better. Kalalatlast passing, Parkinson swooping through the left, cutting inside to the edge of the area and... you can tell who the ticket-hunters are: they're the ones who stood up when Parky was about to shoot. We, the few, the unhappy few, knew better. Sliced a yard wide, why bother. Oh, and they wore Chelsea shirts, these less than diehard Mariners.

Please don't cry: it's happened again; a long boot upfield, the Town central defence pinned like a dead frog, Easter free. Mildenhall came out to the very edge of his area and plucked the ball off Easter's toe. It's getting rather fraught, they've worked out where our weaknesses are. You know, now would be a good time for the management to do something crazy, like manage.

Town were incapable of passing: underhit, overhit, wombling free, straight to unseen bluemen stood right in front of them. They never looked: they just whacked it forward. Town were awful. There was pain as Town receded, conceded and were deseeded by the footballing applecorers from Man-Stock country.

The body twitched - it's still alive! Kalala crossed and a defender jumped: handball given, 25 yards out on the Town right. The ball was caressed into the centre of the area and Reddy stooped and glanced a free header five yards wide. Shall we "ooh"? If you're feeling desperate, please do so.

Russell Slade, deep in conversation with Rodger; Gritton running up and down the touchline. No changes imminent. Hey, it's working so well.

With a quarter of an hour left, Town got a corner after a typical Reddy run into the area, all arms, hair and ignoring of the ball. Hung high and slow, the ball plopped safely into Duke's arms. He looked up and punted the ball straight back upfield beyond Croft and Easter. It bounced halfway inside the Town half. It bounced again. It wasn't going to reach the area. Mildenhall came out and tackled Croft, then two Stockies on the right corner of his area. The ball squirmed out towards the touchline as he tried again. Yoiks! Blue shirts flooding forward, barely a stripe back, the ball crossed to the far post, where the unmarked Hamshaw, a few yards out, nodded and plodded towards his adoring support.

Martin Gritton continued to warm up. The management called together a focus group to consider the step change in empowering employees to maximise their potential. They pointed a lot.

Town had the briefest of rallies. Jones headed vaguely towards the Duke of pukey-coloured shirts. Macca, the driving force, visibly enraged by the second-half perfromance, was clearly determined to do something to make us happy. He flew forward, urging on his morose and moody Mariners, trying to set up one-twos with Jones the Lump. Sir, you ain't no Tony Rees. Ah, at last, it worked. Macca zimmering forward, the ball slipped inside to him and a rising drive rising drivily a couple of feet over the bar. At last a roar, at last something to believe in. For about 20 seconds.

Stockport sniffed the air and could smell the Town blood. They wanted an armful, not just a pint. They saw this dying dormouse and swooped down for the feast. Town gave the ball away, initially from a poor kick by Mildenhall; Town stretched, the sea crashing over them. A shot was half blocked, the ball came out to Wolksi in a huge unmanned space, 25 yards out. Two Town defenders eventually advanced to block. Wolski pummelled a low shot underneath the two Town towers and low to the unsighted Mildenhall's left.

Town: defunct, defused, defeated. Defibrillator required.

Ah, at last, a change. Uh? McDermott and Croft hauled off and replaced by Ramsden and Gritton. Town went back to 3-4-3, with Andrew still on the right and Parkinson on the left. What an interesting and informative decision, leaving on players who lacked heart and competence and taking off the two Town players, the fans' players, the full-backs.

A couple of minute after coming on, Gritton destroyed a strip light in the Pontoon, though not quite with the same style as Menno Willems. Andrew had headed on a corner and Gritton volleyed over from about five yards out. Hmmm. Perhaps this was a cunning plan: game abandoned due to crowd safety concerns, with strip light dangling dangerously above some children. Surely a risk assessment should have been done before play continued. Where was the council?

Gritton also had a shot, which went wide. Yeah, so what, it was all just a return to what passes as normality at Blundell Park. Passes? I use that word ironically, of course.

Stockport only delayed themselves by making three substitutions in injury time. They'd won, Town were useless, the crowd long since seeped out in a show of support for the team. All these fans who are Grimsby 'til they cry, eh?

Town got what they deserved. Whose fault is it? Individual errors mounted, a collective dispirit emerged. There seemed no fight in the second half, like they thought they'd won, that all they had to do was strut and Stockport would be stuffed. Stockport won because their manager changed tactics and their players did what they were told. We didn't change until way, way too late. The writing had been on the wall. The half-time buzz was about changing Andrew and Parkinson around. As the half had progressed Parkinson drifted further and further infield, almost playing in his hole again, leaving Town with no width. The Town defence wasn't too bad on the flanks, but the centre couldn't cope with Easter in particular. The Town central midfield disappeared completely and Kalala played at half pace, seeming to give up at some points.

Stockport were the best team so far at Blundell Park, and you'd have to say the best manager too. Spurs sent Sideshow Mel to spy on Town. He's still laughing at Krusty the Town.

That's a true story, Kate. That's my football team, not me.

Nicko's man of the match
Bolland and Andrew had fine first halves. No-one was any good in the second. So no-one.

Markie's un-man of the match
It's lucky dip time. Whittle had a total stinker after half time, getting worse by the minute after his own goal. Parkinson disappeared again, as did Jones the Lump, who should have walked off after an hour. Expectations are higher with talented players, so Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala gets the dead laurel wreath flung at him. Attitude: head dropped, feet slowed, passing appalling. Can do better.

Official warning
Mr K Woolmer really didn't want to book anyone, letting three Stockies off for persistent low-level fouling. And even high-level fouling, as in Wolski's flying trapeze act upon Bolland. Overall nothing of substance to complain about, so an unusually high 6.989.