Pulp football: Torquay (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

17 September 2005

Grimsby Town 3 Torquay United 0

A dry afternoon in the dying days of summer, with around 80 Torbay-watchers in the Osmond end, yelping in yellow, bellowing in blue. With footballing royalty about to visit the ground has had a little makeover. No, not purple seats with pink drapes wrapped around the Main Stand, but a little scaffolding around the memorial Menno Willems striplight in the Pontoon.

Town lined up in the accidental 4-4-1-1 formation as follows: Mildenhall, McDermott, Whittle, Jones (R), Croft, Barwick, they call me Mr Kalala, Bolland, Cohen, Jones (G), Reddy. The substitutes were Tony Crane, Wayne Fontana, Dave Dee, Brian Poole and Dave Berry. Oh no, that's ReelinandaRockin, the greatest sixties show ever! The subs' bench was rocking with our own Tony Crane, Gritton, Ramsden, Toner and Newey. Parkinsonless, due to his tongue-twisting shin splint setback, but stuffed full of Barwickness. Tap him, unwrap him, 20 golden segments of, oh no, that's Terry's Chocolate Orange isn't it. Why did everyone get a chocolate orange in their Christmas stocking during the 1970s? Was it a clause in the Sale of Goods Act? Yes, Terry Barwick, that's him, the Scunny scapegoat, out there, on the right wing. Oooh, shades of Stacy Coldicott there; good luck, old chap. You're sharp, aren't you. Already worked out that Cohen was on the left wing, nothing gets past you. You are the Macca of match reporting: able to see a line ahead.

Is there anybody left who pronounces Barwick as Ba-rrick? Surely not.

Torquay wandered out in a pleasing yellow ensemble: no colour clashes, just good old-fashioned yellow with blue bits. Lovely. The early birds were fortunate enough to see their warm-up routine, concentric-eccentric ball juggling circles: inside clockwise, outside anti-clockwise, all set to music, of course. The Mat Busby Berkley babes in Toyland. Town did the usual cone hopping; it's so last year.

Dish of the Day: Tom Newey's steak, chips and baked beans. No wonder he's a substitute. Dear me, beans with steak just will not do. But at least "northern fat chips" are recommended for his diet. And here's the top tip of the day - the bugs are on the outside.

OK, it's time. Let's get into character.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand, Croft lamping the ball down the left. About five minutes later a Town player managed to control the ball. In between we were entertained by Justin Whittle's Alf Ippititimus impression, twice missing headers and running around in circles in comedic "Wahey! Where am I?" fashion. Torquay squawked around in front of the Pontoon, nipping as Town napped, nibbling upon our ankles; irritating, then alarming with their persistence.

They were passing the ball, we couldn't get it. Is every home game the same? Town looked a bit of a shambles. Perhaps it's a cunning plan to lull those Tottingham Hotspurs scouts into a belief that we're just a set piece team? Twice in the first couple of minutes Sir McDermott of Johnness rescued Whittle from ignominy with, well, you know, you can see it, can't you. Defending without tackling, the ball eased away from danger by use of his legendary status.

The crowd already silenced.

Ah, five minutes, a Town attack, or more accurately the ball is down the other end and has dribbled off a yellow sock for a corner. Jones the Stick, lurking underneath the flight path, bumped away with a Torquay hip to his backside. Free kick to them, obviously.

A big red tanker slipped by, or was that Tony Crane warming up? With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue the only thing we ever got from you was sorrow. Whoops, wrong Tony Crane again. I must be reelinandarockin from the excitement.

A shot! Sort of. Kalalala briefly awoke from his golden slumbers for a less than golden shot which scruffled along the ground wider and wider still. A minute later Cohen received a throw-in on the left, chested the ball on and eventually caught up with it near the edge of the penalty area. He tickled the ball infield to Bolland, who slathered a shot across goal, across the floodlights, across the universe. But hey, two shots in two minutes - that's more than Winston Churchill ever did.

It's still a bit quiet.

Minutes passed by. We'll never get them back, so make the most of them. Look around you: Sir John brave and fearless, peerless and imperious, smothering Kuffour, shepherding him away from goal. Kuffour? Ah yes, every team has to have a Town reject these days. It's that or a Jermaine. This lad was bright, tricky and zoomtastically quick, but getting to the ball is one thing, getting past Macca another. Did they have a shot? Nothing that went to Mildenhall. He flickered around and flavoured their milkshake, but they couldn't find a straw. They worried with their potential, not their actual.

Jones the Lump spun and slimed a cracker goalwards, the keeper leaping to his left and magnificently tipping the ball aside for a corner. Quite brilliant. Ho follows ho, got you there, didn't I. No such fortune for the paying public. Lumpy custard pie Jones creaked and croaked; the ball bumbled through to Marriott, who had enough time to check his internet banking account to see whether his credit card payment had cleared. It had. Sipping a latte on the veranda, he held out his hand and the few, the happy few Torbayites behind him were content. Torquay, Torbay, it's the same place.

A pigeon flew down the pitch, gliding gracefully into the Pontoon. Such poise, such elegance, such a danger to the man in seat F72. So that's why he wears a large hat.

Oooh, did I miss something? Sure did. Town starting to attack, pressing the yellow army back into the sea. What do you mean you can't see the sea? It's there between the land and the sky. Cohen flibbling, fumbling and felled, a free kick about 30 yards out on the centre left. The wall just an illusion, a figment of Rosenior's imagination. Russ's favourite Frenchman (2005) curdled the ball through the wall and round the post. Marriott dived to his right to justify his wages.

Another minute, another free kick in exactly the same spot after Reddy had done some brass rubbings down the centre. Barwick! Hello, you are on the pitch, not just occupying space sensibly in front of Captain Sensible. Let's talk about things you'd like to do. Score a goal? You got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream... two steps, a clipped shot and an "OOOOO" as Mr Squarepeg delightfully sculptured the ball over the wall. Marriott flew to his right and clutched the ball as it floated towards the side of the goal.

See, starting to get interesting now, isn't it. And I forgot to tell you about a trademark Reddy run down their right: the centre-backs quivering in their backbone, the left-back shaking in the kneebone. Reddy drove his big Winnebago into the area and slid a sneaky little shot low across the keeper, who clung on one-handed. Torquay on the edge, the ledge crumbling.

Slowly, slowly Town emerged from their nuclear bunker. The full backs were supporting the attacks, crosses were made and defenders flayed. Reddy rippling on the right towards the corner flag, McDermott scooting along the touchline in support, a cross flicked over to the centre of the area. Jones the Lump leant back and noodled the ball high across Marriott, who sailed into the sun, the ball dropping into the top right corner? Hand or crossbar diverted the ball, Bolland scrounged, a yellow leg swiped, bodies plunged to earth and a was corner given. A minute later came another cross from the right following more passes from Town players to Town players. This is getting surreal. Expect the scoreboard to keep proper time next. Cohen rose at the far post and steered a header straight into Marriott's midriff. "Oof" and "ooh".

Let's snooze for a while. We've had a bit too much neo-excitement. The referee kept booking them for tripping us. They weren't happy; we were. There you are: the swing is a roundabout on chains. I suggest you go to the toilet now. Come back in ten minutes, I may have something to tell you.

There, feel better now. I do hope you washed you hands. With a couple of minutes to go to half time Town were given a free kick deep inside their own half. Jones the Stick was persuaded upfield by a cabal of leading players. Croft belted the ball upfield, straight down the pitch, high, hanging and hopeful. The two Joneses waited underneath and missed with their attempted flick-on; it bounced once and Cohen was equally unsuccessful with his attempt at pub football.

A defender nodded the ball out towards the penalty spot. One stride, one man, one vision of marvellosity. Jones the Stick swung his left boot and the ball incinerated the net, high to Marriott's right. Two appliances were called out to douse the flames. There's unstoppable and there's a half-volley from Rob Jones; everyone ducked, people like to keep their heads attached to their shoulders. From nothing a goal, just a thump and a thwack and there we were, leading. We just needed to lean on the lean-to.

The rest of the half isn't worth thinking about; we were all still thinking about the thwacking great goal and the renaissance of Rob Jones: the metamorphosis from slug to butterfly. What a difference a year makes: from losing beautifully to winning ugly. Hold on cowboy, that's a chicken counting moment. Remember-member-member-member-member what Wombles Town are at times. Think once, think twice, think Stockport wasn't nice.
The first half wasn't great. Town were unable for long periods to get the ball off opponents who appeared to be quite nifty in between the penalty areas, but looked decidedly ropey in defence and barn-door-tastically inept at shooting. Bolland, Rob Jones and Macca: the rest you can forget about. Most stood in the right places, but that's about it. Kalalalalalala, in particular, was ensuring he wouldn't be injured for Tuesday.

Still, better than losing 1-0 at half time.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"I can only think of dungarees and puffa skirts."
"Torquay are all right until they have to do anything."
"Sometimes I can't tell whether I'm in the Pontoon or the National Theatre."
"Rob Jones is like Worzel Gummidge: he just had the wrong head last year."
"I've always thought of Miles as a man who'd wear a purple suit."

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time and the PA man resisted the temptation to tempt fate by telling us where we would be in the league if the scores remained the same. A bit of self-preservation there.

Town ran out to "Top of the league, we're having a laugh". Indeed we were.

Torquay kicked off and ten minutes later they still had the ball. This was Stockport all over again; Town a disorganised rabble, Torquay constantly pressing. Corner after corner, Town heads and feet nicking in the nick of time. The crowd were murmuring annoyance, players wilting, hiding... saving themselves? Croft was exposed by a one-two, a low cross scrabbled away using the letter J and a double letter score by Jones the Stick. Jones the Lump was getting slower, which is a feat in itself; he's a like an inverse perpetual motion machine at times. Awful, getting worse, everyone waiting for him to be substituted. He can hardly stand up, he can't see the ball, he can't control. He just... can't.

At last, a Town move. Cohen dibbled about under the Smiths/Stones/Findus stand, mesmerising with his top hat and cane, Croft sprinting up in support. Cohen rolled the ball through to the unmarked Croft on the edge of the area, who strode on and clipped a cross into the near post. Jones the Lump was just beaten to the ball by a defender.

The Pontoon's alive with the sound of music. We just needed one spark to get us going... and then a big bucket of water was chucked back over us, as Town indulged in some minor panic. Torquay broke, Town were all over the place. From left to right, right to left, a cross, a block, a corner. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Connell was free ten yards out and heading softly toward goal. The defence froze, Mildenhall leapt forward and scoop-punched the ball away from a yellow boot. The fire alarm is ringing; this is not a test, repeat this is not a test.

Ah, a chance for a breakaway: three Town against two Torquay, Jones the Mastodon lumbered around the jungle, with hordes of wildebeest flowing across the savannah and back towards Marriott. The moment was lost in space. What did you expect from a Torquay hotel window?

Back again they came, Torquay circling around the dungheap. Bring on Gritton! To the right, to the left, Town akimbo, and a cross into the centre. A free header down towards the left post, Mildenhall still admiring the sandcastles near the sea wall. Croft stepped across and chested the bouncing ball away, hiding his hands behind his back and saving the day. Still Torquay kept their little booties on the Town neck. Crosses bundled off stage right, corners flicked away. Get Jones the Lump off! Gritton and Toner were waiting, time was ticking.

The ball was tapped up to Jones the Lump just inside their half on the left. He chested the ball aside, turned infield and daintily stroked the ball over the last defender. Reddy raced on, the ball bounced once, twice and Marriott sprinted from his goal. Reddy, just outside the area, waltzed past the keeper to the strains of a Viennese string quartet, pirouetting into the six-yard box, walking the dog into the empty net and promenading along the front of the Pontoon to receive the plaudits of his adoring teenage fanclub.

Sixty-six minutes gone, two nil to Town. Two substitutes immediately came on: Gritton for G Jones and Toner for Barwick. Toner had a huge white bandage on his hand and played in the centre of midfield, with Bolland sent to the right wing. Barwick had been inconspicuous in open play, which means he didn't do anything wrong, nor memorable. Did we miss Toner? How could we tell: he was gone in 60 seconds. We'll soon find out.

Finally freed from the shackles of fear, Town were rampant, expansive, exquisite at times. With Torquay beaten it was time to put on the style, that's what all the young folks are doing all the while. Kalalalalabamba, notching wiggles on his woggle, flipped the ball to Gritton, who spun and tingled a fashionable reverse swing pass through the defence, oh so nearly to Reddy. Ah, the old one-two with me old bamboo, let's razzle-dazzle them. Cohen surging, Toner urging on. The cleaner, sweeping up and brushing aside, Toner did simple things simply, keeping play moving with first-time passes to his team mates, keeping the tick tocking, with a touch of the Dobbin about him.

Torquay had a free kick, it curled wide.

Shall we "ooh"? Why not? Let's relax: we're on top of the world, looking down on creation. A Croft loft flickered on by Jones, looping, drooping over the bar. Torquay? The flickering flame dying, the oxygen depleted. A Kuffour cross through the six-yard area causing minor peril. Croft ducked, allowing the ball to travel harmlessly through the grasslands. That's it gullibles, fly away home.

The last Torquay twitch served up a Town cherry. Town were defending with Torquay pressing, the ball fell to Kalala on the edge of the Town box, who prodded it clear. Reddy, 35 yards from Town's goal, stretched out and toe-poked the ball past a defender. It rolled out towards the Smiths/Stones/Findus stand, and the young man in his hot rod slipped into overdrive and caught up with the ball on the halfway line.

Alone again, naturally, he hit the nitro button and fazoomed down the left, the yellow lorry slow defenders behind him. On, on, on and on again. Reddy, Reddy, Reddy, Reddy, chips and Reddy; magnificent, in full flow, hair flopping, shirt flapping, unstoppable. Into the area, the crowd rising, two defenders reaching, Garner missing with his trip. Two more touches, to the edge of the six-yard box, with Marriott digging a hole, Reddy fizzled the ball with the outside of his right boot into the bottom right corner. Cue a procession with floats and marching bands as Reddy accepted the warm Ready Brek glow of love. What the Town needs now is love sweet love, and Reddy gave it to us.

Another Town break, Kalalalalalala driving along the Santa Monica Boulevard, some easy listening on the radio, shades at half mast, Reddy to his left, Gritton to his right. Kalala passed to the Gritster, who swivelled and curled a shot straight into Marriott's stomach from 20 yards. Cohen was causing havoc with his mazy dribbles and quick feet, Toner a rock. The game flowed towards the Pontoon.

Five guys named Moe walked from the Stones/Smiths/Findus to the Main Stand, all having that men-who-wear-suits-once-a-year look, normally as seen on the steps of a Crown Court. "Guilty!" Oh, they're the sponsors; or is this their community service?

With five minutes left Cohen dazzled all with some amazing tales of globetrotting travel to the furthest-flung corners of Blundell Park, no less. One, two, three stepovers, shimmies, milkshakes with hundreds and thousands on, four defenders calling for strawberry sauce as he slurped the last drop. Into the area, he looked up and rolled the ball towards Reddy, but slightly behind. Great move: like old-fashioned wingers winging.

A minute later Cohen was felled out near the Smiths/Findus/Stones stand. Croft lobbed the ball forward and Jones, at the far post, nodded high back across goal. The ball bumbled past Gritton's chest and meandered towards the unmarked Reddy about four yards out. Reddy turned and slabbered a volley for his hat-trick... but as if by magic the Marriott appeared, brilliantly blocking with his knees on the goal-line. This is all too much. I think I need to rest on the chaise longue.

With a couple of minutes left Croft was replaced by Newey. We had faith in him, despite there being just two minutes to get his statutory yellow. If he really tried he could get his two bookings for madcap tackling. He didn't, but he didn't fail to fling over a decent corner in the last minute. Torquay quavered, quivered and shivered, and the ball fell to Whittle at the back of the penalty area. A shot beckoned, but Sergeant Bilko stumbled around in a circle and lobbed the ball out of play.

There were three minutes of added time, during which Gritton collided with a defender and Jones managed to hoik a clearance woefully when under no pressure. I do hope the magic potion isn't wearing off or we will be in trouble.

Ah, nice isn't it. We could indulge in poultry enumeration after all. Were Torquay a rat? No, no - they were a hamster. Fluffy, cuddly and very squashable. They look like this year's Cambridge, not that bad, but just a bit small and weak. Town finally squished them with a flourish, with the emphasis on 'finally'. The first half was very mundane and the start of the second was most worrying. But we got away with our wobble and a win is a win. Are we this year's Scunthorpe? We win and everyone says "is that it?"

Bring on Queen Edgar and Prince Michael of Carrick. No "sort it Slades" today; shall we bask before the sharks arrive?

NickO's man of the match
Most will go for Michael Reddy because of his second-half showstoppers, but the victory had its roots in some sound defending by Rob Jones, Mildenhall and his honour the Lord Sir John of McDermott. A masterclass in defending: no thrills, no death-defying lunges, just brain. Remember, everything he does he does for you. He'd even cut your lawn if you asked.

Rob's rubbish rant
Forget all those second-hand chants, the sheep-like tendency to do what others do. Deep inside the Pontoon there are nourishing nuggets of individuality. As the Torquay centre-half sliced another clearance, "Woods - you're an enigma!" chimed along the rusting corrugated sheets at the back, echoed off the posts and boomed into his right ear.

Official warning
He turned up, he didn't embarrass himself or his family. The crowd never had a go at Mr J Moss; he seemed reasonably in control. He has to be given a decent score for not getting in the way of our day. So 7.231.