How's your Bert's lumbago? Darlington (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

20 January 2007

Grimsby Town 0 Darlington 1

Hello, goodbye Ricky Ravenfail! Not playing the Rickster places Darlington at a competitive advantage.

A breezy bright afternoon in the cathedral of catharsis with around 200 or so quaking Quakers etched into the Osmond stand. Maybe some Town fans will turn up closer to kick off, eh?

Town stood around in 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Croft, Whittle, Grand, Newey, Till, Bolland, Hunt, Toner, Old Lumpy and Paterson. The substitutes were Murray, Boshell, Rankin, Harkins and McDermott. Yep, same starting XI as last Monday's Bescot borefest, but with a twist in the tail: the men replace the boys on the subs' bench. Will Old Lumpy move today? Will Paterson pass, or Till have the will? Shall Grand be banned, or Croft convert a loft, and can this idle speculation lead to good vibrations, giving us excitations? Take off your iPod and concentrate.

Darlington had clearly forgotten the teachings of Confucius: never wear a hooped sock before three o'clock. They looked like strawberry dips.

Where's the Mighty Mariner? Too busy on the phone to his legal eagles dealing with his commercial rights. How many cuddly Mighty Mariners do Town have to sell to make up for the Fentydoom's funding gap? A local economist estimates around half a million. Remember that, according to Jermain Defoe, pleasure is a thief to business. That explains Town under Fenty then.

Don't worry Fenty, everything will turn out right. Look, there's another paying customer! And Mother makes three.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon and tried out a new routine: Hunt whacked the ball high to the corner of the penalty area and no Town players went within ten yards, thus causing the little Darlos to panic. They did this a lot when the ball was near them. That's handy, Andy. Or it would be if we had an Andy in our side. Arrgh, word association angst - Handyside!

Paterson pestered the festering doollally Darlo defenders thricely within the first minute, intercepting a back pass and za-zooming down the left. He cut into the area on the bye-line and powderpuffly crossed with his left foot, the ball rolling gently to the keeper at the near post as Lumpy waited in the taxi rank.

A minute later Paterson chased a Hunt punt and hassled Holloway into a tumble, stumble and apple crumble. Off Paterson skipped down the right, but his cross was lost in the mists of time, with a lone bagpiper squawking a doleful lament atop Beacon Hill after his amazing chase.

Have Darlington crossed the halfway line yet?

The Paterson roadshow rolled on with Darlington shivering every time the ball was played over the top. They couldn't handle his pace, but he couldn't handle the space in front of him and between his own ears. Alone and with Lumpy trapped inside his own body, Paterson had no-one to pass to. What's this? A flick and trick? No, a tentative prod and nod of disappointment as Reesian flicks were missed and mucked up. Still, at least they're trying.

After 11 minutes Darlington slung three passes together and Smith half-volleyed straight at Barnes from about 25 yards out. Five minutes later Wainwright did the same thing, but sliced wonderfully wide. Darlington: two attacks, two shots. Town: ten attacks, no shots. Town were dominant, comfortable, but ineffectual. Shall we gloss over Grand's underhit backpass which Joachim chased down?

Hunt and Bolland controlled the midfield and nothing passed through them; but they're small, so sometimes the ball passed over them. Don't worry, Wright's elbows and thighs ensured Darlington never threatened. Ah, but there's always the chance they'll get a corner. First corner, first flap of the day. Curled into the near post where Wheater loitered, Barnes fell, pushed the ball against a Darlo thigh and plunged on the ricochet a couple of yards out. Sigh as much as you want, but it's just normal nowadays.

For the first 20 minutes Till was having a stinker, every pass misplaced, every dribble fizzling infield to nowhere, every tackle missed. But the lad kept trying, give him that won't yer? And then he clicked, as Town clicked. A tip-tap one-two with Paterson sent him free down the right with a cross shivered away from the near post by a whimpering Darlington knee. Another run, another moment of danger. A cross blocked, a one-two with Croft, another cross dipping into the area near a Town head, near a Town boot, near a Town body. Town, near and not too far away.

The Pontoon was even making some noise.

Paterson was an omnipresent perpetual motion machine; he was here, there and everywhere. Paterson won possession and played the ball back to Croft who swung a cross the far post. Jones rose, the ball dropped into the middle of the area and Jones-their-keeper plucked the ball off Paterson's head.

Till and Paterson exchanged passes at speed and the ball was crossed low to the near post. Toner dallied with his back to goal and tried a slow turn, rather than pass and was smothered into a wet blanket. Back Town returned with Paterson flying down the left, cutting into the centre and, just outside the area, tapping a sly pass through the defence for Jones-our-Lump. Like driftwood, Jones washed up on the shoreline and was thrown into a skip by the bin men. Too slow in thought and foot, Town didn't even have a shot.

We're still here. Newey racing into the area, pounding down the left and rolling a cross through the middle, just behind Hunt. Again no shot, just a moment of hope that we would.

Ah, they are alive then. A little dink into the area saw Joachim drift behind the sleeping Grand, take one step and smack a shot high into the side netting. There was also a rather superb tackle on Joachim by Whittle when he broke away from the halfway line. He won't do that again. Why? Cos he's injured, that's why. On the half hour Whittle was replaced by Harkins, who played at centre-back. Whittle threw the captain's armband at Croft.

What do you want? Information? You won't get it. The next ten minutes had nothing at all to report, except Town kept on trying, kept on nearly getting into a position where someone may have had a shot. For all the pressure, Town still hadn't had a corner.

With about five minutes left to half time Darlington got a free kick a few yards inside the Town half. Wheater, bored of the prissy passing and getting nowhere nonsense, took route zero: lamping the free kick directly at Barnes, who clutched the ball at his ankles.

In the last minute Paterson hassled and hustled as the ball was levered over the top on the Town right. He cut past his marker and flew towards goal. Wiggling and waggling, Paterson cut infield into the penalty area and across Wheater, who stretched, missing the ball but not little Pato's legs. Penalty! Paterson ran off to get the ball and had a huge tug of love with Toner. Bolland and Grand joined in and this playground spat ended with Toner marching off with the ball under his arm and Paterson crying in the corner, muttering under his breath.

Toner waited, slightly to the left of centre. The Pontoon could see him shrink before them, his eyes hollowing and his legs shaking. We could see exactly where he was going to put it, that he was going to miss. Toner ambled forward and duly placed the ball softly, at chest height, slightly to the keeper's right. Jones saved easily, parrying the ball aside with Close scooping it away from the post. In the hubbub and hullaballoo Croft shinned a shot wide and high from the edge of the area.

And that was it.

The players trudged off and some of the 'faithful' cried over this spilt milk. Such equanimity in the face of disappointment; it's what made Grimsby Great.

Town were in that frustrating 'almost' mode, not the 'incapable' mode they'd recently slumped into. It was still 0-0 and Darlington had nothing to offer but Julian Joachim. First team to score wins. Head or tails?

Second half
Neither side made any changes at half time, but Dylan Thomas died in 1953. [I was only five years out then - ed.]

My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away, I need a change of scenery. Have five minutes gone already?

Town passed and passed, but it was etch-a-sketch rather than Rembrandt. Till to Jones, he turned, he shinned wide and high from the edge of the area. Hey, it was a shot!

You know, if Town score first we'll get three, there's nothing but a flimsy sheet of cotton between Town and victory. Just believe!

What are you waiting for? Something to make you laugh or to make you cry? Twenty minutes of football, so little to remember. Darlington rarely visited the Pontoon, and then only when they counterattacked and then always, always, always through Joachim. A great Harkins block from the marauding Joachim; Toner and Newey collided, but recovered to block Joachim again. Once more into the breach: this time Croft slid and thwarted Joachim. The game was stodgy, but Town were sturdy. Harkins surprised with poise and calm, his distribution assisting in Town retaining possession; he even managed to run fast enough to keep up with Joachim.

The purple-faced man and his three little acolytes still managed to dredge up bile and bitterness before anything had gone wrong. Is that support? All hail four drunks in possession of an adjective; now that's just the motivation technique that's been missing.

With 20 minutes left things started to happen. Paterson roamed down the left, twisted and tickled the ball between Holloway's legs and, from a narrow angle, had a shot deflected out for a corner: Town's first corner. Pah! Rubbish corner by Toner. A couple of minutes later Paterson was off again, disrobing Holloway, fizzling through the area on the left, opening up his body and curving a low shot across Jones-their-keeper, who fell to his left and smothered the ball to his chest with ease. Roll on sixty seconds: Paterson yet again, rollicking free down the left and curving a superb cross into the near post with the outside of his right boot. Jones the Lump, perhaps five yards out, wafted his leg near the ball and it slowly drifted across the face of goal. That's the ball, not Lumpy's leg.

This finally woke Darlington up. Joachim (who else) won a corner for them and as usual there was a bit of scrambled egg in the Town area. Holloway slashed the ball way over the bar from ten yards out. So they are alive then, these quaking goats.

With six or seven minutes left, the ball hung about in confusion in the middle of the pitch, Darlington chipped it forward and Joachim, with his back to goal 20 or so yards out, hurtled in front of Harkins and fell over. A free kick was given and Harkins was booked: harsh and probably unfair. Barnes leant on his left post shouting at the three-man wall to move further across. Toner, at the end of the wall, barely moved as it swayed left and right. Paterson sprinted back and joined the other end of the wall, clearly designated to run out and charge the kick down. After one false start the ball was duly rolled sideways and Paterson ran out and jumped up. Ryan shot low and hard, underneath Paterson and straight at Barnes. Fumbling Phil swayed to his left and the ball swerved right as it passed over the penalty spot. Despite changing direction, Barnes could only fall over the top of the ball and push it into the net. It entered the goal about two feet away from where Barnes was standing.

At this a steady stream of teenagers walked out, while the platoon of the purple-faced jeered and bathed Barnes in bathos. Well, they would have if they knew what it meant.

Rankin replaced Till with five minutes left as Town moved to a 4-3-3 formation. Rankin was merely a slimmer Jones: Rankin the Rump if you wish. He watched crosses arrive and waited for someone or something to show him the way. Three times dangerous crosses dipped into the middle of the Darlington box, but neither Jones nor Rankin reacted. They slumped their shoulders and sighed, much like the remaining crowd.

In the last minute Town got a free kick on their right near the corner flag. Croft curled the ball wonderfully and wickedly high across the area. A thousand bodies jumped; their keeper missed the ball and it hit a Darlo defender on the line. Handball cried the Pontoon, of course, and the ball fell to Bolland beyond the far post and six yards out. He swished and swashed a shot high across the area and away from goal. Reader, he cleared it.

In added time Paterson and Bolland snickled passes to each other on the left corner of the Darlington penalty area. Bolland was fouled, Paterson took the free kick quickly and tapped the ball to the unmarked Bolland, who wasn't paying attention and who crossed awfully, straight to the first defender. Darlington counterattacked; Bolland ran back and legged up a strawberry fool. Booked and broken, that's it.

We lost a game we shouldn't have.

Another loss and another goalless game, but deep within this superficial terror lies something a little less awful. Town had been better than the last couple of home games, with the midfield far more solid, the defence not unduly troubled and glimpses of confidence returning in attack. Above all there was clear commitment: they were actually running around more than has become usual. It wasn't good, but it wasn't bad and, in context, that's an improvement.

Remember that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. What time is it?

Nicko's unofficial man of the match
Apart from Lumpy and Frumpy no-one was consistently poor. There was only one Town thorn in Darlo's side and that was Martin Paterson, a non-stop whirligig who was central to any Town attack that got anywhere near Jones-their-keeper. Perhaps we'll let him take the next penalty, eh?

Official warning
Mr D Whitestone let the game flow and even allowed tackling. He was, until the free kick, faultless and probably the best we've seen this season, even though he did once tackle Toner. That's the second game running a ref has done that - do you think it's personal? It wasn't his fault Barnes can't catch, so let's not pin the donkey's tail upon the referee. He was any good, so 8.421.

The Others
Without Joachim they are nothing. They were extremely unimpressive, being Town's equals at best. Their defence was shabby, their midfield barely noticed and the win flattered them. With fortune they are mid-table; without it they'd be in the doldrums - and doesn't that just sum up the fourth division.