Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
26 August 2006
Bury 3 Grimsby Town 0
They've got a banana in goal. We've got a kumquat.
Around 300 Town fans tried to fill the empty spaces in a heavenly blue arena of apathy. At least there's some nice trees to look at while we while away our lives waiting, waiting, waiting for something to turn up, Mr Micawber.
Town lined up in a lopsided, crazy-paving 4-3-3 formation as follows: Barnes, Croft, McIntosh, Fenton, Newey, Bolland, Harkins, Toner, Bore, Jones, Rankin. The substitutes were Murray, Boshell, Whittle, Beagrie and Reddy. Bore played as right winger, with Rankin and Jones in the centre of attack and the three midfielders strung across the middle like dirty old washing: an old nylon sheet, a pillow case and your favourite jumper which has a few holes in it but you just can't bring yourself to give to the charity shop.
The referee and linesmen put down their pink cowboy hats, luminous bags and fake fur and warmed up to some high-energy disco: they're searching, looking for love, just like Graham Rodger with that formation.
Bury warmed up just as lethargically as Town. Good, that means we won't have the usual frantic start then. Nice and easy, a bank holiday cruise along the ship canal with the kids.
Shall we get on with it?
We forgot to boo Challinor. "Boo, Challinor, boo." That's better.
Bury kicked off towards the Town fans. Ooh, look, I know him. "Coo-ee, over here!" It's nice to meet old friends; you know, I hadn't seen him since last time we met. Bury buzzed about on the edge of the Town area. Mac2 paradiddled, Fenton fiddled and did a little jig.
No-one told me Barwick had gone!
Bury busied themselves around the edge of the Town area. Fenton fell over and Mac2 muddied the dark Lancashire waters. Where's the midfield? Coming back to help out at a corner. Why worry about Bury? They aren't very tall.
The corner was curled in from their left, deep, deep into the centre of the penalty area. Bolland stood with Youngs and Barnes lurked a yard away. Youngs, the Jimmy Krankie of Bury, leapt upwards, rising all of six inches. Bolland stood and stared; Barnes held his hair and cried for the moon. Perhaps four yards out, dead centre, unmarked, unflustered, unbelievably free, Jimmy Krankie headed the ball over Barnes' head and into the centre of the goal. Silence. Motionless silence. Barnes does motionless very well: he'd be great at musical statues.
Five minutes gone, no shots, one goal down. Great.
Town kicked off, Town lost possession, Bury won another corner, Croft cleared: Town rocking, Bury rolling. A-ha, Bore-ing down the right, at last some fizz and fangs: a Town corner. Curled high and far beyond the far post, Mac2 rose and pummelled a header back across goal. Rankin, unmarked seven yards out, diverted the ball far, far over the bar.
They've scored from a free header, we've missed from a free header; that's all that's happened. Chirpy-chirpy-cheep-cheep.
Bury's four fast and nimble young men outnumbered Town's tanks, swirling round on their motorbikes, doing wheelies and waggling their collective bottoms in mockery. We've got the three little piggies in the middle. Horrifically simple, horrendously outplayed, the strikers never got the ball, the defence had no-one to pass to, and all clearances were hoovered up by the homesters.
Mac2 and Fenton looked perfectly adequate, perfectly capable of stopping anything that came near them. Mac2 headed away, headed away again, then blocked an infiltrator. Bury still pressed and Fenton loopily diverted a shot wide of the left post.
There was a palpable lack of confidence in the goalkeeper; you could smell it. Over the ball came, curled into the near post. Bolland, again, marked Jimmy Krankie; Bolland, again, stood still as Jimmy Krankie curved round the bollard and flicked a grazing header into the centre of the net from about five yards out. Barnes was flying down to Rio with his worldly belongings, safe in the knowledge that there is no extradition treaty with Brazil.
Twenty minutes gone, no shots, two down. Greater still.
This is when someone switches Town on to full power, isn't it. From the kick off Rankin swivelled on the left of their area, turning his marker into a processed cheese and curdling a low cross across Schmeichel the banana, who clutched the ball from under Jones' nose. Gary Jones: just thought I'd mention him. No other reason to.
There they go again, embarrassing their elders with their youth. Town were slow, dazed and confused, neither one thing nor another. We're not big and brutal, nor short and sweet. What are we? Who are we? Who do you do? What are we good for?
Gulping goosepimples, Batman! Like a drunken tramp in a gale Town were pulled left, right and left again when Harkins and Bolland ceased to exist in this version of reality. Maybe in another dimension they were on the pitch, but not here, not now. Mattis smoothed the creases on his shirt, twinkled a cheeky smile and set one of his little Munchkins free on their left. Newey was temporarily out of action, so they tickled the ball to Adams, inside the area on the centre-left. He waited; Newey popped up from behind his lollipop and Adams cut back towards the penalty spot. Newey stretched and legged him up good and proper, no messin', no arguin'; cor blimey, done like a kipper he was, bang to rights - it was a penalty. So the referee booked Adams for diving.
So this what we're reduced to: charity match refereering to preserve our dignity.
There was nothing going on up front. Bore, twice, had little run-ettes; Rankin did the conga a couple of times and Newey kicked a free kick into the stand. Which stand? Any stand will do. Town were being buried alive. Well, when I say alive, parts of the body were still moving, but the head was dead and heart did not start.
The Bury midfield were simply unopposed.
At some point between death and disaster Barnes raced off his line, stopped, then came out again to the left corner of the area to block Adams, or Krankie, as they burst forward behind Newey. They had pace, they had a plan, they had a barbeque with Town as the bricks. I said bricks; do read carefully.
And again. Repeat whatever it is you thought just happened. Adams, swinging his pantaloons on their right with Newey in Neverland and Fenton furrowing furiously to shoosh the little scamp away from goal. Adam fell over, got up, turned around and curled a shot from a narrow angle around Barnes and a few inches past the right post.
A couple of minutes later Bury got a free kick about 30 yards out on their right. A little man curled the ball into the centre of the penalty area and Krankie, again 'marked' by Bolland, stooped and glanced a header to Barnes' left. Barnes carried on falling to his right, then slipped to his left, saving, just.
If we can just hang on to half time, who knows...
There were two minutes of added time. They passed off uneventfully for 94 seconds. A big boot downfield was easily dealt with by Mac2, who nudged the ball to Bolland, 35 yards out. No danger, no worries, no chance of anything going... oh dear. Bolland miscontrolled the ball, fell over, and was distracted by a passing butterfly. Adams strode forward, Mac2 took a step towards him, then stopped as he saw Krankie free inside the area on the left. Adams swung his little boots and lampooned a shot from 30 yards, to just off-centre, which scythed across Barnes and into the right-hand side of the goal. This, all agreed, was not a good thing. A committee was formed and sent out to look for some pitchforks.
Do you really need another angst-ridden, irony-soaked summary? The scene was rockin', Bury were digging the sounds, we want Barnes in chains sang the baying hounds. The coffin-bangers were about to arrive.
Town in a word
Town made two changes at half time: Harkins and Jones were replaced by Reddy and Beagrie, with Town reverting to the comfort blanket of a 4-4-2 formation. The horse left ages ago, Graham.
Town kicked off, Town nearly did something, Reddy glanced a high ball through the middle of the defence and Rankin almost sniggled through. Town looked better. Not good, just better, with some potential threat of maybe, you know, just maybe, forcing Bananaboy to justify his wages. Toner was not so bad, Bore was beginning to claw and Rankin looked pleased to have somebody near him.
After about five minutes of Town ball retention, Bury wiggled away down the centre. Mattis surged, Town retreated and Adams was freed on their right, inside the area. He got out his guitar, sat on the stairs and sang some folk-tinged country rock. The Allman Brothers are a bit too eclectic for today's youngsters; he was wasting his time. And ours. Just get on with it - shoot! No, he passed, then another man, free inside the area, decided to join in the reverie, doing his impression of Reginald Bosanquet. Is this set of analogies stuck in 1973? Bring back Matt Tees. While you contemplate that, Newey blocked Krankie-boy's shot with his chest. Thank goodness they were showing off to Mother.
Bore started to rip-roar his way down the right. Bury had three players tracking him, but still he wiggled and waggled free. A cross blocked, a pass socked away for a corner. The Town fans even managed to cheer rather than jeer. Ooh, sumptuous simplicity: Bore stepped over and through three challenges, drifted infield and, from the edge of the area, slid a left-footed shot across Bananaboy and a few inches wide of the right post. A minute or so later Bore was tickled free by Reddy, crossed to the far post and Schmeichel flapped a punch straight to Toner, 20 yards out. Toner miscontrolled the ball back towards goal and the chance was gone.
Out from his coffin, Rodger's voice did ring; seems he was troubled by just one thing; he opened the lid and shook his fist - whatever happened to the Beagrie twist? There it is, after 53 minutes.
Reddy and Bore, troubling Bury at last, shaking the Shakers; but why now, why not earlier?
Reddy felled, a free kick to Town, 25 yards out in the centre. Who's this year's Kingsley Black? Ah, Peter Beagrie, who took an age to curl the bar over the ball - or the ball over the bar; one of those two things. I can't remember which as I was watching a tree bend in the wind.
It's sunny and it's raining: maybe we'll get an almighty cloudburst and the game will get abandoned. Had Rodger thought of that, eh? Don't they teach them amateur meteorology and advanced praying for those UEFA coaching badges?
As Bury advanced, Fenton kneeled down and plucked a dandelion from the pitch. Krankie dived over the top and Bury got a free kick 20 yards out. It didn't go in, and it didn't go near the Barm-cake in goal. Nothing happened, except Mac2 headed the back of a Shaker's head and was prostrate for a few seconds. Eventually Whittle replaced him, with about 25 minutes left.
Bury had another attack: same as before; Town defenders present but not correct, and Adams sliced a shot straight into Barnes' chest, He even held it. Well done, things are improving already. That may have been their last shot of note; if it wasn't, it doesn't matter, does it. What matters had already happened. Oh, no, no, no. I totally forgot. Bury had a corner on their right. It was swung into the middle, perhaps five yards out and some dark-haired Shaker glanced the ball wide. Maybe things aren't improving.
Have I told you about those Bore raids? Yes, thought I had. He had some more! And Reddy too, with a couple of crosses blocked at the near post. And then Reddy was tickled free wonderfully by Bore, but Reddy ran away from where he'd been pointing: the moment, like the game, lost. A corner fell to Fenton beyond the far post; he slurped his shot into the side netting. Another corner, flung to the far post, was headed firmly wide. And again Mr Drippy, another corner, curled beyond the far post to Fenton, who nurdled a header just over the angel of post and bar as he fell back.
I hadn't noticed the referee's whistle: bright orange, like his linesmen's legs. Maybe this'll end soon and we can get the early train back home.
Newey raided; Beagrie prodded Tom free. A corner. That's action, that's the day drifting by, Bury were happy to wait for Town to fail again. The rain came back and Town resorted to plan C, 'lose the ball': Newey started to find his range, kicking one out of the ground and another on to the roof, whence it never returned. If only we'd started this earlier, then they'd have run out of balls. I do like my cheeky metaphors, but don't tell my mother, will you.
Bolland fell over and Barnes ran out of his area to fly kick to safety - off Newey's back.
Oh dear, I think that's it.
The drowning anger of a hundred wasted journeys turned to warm, affectionate applause for Peter Bore, who approached the most irate of the Town fans, lingered, and came closer, touching his shirt and giving a thumbs-up sign. Bore is the boy: the last bit of the wreckage to which the dwindling believers are clutching. Without him we are nothing.
The system may have looked good in theory, but reality bit within five minutes, and then kept coming back to take a chunk of flesh whenever it fancied a nibble. All the outfield problems stem from the absence of a coherent strategy, or consistent performers, in midfield. And the whole team fears Phil Barnes almost as much as the fans do. Town were stuffed and looked a mess, but, weirdly, the new centre-backs looked fourth division fine. It wasn't their fault. Toner was OK in the second half, making up for Bolland's vitamin deficiencies and Beagrie's presence at least meant there was someone standing near a wide Buryite occasionally. That was enough to staunch the flow.
As they drove across the Pennines to their humble abodes, I hope Rodger gave them a jolt with some electrodes.
It was ghoulish, it was grisly, it was Grimsby. Goodnight.
Nicko's unofficial man of the match
Only one candidate: Peter Bore. He knows what the shirt means to the fans, and it means something to him too. The only shimmer of sunlight in a dank and rank afternoon of darkness.
Markie's un-man of the match
Phil Barnes is a basket case: his ability is irrelevant, for his present emotional and psychological state is catatonic. He quivers and quakes when he has to stand near Town supporters and it isn't clear which he fears more: the ball or the bald men behind him. Hapless and hopeless, Barnes was matched only by Paul Bolland in the dungeon of dreadfulness. Bolland had a good 90 seconds, around the 38th minute, when he won one tackle and made one pass. He was responsible for all three goals, and shrank as the game progressed. He isn't what he was, and what he is is one of the prime reasons the midfield is malfunctioning.
I do not wish to waste any of my time thinking about Mr R Lewis. Who? He gets 4.543, for he turned up on time and amused us with his booking of Adams for being fouled by Newey.
Not awful, not big, quite young. Given time and space they were relatively pleasing on the eye, completely overrunning Town in midfield with football. What a recurring theme that is this year: opposition midfielders run quickly through the middle; hang on to your hairnets! Bury will get pushed around by better teams than Town. Oh, that's everyone else in this division, isn't it.