Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
10 November 2013
Grimsby Town 0 Scunthorpe United 0A bright, still and chill afternoon at the epicentre of world football. All around the Levant swords were turned into ploughshares as, for 90 English minutes, peace broke out and doves cried. The Sunnis and the Shias, the Jews and the Arabs, all sat together breaking bread and breaking into laughter. We are the philosopher's stone of football, for the guns fell silent in Syria as they tuned in to watch real rivalry: live and exclusive on Al Jazeera, it's Grimsby versus Scunthorpe.
As the casual cretins were heard to observe: everyone will be watching us, so why don't we do it in Grimsby Road?
Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Hatton, Pearson, McDonald, Thomas, Colbeck, Kerr, Disley, Neilson, John-Lewis, Hannah. The seven pillars of wisdom were Hedge, Bignot, Doig, Rodman, Cook, McLaughlin and Hearn. There's no McDonalds in the centre of Scunthorpe, but definitely one in Grimsby: the medium-rare Mariner lumbered alongside Pearson, who'd been spotted just two hours earlier strolling up St Peter's Avenue with a furtive look in his eye. A bit early for the Ocean Fish Bar Special, I'd have thought. Doesn't the dietician recommend mushy peas after the game?
Scunthorpe. They were up the other end, clad in that rather garish claret and blue, and who cares about that. We're going to be playing with a pink ball. Who doesn't care about that? It's just not cricket.
Let's forget about the pre-match mess, for the ground was packed and the air crackled and fizzed with a low throbbing drone of expectation. This is now, this is football: let the heartaches begin.
First half: Camera obscura
How culturally sensitive we are in cosmopolitan Cleethorpes: the sunny Scunnymen sprayed towards Macca from the kick off. Town defended the pulsating Pontoon, the Scunnymen obfuscated in front of the Osmond.
Get in to them, get in to them, get in to them. Town got in to them, hassling and tasselling plucky Scunny into a pot of honey. Hannah hovered. The Shopping Trolley squawked and squeaked like a honking bull seal. Kerr ticked and tocked and knocked over some claret without spilling anything on the carpet.
Town were more athletic than aesthetic. Laws' lumpers were discombobulated.
Ooh. Ahhhh. Woah, wahey, ooooh. And that was just the Mankini Mariners baring their souls towards the Osmond, a deathless double act unlikely to be booked into Scunthorpe Baths. A cross, a catch, a snatch, a patch of ground in our home town. Hannah fleeced his non-marker and thwacked against the swooping Slocombe. The ball ricocheted off the keeper, rebounded against the shins of a steelman and rolled gently goalwards, meandering along the rolling folds of a hundred years of solitude and loam and all along the side netting. There's so much confusion, can Scunny get no relief?
Pressure, pressure, Town a thresher thrashing the chaff. “Which method of threshing?” I hear you confused Caistorites bewail. Using the traditional method of making donkeys or oxen walk in circles, of course. Hannah cutely flicked Colbeck free from a throw-in – it's a tongue-twister that twisted some irons into melons. Into the area and flashed lowly and knocked away by a knee from knock-kneed deadly John-Lewis dead centre, five or so yards out. Well worth an “ooh”. Go on: “ooh” for me.
A corner, another corner, a cross, and the occasional Mariners getting cross as this and that were almost but not quite. Burgerboy looped headily and Slocombe flipped over when menaced by flying monochrome. Thomas raiding and raining crosses which tossed salads in the tea rooms of Seaview Street. Was that handball by Slocombe? Is that the third pink ball to land in Harrington Street?
McKeown opened his eyes and to his surprise was in another land, where Scunthorpe United were attacking his goal. It was all a dream
Spencer, their bearded lightweight irritant, flicked a cross and James McKeown awoke. Was this some kind of joke? He opened his eyes and to his surprise was in another land, where Scunthorpe United were attacking his goal. It was all a dream.
Oh, hang on. Little Winnall arose above the static Burgerboy to cheekily sneak head a few inches above the left angle of post and bar. Details, who cares, no goal, let's carry on regardless.
EE's got an old kitchen mop on his head. Etienne Esajas, magnificently mopped of hair and magnificently ill-suited to a bit of Lincolnshire poaching. He ran, he fell, he failed. Our kind of Glanford gladiator.
Clashes and sashes, raiding and fading, a header here, a header there, was it near? Noooo. Over the wall we go, all Colbeck's shots are bananas. That's four balls gone, gone, gone, woa-oa-oah gone.
It's all about us, us, us. What are they but foils for us to wrap our sandwiches in? Kerr and Neilson, Town's double diamonds, worked wonders under the noses of the dentists. Kerr floated and coated a dinky drifting free kick into the throng. A blue sock stretched, a blue toe poked and Slocombe clawed the bundling trundler away from the foot of his far post. The corner was clipped into the near post and John-Lewis, alone in his thoughts, made ball number five disappear in front of our eyes.
There's more: Scunny slip-sliding and Neilson sending the Shop away. Slocombe swooped, Waterfall wallowed and John-Missit, alone on the right of their area, carefully crackled over as the away fans cackled. You could tell those glory-hunting occasional visitors – they all stood up as LJL prepared to strike. We know. You and me. We know, don't we.
There were three added minutes of added time to account for all those lost balls and lost weekends of clashing heads. Pearson headed a corner over, while the visitors had what they will come to regard as “a bit of pressure” during which nothing happened. And we lost another ball.
Town were dominant and bullying, with plucky little Scunny doing brilliantly to hang on. They must have been proud of themselves. Weird scenes inside the goldmine.
Second half: The hare and the bear
Neither team made any changes at half time.
EE's a good, EE's a good, Etienne Esajas is good for a moment or two. And that's that. Is that all? How long will Mrs Mop stay on the pitch, Brian? Oi'll give it five.
Attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. More Mariner muffling. A free kick pumped and dumped into the busy, beating heart of Scunthorpe's West End. There is indeed panic on the streets of Hummmmmmmmberside. Slocombe slopped and flopped and up popped The Shop to head backwards towards goal. Now, there are some who would say old Lennie-boy cleared it. When I say some, I of course mean everyone. Lennie's running out of ways to avoid scoring. The odds are stacking up in his favour.
Disley emerged from hibernation with a squint, almost breaking through from a tip 'n' tap on the edge of the area. But he didn't. Well, that wasted 0.14 seconds of your life. And there's another 0.21 seconds gone. Doesn't time fly by when you're the driver of a train. Have I mentioned the amazing noise generated by all those Scunthorpe supporters in the resonating echo chamber that is the Osmond? I think they were less impressed than us with the claret and blue jugglers and mugglers. Seething, John. They were seething. They could have got any old French midfielder off the street to do better than that. They'll rue the day, you know.
What happened there? A corner. Err, yeah, but what happened? Colbeck slidled a slinker for Hannah down the right, deep inside the penalty area. Slocombe slid and swept Hannah away as the ball rolled out. Barely a squeak from the Pontoon or players, but the twitterati and texters watching worldwide television were all of a flutter and splutter. There's too much going on here to watch on our phones. Go away and stop telling me what I can see in front of me! I might miss a Lennie miss.
Ah, no need to worry on that score. Score? That's what you do to your desk with a pair of compasses. The corner floated towards bodies at the near post, drifting unmolested into a huge space while Disley chuntered and chugged and Lennie lurked. The ball took fright and voluntarily ran away, sparing Lennie's blushes, and bouncing bizarrely back to Burgerboy at the near post, who noodled loopily over.
Apparently Town are playing a competitive game of football. Just to prove it, Winnall winked wide. Jamie Mack wasn't bothered, though tough men in duffel coats and earmuffs got slightly agitated. I think they'd eaten their last Werthers Original.
And off we go again. Two Thomas raids, two underhit crosses. Thomas had the freedom of the shadow of the Findus, the third book in a trilogy of fantasy novels where little elves search for a ring binder with the secret of League football in it. We could look in Brian's filofax, I suppose, for some old rough diamonds.
A-ha, that's where we fooled you, Ironistas. Passing and purring, Neilson scared the Ironmongers with a jinking jape down the left, waltzing freely in to the area and caressing to the unmarked Lennie, near the penalty spot. Nothing can go wrong now. Lennie poked and the ball squirtled through legs towards the bottom left corner as Slocombe was motionless. Then Dawson walloped away.
Here we go again on the merry-go-round of Mariner misery... the Shop swiped his right foot and out came a big right hand to parry-punch away slightly spectacularly
And here we go again on the merry-go-round of Mariner misery. Hannah and Neilson tickled each other's tummies to salsa through the non-existent defence. Nielson swayed into the D and two lunging legs diverted his shot straight into the path of Mr Lenell John-Lewis, an employed sportsman, standing to the left of the goal. The ball spun and skipped; the Shop swiped his right foot and bedinkled down and scruffily across Slocombe. Out came a big right hand to parry-punch away slightly spectacularly.
I think that's a full set of misses now. The masterclass is complete. Please publish in time for Christmas. Poor old Lennie: such a persistent pest, such an impressively mobile brick wall, but completely unable to direct the football into the net.
And after about 75 minutes Town ran out of puff. Clearances were sliced thickly with no jam to spread. The fey opponents were allowed time to control the ball and show off their ability to sometimes pass to each other, occasionally. A free kick on the edge of the area was pulled back to the penalty spot, where Winnall did a Lenniesque air shot. Disley dillied then dallied and Ribeiro picked his pocket on the very edge of the Town area. Pfft. He bedraggled woefully wide while the goal a-gaped.
Ribeiro? Where'd he come from? Well, you see, Sparrow came on for the man with a mop on his head, then Sparrow flew away five minutes later. It's getting cold, so he has to find a suitable home for winter. Burton replaced the wonderfully ineffective Spencer. Then Burton headed well wide from a dozen yards after McDonald had wandered lonely as a cloud as the previously invisible Hawkridge began to hawk his talents. His talents may include being able to cross relatively accurately if given an afternoon to prepare. He may also be able to shoot straight. James McKeown awoke. Was this some kind of joke? He opened his eyes and to his surprise was in another land, where Scunthorpe United were attacking his goal. Hawkridge shot straight at McKeown from way out.
And all Town had to show was a Disley noodle header after a Thomas ram-raid on their right. Time to take off the ailing and failing. So Hannah and Neilson were taken off. Excuse me, hello, excuse me, we asked for the ailing and failing to be taken off. Hello… hello, is there anybody in there?
Hello, Rodman the drainman and Hearn the hunter. Rodman had a shot, you know. Hearn didn't.
We had four minutes of added time, nearly all of which was vague and unusual pressure by players representing Scunthorpe United. They kept falling, they kept getting free kicks and corners. Bundles of bundling and haphazard skirmishing and all they had to show for it was another corner. The ball dropped off a grappler and the hitherto unseen McAllister slapped lowly through the thicket. The crowd gawped and gasped as the pink ’un blimpled goalwards. McKeown fell right; the ball hit some Town shins and careered crazily left, simpering wide.
Is that it? Yep, right, a week on Tuesday then.
Town had by far the better of this for most of the game, but found comical ways of avoiding scoring. The Plucky Ones had their moments, but only when Town tired. Town seized the day and the Plucky Ones were merely reactive – and surprisingly underwhelming in all departments. Nothing to be scared of, but hints at enough to be wary of.
This game rotated around one central figure – Lenell John-Lewis. He had the best of games, he had the worst of games. He had a typical Lenell John-Lewis game, bless his big heart.
There should be celebratory gunfire and Town beflagged-taxis hooting horns from Damascus to Dubai.