Wings of desire: Lincoln (a, FLT)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

17 October 2006

If this had started later I could have had more prawn crackers.

Lincoln City 0 Grimsby Town 0
Grimsby Town win 5-3 on penalties

Oh to be in Lincoln now that Town are here; now I know how Robert Browning must have felt.

How the masses flocked to worship at the shrine of fourth division failure. At least three people were seen walking down the street, snapping their fingers and shuffling their feet, but they went in to the Indian takeaway. Have we got the right day? Has it been cancelled through terminal ennui? No, the floodlights shine brightly, calling us into the home of hoof. Oooh, cheeky: we can talk. The black and white kettle is boiling.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, McDermott, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Toner, Boshell, Rrrrrrrrrrrricky Rrrrravenhill, Heggggarty, Lump, Bore. The substitutes were North, Murray, Croft, Thorpe and the Napkin. A-ha, it's time for Hegggarty's annual parade, and here he comes with a steel band, 12 air cadets and an amusingly shaped antelope made entirely from sugar. Please give generously: it's for a good cause; and be kind, don't rain on his parade. And don't forget passing Danny B, the Harry Lime of Town's midfield Midwich cuckoos. You have? Wake up, you're dreaming.

Town wore white shorts and white socks. Fenty's forgotten fashion rule number 3: wear the same coloured shorts and socks with a two-tone top. Lincoln wore their normal, traditional kit, playing their normal, traditional style, with the normal, traditional aircraft noises over the tannoy. You know, they haven't got a surround sound system; it just sounded like they'd turned the bass up a bit too much. Or maybe they had a problem with their woofers and tweeters, which reminds me: Stallard and Forrester were on the substitutes' bench.

Are you ready now? Right, let's get started.

First half
Town kicked off uphill towards the emptier of the empty stands, furthest away from the Town 200. There were some throw-ins, an early-nearly moment from them and a lot of passive-aggressive Imp-baiting from the dirty dozen teenagers, which only served to encourage the anorak with Tourette's tmesis. If they'd sat down we would have seen the throw-ins in all their technicolour dreamcoat glory.

After about five minutes something finally happened. Hegggarty hunched over the ball, dropped his shoulder and zoomed past Beevers, crossing low and early through the six-yard box. The Lump slid in at the far post and the ball skidded through for... a free kick for offside. Mmm, nice play Nick. Bore had a shot which bedraggled wide from the edge of the penalty area. Mmm, mmm: passing and missing.

I'm sorry, I was distracted by a man doing an impression of Wilson, Keppell and Betty in the luxury executive boxes. Ooh, I think he was Betty. Ooh, I think it was Frecklington, a small village on the road to Sleaford, who larded a lazy shot well wide. They whacked, the ball dropped; they thwacked, Barnes beamed. No worries.

Lincoln began to suffer from tintinnabulation for, although they had the ball a lot, it was Town who broke dangerously, with pace, with precision, with Lumpy offside. The golden triangle of Heggggarty, Newey and Boshell started to weave a web of deception on the Town left. But just who were they deceiving? A Town corner, won by Hegggarty, was flapped away by Marriott, with Town ticking the ball over, tocking the ball back to Ravenhill, who flibbled an effort a couple of yards wide. Oh this is wonderful, such nostalgia! Hegarty tickled Beevers' armpits and exchanged passes with Bore, and then Newey carefully threaded a pass between Impite defenders. Bore steamed into the penalty area and tried to Henry a lofted curler around Marriot. The shot was repulsed but Town retained possession, building a little igloo out on the left. The three amigos wiggled their capes at the rampaging bulls. Olé: Heggarty kissed the ball infield. Olé: Bore tore into the area. Olé: Newey sidled into the box, up to the bye-line and thwadiddled a thumping shot straight at Marriott's face.

What is this thing they call passing?

Around the 20-minute mark Lincoln had a spell of pressure, with several corners curling in and out of the area. They had a header which flickered high across the face of goal and way wide followed by a shot which zippered through the six-yard box and just wide after a Fenton clearance from the bye-line struck Frecklington in his gentleman's particulars. Caught your breath? That's it, you can sink back into your seat and dream of Lincoln's right-back disappearing into Hegggarty's Bermuda triangle. Oooh, lovely - crosses zipping and zinging through the Lincoln penalty area. Ye Mighty Bosh passing to his team-mates, Newey raiding freely, Whittle and Fenton solid yeoman guarding the gated barn with pike and staff.

To pass the time the liberal Lincolnites amused themselves by reminding Toner of his unsavoury past. There is only one Marcus Henderson, but to most Town fans he's just that lanky bloke who scored for Macclesfield; it's a dark corner into which we may not wish to peer, much like Lincoln High Street.

A Hegggarty cross-field pass was nodded into space by the Lump on the corner of the penalty area. Boshell was bursting and Cryan straining to stop the steam train as Town put on some style, breaking swiftly and passing, along the ground, through midfield.

Have a rest.

Feeling better? Where did that 15 minutes go? Ah, you've noticed, Lincoln have a different keeper. Marriott limped off after half an hour and big, bearded Rayner lumbered on. Frecklington had another long shot straight at Barnes, whose doors were closed tonight. It really isn't worth bothering yourself about Lincoln: they were gnats to Town's aerosol and swat team defence.

With about 10 minutes of the half left Hegarty was thrown a tasty little pilchard after Boshell and Ravenhill had mugged Kerr. Little Nick twitched his eyebrows, curled his lip, wiggled his hips and feinted to shoot, but dragged a low pass along the face of the penalty area to Toner. About 20 yards out Toner cut infield and crashed a shot against the defender's shins, the ball crawling inches wide of the left post. Toner waddled over and curled the corner into the centre. The keeper froze, a defender rose and flicked the ball on straight to the Lump, unattended at the far post, just six yards out. Lumpy poked and shinned the ball into the ground towards the empty net, but a swarm of stripes engulfed the space and smuggled it off the line. Should have scored. Bad miss; bad fish: it'll swallow you whole, Mr Lump.

Lincoln went straight down the other end with an old-fashioned whack and slap. Gritton, just inside the area on their right, edged in front of Whittle, but missed as Barnes walked out to scoop the poop. He's shaved, he's had his haircut, but we can still see he's Martin Gritton. And he still plays like him. You are Martin Gritton: this was your footballing life.

Right on half time Town again fluttered down the left, with haggling Hegarty and trundling Toner swivelling the ball across the pitch. Boshell took a touch and dinked a perfect pass into the penalty area, right onto Bore's chest. Rayner stood on his line as Bore leapt, spun and hooked a bicycle-kicking volley towards the bottom right corner. The ball bounced once; the keeper stretched out and just flipped the ball an inch past the post.

That was the first half, come plant your turnips in the Grimsby garden. Town had by far the better chances, though Lincoln probably had a little more possession. After early dilatory defending from the full-backs Town improved and coalesced into a whole; Newey was trying and finally alert to the space he was allowing the little Lincoln lad on the wing, but it was further forward that he excelled, forming an intriguing partnership with Hegggggggggarty. Bore was diffident and Lump less a footballer than a broken-down mobile library being driven by Mr Magoo, but still Town were a threat. For once Town had the balance right between old men and young whippersnappers; tough tacklers and passers. Now it was just the half-time Mogadon to worry about.

Isn't it strange not being unhappy.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

And the band played on. Lincoln continued to be scurryingly direct, with Town more effective when they passed it to each other through midfield, though it took until the 7First minute for Barnes to roll the ball out to a team-mate rather than welly it into the arms of the opposing keeper. The game meandered from throw-in to throw-in until Ryan was accidentally played onside by Whittle. Barnes raced out and hoiked the ball downfield. Danger over: Lincoln can go back into the little hutch now. They'll get some lettuce in 20 minutes or so.

That's the way to be direct: three passes and you're in. The ball was won in midfield, a long diagonal pass to Lumpy's head, a sneaky flick, a Bore tick, and Boshell, 15 yards out, hooked a volley straight at Rayner. Blink and you missed it; unfortunately Rayner didn't blink, did he. Fancy that, a Town midfielder getting inside the penalty area in front of the strikers. Yeah, we do fancy that. More Mighty Bosh please, Rodgerseseseses's's's'.

Bore tore into Lincoln, impaling Imps with pace and power. Rather than knocking high balls near his head, Town finally passed the ball into places he could run at, with the ball. A sumptuous turn sent Gnat Brown into the Sincil drainage ditch head first. Another turn, another za-za-zoomathon, burning three in his wake as he hit the bye-line and crossed over Rayner and beyond the sea. Another Bore run won a corner on the right; Toner curled it to the near post and Bore flicked a loopy header across the face of goal. Another corner curdled Lincoln's cream and, from a narrow angle, Bore bazookered the ball into the Town support for a throw-in.

A long ball down the Town right bounced toward the penalty area and Beevers nodded back towards Rayner. The header was weak and Bore pounced, hitting warp factor 5, Mr Sulu, to sway past Rayner. On the bye-line, 10 yards wide of goal, he managed to lever the ball back. Hegaggggrty lurked inside the six-yard box but a defender swished the ball away from the goal line.

Am I boring you? He was boring into Lincoln's collective psyche, gnawing at their innards like a green bug-eyed monster, placing doubt into the hearts and minds: they always had at least two minds when Bore moved.

It wasn't just a five-minute Boreathon. Hegggarty taunted his full-back with a teasing tiptoe through the tulips, switching the ball from right to left and crossing, all in one movement. Again the ball rolled through the six-yard box with the Lump sliding dolefully at the far post.

On the hour the invisibly wilting Macca was replaced by Croft. In between Town attacks the linesman in front of the Town support kept putting his flag up, but ignored the crowd's advice about where, exactly, it should be put. We know he wasn't looking when the pass was played, as he was stood in front of us. He was terrible, Muriel.

Ah, back to the good stuff, and what a grand five minutes we had. Jones finally won a free kick by ducking like a donkey, 25 yards out. Toner tapped aside to Boshell, who slathered a slicing drive a yard or so wide of the left post. Ah, just testing, Sgt Wilson. Town pressed and pressed down the right, and finally a throw-in was hurled to Ye Mighty Bosh. He twisted his balloon into the shape of a dachshund and wriggled through two defenders near the corner of the six-yard box, slabbering a rising shot goalwards. Rayner raised his hands and the ball nicked off his forearm, onto the post, back out against the keeper's back, and straight to a defender. Back Town came, pursuing their quarry down the right. Bore turbocharged away, sliced a strip of flesh off Cryan and crossed into the centre. The ball rolled to Boshell, 15 yards out, who leant to one side and smershed a shot just past the left post. We've done very well to avoid being five up.

At this Lincoln immediately whipped off two of their lesser beings and brought on their woofers and tweeters, moving to a three-pronged cake fork of an attack. This stemmed the tide, but didn't offer much else. Town attacked less, or perhaps less effectively, with the mad linesman going into offside overdrive. The hardy 200 amused themselves with cries of "offside" whenever the ball crossed the halfway line. The game dulled down, and dulled even further when Bore was replaced by Thorpe with quarter of an hour left. As the Lincoln supporters were so sleepy, the teenage turtles turned their attention to two dark figures holding on to the perimeter fence, watching the exciting action for free down on the touchline.

What happened next? The chicken fell over the left-back and the referee gave a penalty. Nope, let's rerun the action... ah, a goal kick to Town. Lincoln messed up a free kick and Newey messed up the clean-up operation. And, well, they got a corner and Fenton headed it away.

This seemed to excite the Lincolnites, if only because it was the first time they'd been inside the Town area since last March. Oooh, hang on - I forgot when Gritton was sent free behind the defence after a big, booming up-and-under. Barnes ran out to the edge of the area, did a star jump and easily brushed the attempted lob away. How could I forget a Frecklington shot from 20 yards? Easily. And any other shots they had too. There were moments when danger was diced with a blunt knife, but nothing of any consequence, nothing to worry your pretty, little head about, my dear. Lincoln can go back to the drawing room and do some more crochet.

As penalties loomed the clock ticked down and Town got a throw-in five yards from the corner flag, right underneath the Town 200. Croft waited and waited, and finally Fenton sauntered into the area. Hurled long towards Fenton, the ball struck an arm, dropped and was clobbered clear; then it was over. Town should have won by at least three, but they just have to put you through it. Like we're ace at penalties.

After nipping out to the Nail Fairy for some décolletage and gossip, the referee marched north. As Toner waited, Rayner stood up and wobbled the crossbar, causing a further delay. Cool Hand Ciaran curled left as Rayner dived right. Cue David Coleman: "One-nil!"

Forrester walked forward and ruffled his hair. This must have upset his own time-space continuum, as he hasn't got any hair. Forrester smacked the ball low down the middle and Barnes' feet did their dancing best, tip-tapping the ball aside.

Oh no, it's Selwyn Newey! Dinna woory, lassie. Newey crackled the ball straight in. Woo, indeed, hoo.

Oh, such delicious irony, please melt your cheese on our toast: Gritton quaked, but Gritton did not miss. Boo, indeed, hoo.

Tiny Tony Thorpe, the aged curse of Town's past: come hither and sate our local desires, for local people. A soft-shoe shuffle and dink down the middle brought forth the roar of hope. Thorpe was cooler than Mad Jack McCool. And even Toner.

Yeah, yeah, Frecklington scored easily. Let's get on with it, shall we? Some of us have some late shopping to do on the way home.

Anything Thorpe can do Boshell can do almost better. Bish-bash-Bosh, a rinky-dink-dink down the middle, with Rayner heading off towards the gravel pits of Hykeham.

It would have been nice if Stallard had clattered the ball onto the roof of the cathedral, but he's old; he can't kick that far; but he can get it into the net; which he did. Ah well, you can't have everything.

And here's the rub and nub - all eyes on Ricky the-hit-and-miss-man Ravenhill. Will it be Ravenhail or Ravenfail? An amble, shuffle and whack, the ball in the back of the net: it's Ravenhail.

Five superb penalties, coolly taken; they never looked like missing, for they exuded calm determination. In a word: professionalism. So the right team won, Millhouse.

Wahey, we were ace for minutes on end. We had pace, we had passing, we had defenders who defended. It was like we were professionals. Can we do it in the league please?

Nicko's unsponsored men of the match
Well it ain't the Lump. I'm throwing three names your way now, just think about them, roll them around your brain and eat a lemon tart before you decide. Fenton, Heggggarty and Boshell. Hegarty gave us what we haven't had for years: a proper left winger, with a hint of old John Robertson about him. The hunched shoulders, the stoop and scoop approach with the swaying hips and quick feet: in short, a winger who excites. Boshell is a lightweight cross between Groves and Dobbin: a box-to-box willing runner who can pass. He linked up the play, retaining possession and rarely wasting our time or our money. Fenton was calm but strong, positioned perfectly and formed the Great Witham Barrier with Whittle. So, whoever can it be? How about all three.

Official Warning
Mr G Hegley was any good, overall, all things taken into consideration. A couple of minor nonsenses, a little inconsistent in applying advantage, but generally saw what he needed to see. Is it because he's got his glasses on? I don't know why but 7.869 springs to mind.

The Others
Lincoln is as Lincoln was and will ever be. They run around, they have a method, they tinker with it, but it's basically the same. They have some good players and some average players. On this showing it's baffling why both teams are where they are, but the league is different, right? Their set pieces were rubbish tonight. It won't always be that way. Watch out for Frecklington: he's not bad at all.