The future imperfect

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

25 November 2003

Lincoln City 1 Grimsby Town 2

A still, mild evening with around 500 people gathered together in the main stand, at least eight of them being Town fans. This being the cup the Town big guns were on show: chairman and his minder Fenty looking blankly upon proceedings from the directors' box. In real terms this meant they sat in different coloured seats to the rest of us.

Town lined up in the away kit in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Pettinger, Ford, Wheeler, Young, Parker, Ward, Bolder, Groves, Hockless, Mansaram and Jevons. The substitutes were Hildred, Pouton, Chamberlain, Newton and a young keeper who wasn't Hughes or Fraser. Parker played at left back, Ford at right back with Ward at right midfield and Hockless on the left. You can work the rest out yourself, it isn't difficult and there is no prize. 

Jevons was in white boots and was lethal in the pre-match warm-up, never failing to score past Pouton, who stood on the goal-line looking bored. Ah, Pouton. The return of the stepover king, the promise of 30 minutes of Big Al the kiddies' pal, was enough to lure the unwary away from a night in front of the TV. Arsenal or Town reserves – surely no contest.

Lincoln had just three players who had played in the first team; the rest were fresh-faced lads. One of their substitutes was Charlie Trout, about whom nothing more needs to be said.

First half
The game started with Lincoln booting the ball out of play. They have pretensions of grandeur then, these impish colts. Lincoln hustled, harried, playing a very vigorous pressing game which allowed the aristocrats of the Humber to do nothing but flail around hopelessly. Route very one, cutting out the middle man. Wheeler and Young headed the ball a lot, Mansaram and Jevons didn't keep the ball when it went near them. Rotten stuff.

Hockless drifted around and did the Charleston past two defenders before dragging a shot very wide, and not much else happened in the first 20 or so minutes. Lincoln wellied, Town reeled, Wheeler kept almost giving the ball away, Young just managed to lunge in and clear. Parker did not look comfortable having to use his left foot and Ford was nothing less than the personification of Simon Ford, something, perhaps the only thing, he is best at. 

Though slapdash in defence, Ford was a wow in attack, making a fantastic break up the touchline, shimmying past two, shaking past a third, surging past a fourth. At this Ward and Ford swapped positions and the defence improved slightly. And fortunate it was for Town, as Ward was twice well placed to scoop the ball to safety as crosses dribbled through the six-yard box. Pettinger parried another out from the middle as attackers lurked; fortunately Ward again cleared the ball from around the penalty spot.

Half an hour of aimless punting and woeful Town play was wiped away in an instant as Hockless surged down the left, cut infield and smashed a curling, swirling shot against the crossbar. Then a minute later Pettinger dropped the ball after a huge garryowen was launched to his far post. Parker scrambled the ball away via several striped ankles and knees. 

Jevons, yes Jevons, at last. Mansaram wriggled free down the left, hit the bye-line and pulled a cross back to the unmarked whitebootator, eight yards out. Virtually an open goal. Surely such talent would not fail. It didn't fail to amuse the crowd. Jevons completely miskicked, dragging the ball under his left boot, onto his right ankle and completing the seasonal circus scene by falling over. 

A wiggle and waft from Jevons a few minutes later were much better, as he curlws a shot from 20 yards to the keeper's left, forcing a save. Then in the last minute of the half Town got a corner on the right. It was floated in and headed up and onwards. The goalkeeper came off his line, flapped under pressure and the ball dropped behind Jevons in the centre of the goal about 10 yards out. Jevons ducked and lifted the ball over his head. It arced over the keeper and in off the underside of the bar.

A fortuitous half-time lead, for Town had been fair pulverised. Groves looked a little lost and slow and Bolder was appalling, neither tackling nor passing. Wheeler was a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown, Hockless flattered by flittering occasionally. Ward was at least 'up for the cup', being told off by the referee for a-cussing loudly at the umpteenth rubbish decision. Ah, the officials – probably got two throw-ins and corners right all night. Forget about the front two; they were strangers in a strange land, miles apart physically and mentally. One flicked, the other flinched.

Stu's half-time toilet talk
"Are the toilets open tonight?"
"I think it's a drawing competition."

Second half
Town replaced Pettinger with the even younger, smaller substitute keeper. Within a minute of the restart Lincoln had a corner and from it hit the bar with a header. It was simply curled into the middle of the box; big blokes jumped and headed powerfully and the Town players looked on in awe.

More Lincoln pressure: crosses low, crosses high, knocked knees in the Town defence as the balls zipped through the middle of the area avoiding all boots but Ward's, all heads but Young's. Then Town had a spell of pressure with a couple of corners. From the first Wheeler peeled around the back, heading the ball across goal and causing minor panic and a scramblette. [Can you make me one of those for breakfast next time I stay at yours? – Ed.]

The second was pulled back for Anderson – sorry, I mean Wheeler, and saw the trundling teenager whack a low shot goalwards. Through a thicket of legs the ball went, lodging itself between white boots. Jevons slowly turned and realised he was alone eight yards out, and so coolly placed the ball low to the keeper's right. 

Finally a Town move, from right to left, Parker released, dipping, dinking, driving past the full-back, he crossed into the centre, with Jevons ducking his head and missing the ball right in front of goal. Almost excitement. When's Pouton coming on?

Not yet. Lincoln brought on Rory May, a hopeful name, but was that all they had to offer? Yes. Tall, lanky, silver-booted and a right awkward clodhopper too. Within minutes of his arrival Lincoln had scored. A corner from their right, curled towards the penalty spot. May rose, thundered a header goalwards; the ball was half saved, half blocked and then bundled in by a Lincoln player

Lincoln should have scored again when Bolder allowed the ball to bounce, while Young Levered about. Both half went for the ball, half didn't, and a blond-haired striker leapt forward, heading the ball into the Town half. Alone, racing towards goal, he saw the mystery keeper off his line and gently lobbed a pass into the awaiting arms of the little fluffy-haired stopper. 

More Lincoln pressure, the crowd a frenzy of awakeness, a chant or two, the magic of a cup! Some atmosphere, and the Lincoln players visibly rising to this bait.

At last, with about 25 minutes left, Pouton replaced Groves. A rather large-looking Pouton, who didn't move much at all. After about 15 minutes of watching and waiting (and moaning at the referee), he produced an echo of a distant time, a manly, twisting, hooking tackle on the edge of the Town area, to scoop and surge. But the legs didn't take him far. A couple of minutes later the moment we'd all been waiting for. Well, at least the eight Town fans. On the halfway line, near the touchline, a single stepover. Forgive us, for it felt like a goal.

The game – who cares? Pouton was on the pitch and had sufficient confidence to delve into his party trick bag; just the wild shooting left then. Oh, that and the psychopathic tackling. 

With about 10 minutes left Hildred replaced Bolder, who I shall be kind to and say nothing more about his performance. 

Town's keeper made an excellent save a few minutes from the end when a striker, unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, headed towards the top left corner. The boy in blue clawed the ball over the bar for a corner. 

There was just enough time for Ford to volley goalwards, the ball striking a defender on the back as it zoomed towards the top corner, and for our man Ford to dribble up from the halfway line, get past the final defender and pass the ball over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box. And then it was over, with Town advancing like a glacier upon their destiny. 

Not one Town player did anything to justify inclusion in the first team. Jevons' two goals will excite those who weren't there, though his all-round game was the same as usual: infrequent flicks to teammates among a deluge of drooping shoulders. Mind you, Mansaram was much, much worse. Shuddersomely so. 

Given the relative strengths and experience of the two teams, one would have expected better from Town. After all, seven of the starting XI had played in the first division, and all bar two have played competitive professional matches. And Lincoln's was last year's youth team with knobs on.

Still they won, and another trophy beckons. Copa Ibiza and the Cup-a-Soup Lincolnshire Cup in the same season!

Nicko's man of the match
Iain Ward, purely for his 90 minutes of commitment, and three goal-line-ish clearances. He would benefit from a period on loan with a third division club. Do we hear the sirens call from the Rochdale Lorelei?

Official warning
S Proctor-Green's shorts were way too tight, and his decisions quite arbitrary. In the context of reserve football he was average, so gets 5.764. I wouldn't want him near proper football.