A close shave: Mansfield (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

18 August 2006

Grimsby Town 1 Mansfield Town 1

I thought that Friday night was music night? Welcome to Blundell Park, where logic and proportion don't mean anything at all.

A multitude of Mansfielders pootled up from their caravans in Ingoldmells, bringing their colours and noise to the Snoozadome. Typical trippers: excited by sand and sea, they just trample upon quaint local customs.

The next new Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, McDermott, Whittle, McIntosh, Newey, Bore, Bolland, Toner, Beagrie, the only Jones in the village and Rankin. The substitutes were Harkins, North, Croft, Futcher and Murray. Michael Reddy-for-my-close-up-now-Mr De Mille was completely absent, which caused the information superhighway to switch to overload. That must mean he's signing for Luton, again. Do we care? If he's going to leave the stage he should leave the stage; he ain't no James Brown.

Ah yes, the new old man. "You'll never win anything with oldsters." Mac2 was tall and Celtic, but without the kilt. For a smoother shave buy Mac2, or at least borrow someone else's for a month. The kit fits him and his limbs seem to be working in the same time zone. Things are looking good already.

Mansfield had lots of little men dressed in yellow warming up with a pacy game of one-touch passing and movement. Some Town fans even remembered to boo Boulding. Just a couple, mind; it's all rather too much effort these days. When you're tired of Grimsby, you're tired of life.

In a dramatic twist, the Mighty Mariner had new foam forearms.

First half
Mansfield kicked off towards the Pontoon while no-one was looking. Up and under, thundered away by Whittle. Mansfield fizzed, Town tizzed - nothing happened. Still no-one was looking.

Rodger wants Town to tick like clockwork, doesn't he. Someone should reset the clock; it's five minutes slow. Hey, hey, hey - it's a cheeky metaphor? No, reality bites: the old clock above the Osmond stand is five minutes slow, don't you know.

What? Sorry - did you say something? Yes, there is a football match going on. If there's anything to tell you I will. Settle down and read the advertising boards or something. Look at the sky: lovely, a mauve tint behind taupe clouds and a blue heaven.

Mac2 headed the ball away. Mac2 headed the ball away. Mac2 kicked the ball away. In the bungle, the mighty bungle as Newey slept tonight, Hamshaw collected some seashells by the seashore. Alone, free and at the bye-line, Hammy hamster crinkled a low cross through the six-yard box. Barker loomed at the near post, but Mac2 stretched and just managed to tickle the ball away for a corner.

Settle down again. Come back in five minutes…

Whither Tom Newey? Hamshaw again was tickled free, unmarked, unmolested, uninhibited, unable to cross accurately. The ball droopled low to the near post, where Barnes plopped and dropped the ball. No Mansfielder was near, but Barnes flailed away with his trailing leg, nudging the ball away from Mac2 but straight to Toner.

The game was dominated by our little yellow foes, constantly breaking quickly, frequently outnumbering Town on the flanks, but fortunately the man with the ball lacked spatial awareness. Boulding had one of his dribbly-wibbly runs down the wing, cutting in and drifting a shot a few yards wide of the right post. But then, you knew that would happen; it always did when he wore stripes. Bore cut in past two defenders, stepped over, stepped under and dribbled a shot a few yards wide of their left post. But then, you knew that would happen; it always will when he wears halves.

Wakey-wakey! They're alive! "Yell-ow , yell-ow, yell-ow." The Mansfieldians singing random colours.

It really is a lovely sunset, the sunrays glimmering and shimmering into the Osmond stand, a burning orange glow reflecting in Toner's eyes. That may explain his frantic filibustering, or maybe he drank too much isotonic Lucozade in the dressing room.

It's still all them. Town retaining possession for microseconds, the midfield a shallow pool of stagnating water. Neither Bolland nor Toner capable of controlling the ball, nor getting close to Dairylea and Dawson, the cheese slice and fish slice of Nottinghamshire.

Didn't we used to have a striker called Jones?

Oh yes, we still do. Around the 20th minute Town suddenly stirred. Sir Lumpalot, just inside the Mansfield half, underneath the Frozen Beer Thing Stand, turned and espied the horizon. Rankin sneaked behind his marker and ran into space on the edge of the penalty area. Jones caressed a perfectly weighted pass over the defender onto the boot of Rankin, who smooched a perfectly weighted, cushion-volleyed pass into space behind the left-back. Bolland surged forward but Muggleton rode out of from his ranch and managed to block the shot with his shins. A corner to Town, some football from Town, the crowd shaken out of its torpor for a few seconds. Whittle headed the corner over. If it wasn't this corner, it was some other corner. Argh, who cares?

A couple of minutes later Boulding fiddle-di-deed and crossed to the far post. Barker, unmarked six yards out, rose and nodded back across the face of goal… and gently wide. I blame the white socks. And Barnes' blue socks, which are a completely different shade to his two-tone shirt. We look like we've been designed by an eight-year-old. Hey, hey, hey - it's a cheeky metaphor again!

Mac2 headed the ball away. Mac2 headed the ball away. Mac2 kicked the ball away. Houston, we have a defender. The problem is, he's isn't ours.

Peter Beagrie! Welcome home, welcome, come on in and close the door. Great wing play, with Beagrie Beagrieing past his marker with that Beagrie thing. Why do they always fall for it? Literally, in this case. From the bye-line the cross zoomed into the middle of the area and Buxton harpooned the ball into the back of the Osmond as Rankin and Bore lurked. Was that another Beagrie cross? Yes it was, and rather pleasant it was too, causing a mild discussion to break out in the centre of the Mansfield defence.

I would like Tom Newey to defend now and again. Wouldn't you?

Barnes punched a cross away and the Pontoon's collective stomach gurgled. Take some Epsom salts with your mineral water; that'll settle things down. Don't think things have changed much - Mansfield were still the better team, with the better players. Rankin almost had a shot, rolling past his marker when a throw-in was hurled in from the Town left. Buxton blocked and the Mansfielders mocked our sudden interest in the match.

Here they go again, Mansfield pinging down their right. Town a mess, a mass of mush, just one push and the swing door will open. The ball fell free to the left of goal, near the bye-line, and Beagrie slid in tremendously to block tackle away for a corner. Mac2 headed clear. Is it clear that Mac2 was any good? The Staggies exerted a bit of sustained pressure, the ball constantly crossed and cleared, in and out of the area like a dithering ferret. The Pontoon gurgled, the ball rolled out to Jelleyman, 20 yards out in the centre. Thwang! The shot thwinged its way towards goal and Barnes arced back and fingertipped the ball over the bar for a corner. Mac2 headed clear.

The rest of the half was taken up with a visit to the local artists' society summer exhibition of still lifes and a few minutes in the novelty rock emporium. The referee was felled by a Mansfield clearance after a Beagrie surge down the left. Smacked in the smacker, little man Ray got up with a smile to receive the ovation his block deserved. Hey, Town got a throw-in out of it.

Now, I'm trying to remember… no, no, don't interrupt, I thought I had something there… no. That's it, there's nothing else. I've spun it out as long as possible. That was the first half that never was. One shot from us, two efforts from them, the ref fell over and the sun shone for a while. We let them play on the beach while we sat in our Morris Minor, rug upon knee, tea in hand, frown upon face. Quick, let's move - the parking attendant is coming.

Mac2 was fine. Let's leave on a positive note. If you come back in 15 minutes the parking attendant will have gone off down Wonderland and we can watch the tide come in. Or is it going out?

Town in a word

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time.

As usual Town creaked away from the blocks. The opposition, fired by their half-time chit-chat into upping the pace and intensity of their play, snapped at Town's ankles. There were a lot of throw-ins.

Beagrie jingle-jangled, the cross was dangled and Buxton mangled a clearance. And then there were some more throw-ins inside the Town half. After five minutes or so the ball was sent high down the Mansfield left wing and nodded infield by Boulding, level with the penalty area. Barker nodded the ball further across and Brown turned to face his own goal, shielding it from Mac2 and allowing it to carry on regardless. The ball bounced, about 15 yards out, in the centre and Hamshaw twisted, shielding the ball from a feeble Newey flail. Hamshaw spun and, from near the penalty spot, crumpled a low shot across Barnes in to the bottom right corner. All four Town defenders had been within inches of the ball, but no tackles had been made. I don't count Newey's floppiness as a tackle - and neither did Mac2, judging by the way he gesticulated.

The Pontoon philosophers were angst-ridden; those Sartres of Soccer were in search of a Town method. At Blundell Park hopes are born and die; there systems are built, and there, in turn, they collapse.

Maybe they should all follow the example of the Buddha of Blundell Park, who'd swallowed the Little Book of Calm before issuing a fusillade of invective at the nay-sayers. Town don't start playing until they are at least 2-0 down. Relax - the comeback kid is already on the pitch.

Within a minute Mansfield had scored again. But they hadn't. Brown was offside after Town's central midfield had curdled and centre-backs had hurtled forward to compensate. And compensation was what some were considering, especially when Barker missed a sitter two minutes later. Mansfield saw Town's open neck and wanted a bite. A clearance ricocheted off Brown, straight over the top of Mac2 and perfectly into the path of Barker. He waddled forward and waited for the ball to drop just six yards out, but Barnes raced out and, one-handed, block-parried the shot aside.

Finally, finally, finally, Town's team coach turned up and the tribute act scurried off stage. Here was the real Town. Beagrie teasing his markers, pleasing his defenders and stroking a marvellous pass between two Staggers. Newey pounded forward in support as an old-style overlapping full-back. He was free, inside the area, wide on the left. Muggleton zimmered out and threw himself at Newey's feet, blocking the ball out to the edge of the area.

The Pontoon rose up, the Town fans roused and ready to support; now we've seen some football. Town squeezed Mansfield's little pips, with Bore the chief tormentor. Suddenly Town started to stretch the play across the pitch, using both wingers, who hugged the touchlines. Bore isolated his marker and stripped him bare, whooshing past at will. Mansfield were forced to double and treble up, waiting for the tsunami to wash over them. Boosh - Bore ripping past Jelleyman, with the cross blocked for a corner. Bang - Beagrie hung the ball up to the far post, where Mac2 pummelled a header back across the face of goal, with Buxton haymaking a clearance waywardly forward; getting rid anyplace, anywhere, anyhow.

Jonesy, the ship's cat, mugged a Mansfielder with a sneaky slide tackle. The ball rolled to Bore, who tore down the wing. One, two, three stepovers, a curtsey, a tip of his fedora, a cheeky wink, and Bore hit the bye-line. He looked up and rolled the ball back to Bolland, whose shot was charged down by three Mansfield legs, from two Mansfield bodies. Beagrie's corner was nodded wide by Mac2, as he leant backwards at the far post. On the hour Bore, on the left, snackled past three before closing his eyes and thinking of England caps in a couple of months' time. Woah, boy - let's keep a sense of perspective: the shot went four yards wide.

But Town were jumping all over the Staggies, the game suddenly a freewheelin' cavalcade heading for Muggleton at 100mph. Mansfield were staggering under the blows, Boulding taken off, Jelleyman booked for felling Bore. They cannae handle him, cap'n. It was all Bore, a change from the all-bore of the last few years. Let's get these puns out early - Grandma's coming later.

Yep, more Bore running, Beagrie twisting, Newey raiding. Rankin was starting to hurdle the challenges, to roll around his marker when in mid-air, to cause minor tremors with his all-action frenzies. Another Mansfield substitution, with Brown departing, but still no change: it was all Town, all action, all Bore.

With 20 minutes left Mac1 was replaced by Croft. Immediately Croft calmly disposed of his winger and steadied the tranquil ship. Oooh, and again, another purr-some interception by Croft, clearing out to Toner, then on to Bolland. Town suddenly were attacking, the ball switched from right-back to left-wing in an instant; Beagrie tap-danced forward, inviting and inciting Mullins and Dairylea. Newey galumphed down the wing and Beagrie played another exquisitely timed pass inside the full-back. Newey strode on, into the penalty area. He looked up, saw Jones at the far post and dinked a delightful drooper towards the goal machine. Two defenders were sucked into Jones' vortex and the ball carried on. Bore, unmarked on the corner of the six-yard box, waited, shaped his body brilliantly, and bazookered a header high over the clawing Muggleton. The ball smashed against the underside of the crossbar and bounced down onto the line, spinning violently and drifting across the face of goal, around the right post and out of play. There was a moment of silence before the eruption: the linesman believed the ball had gone in. And so do we. Honestly-ish. It was yet another Bore goal. Where would we be without the boy wonder? Super bottom, that's where.

What a lovely big smile he has.

Oh dear, he's limping and he's off, replaced by Harkins. This resulted in Toner seemingly playing a little on the wide side, with Amarillo Harkins in the centre. Croft lobbed the ball in to the near post; Rankin, with his back to goal, nudgled it wide with the back of his head.

It's all going very well, isn't it.

Oh Tom, Tom, Tom, what have you done, you'll make a fool of everyone. With Croft a lone Town defender, Newey decided to tap a pass towards this distant team-mate. The ball totally underhit, Croft hurtled forward and threw himself at the Yellow Peril, a temporary finger in the yellow matter custard dyke. The ball rolled back to a Staggerer, and Barker was played through down the middle. Newey sprinted back and across, diving at the pootling poacher and made up for his crassness with some aceness. A great tackle to save himself from a dry roasting on the pitch after the game.

A Mansfield corner, and then another and another. Barnes dropped one and used his false teeth to fend off Barker as the ball bumbled. Whoops. A minute later another Mansfield moment. Town stretched upon the mangle, Dawson slithered a swirling shot from outside the area. Barnes plunged to his left and parried the ball back into the centre of the penalty area. It was cleared, somehow, by someone. Mansfield kept their hush puppies upon Town's toes. Ouch, that hurts. A cross, dribbling through their right; a Hamshaw volley squishing through bodies but straight into Barnes' midriff. Town sinking, Mansfield floating; when will the torture end?

Harkins surged and putted towards goal from 30 yards. Baptiste blocked. And then Futcher came on for Jones, Town's receding hairline. Yes, Futcher was playing as a centre-forward, and he won more headers in five minutes than Sir Lumpy had in the preceding 87. With a minute or so left Futcher steered a flick-on into a space on the right of the Mansfield area. Bolland sprinted into it, but a second too late. Ah, one day we may work out how to play this long ball stuff.

As the clock ticked down Beagrie endeared himself to the massed Mariners with a double lunging hooking slide tackle in the corner between the Frozen Thing Stand and Pontoon.

There were three minutes of added time, and Mansfield seemed to want to win the game. How unsporting; why don't they just go back to their chalets and prepare for disenchantment? With five seconds left Town failed to clear, with Newey again involved in some slackness, allowing danger to drive by in a 4x4 without tax or insurance. The ball squirmed out in the centre and Newey watched as the ball was tickled over the top and Dawson ran forward. Dawson got beyond the last defender and, with Barnes cleaning his teeth, standing in an empty space between nowhere and never, lobbed the ball a foot wide of the right post. He did really well to avoid scoring. It took great skill to miss.

That was the game that was.

Some people, somehow, managed to dredge up enough badwill to boo. In the context of this season, it was not a terrible performance. It was business as usual for an hour, then Town conceded. Town can be exciting, free flowing and enjoyable to watch, but there's an awful lot of torment to go through before we get there. The defence was better, for Mansfield are a decent, tricky team. They had all the attributes that have cut Town down so far, but with Mac2 present there was a solid rock around which the Staggerers had to navigate. If you have a high gripe content (see your doctor soon, it may be terminal) then the middle of midfield was still outpaced, outthought and outfought; Newey has all but abandoned defending; and Gary Jones barely exists. But there is some light in the darkness, for those who wish to see.

This is all we have.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
Bore had a phantasmagorical 15 minutes of fame, fortune and glory, but throughout there was one man head and shoulders above all others. The lighthouse that beamed his safety rays around, steering Whittle from the rocky rocks of rockety defending, and ignoring Barnes' socks, it's Martin McIntosh.

Official Warning
At four foot three the smallest referee in the league (© 2003), Mr Ray Olivier was particularly OK. I can't remember any overt daftness at all. The goal was given on the linesman's nod, which is what a ref is supposed to do. So 8.235, as I'm feeling full of ham and pickle.

The Others
A pretty nifty outfit, designed to score goals. They have loads of pace, but not much height. Their defence wobbled when the Humber Bore was in full flow, but then most teams in the fourth will. Not as good as Wrexham, but have enough to be interested in the fringes of promotion. If you were a Mansfield supporter then you'd actually enjoy watching your team play football. How very last century.

Would any of our players get in their team? Perhaps three. Ponder that, people.