Actually, it's ditchwater: Notts County (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

21 October 2006

Remember that it is the attempt, and not the deed, that confounds us.

Grimsby Town 0 Notts County 2

Several hundred Piemen slurped into the Osmond, all happy and gay, thinking glorious thoughts of glory and all those silly things we thought a few months ago. They've been around long enough to realise that the darkest hour is just after the false dawn. Anyway, they looked pleased, which is nice.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Stumpy Barnes, Croft, Fenton, Butler, Newey, Bore, Bolland, Boshell, Toner, Lump, Thorpe. The substitutes were McDermott, North, Murray, the Napkin and Hegggggarty. If it works, change it. Toner returned to his personal Siberia on the left, with Bolland returning to the centre and Bore to the right wing and, oh, I can't be bothered - work it out yourself. So much pace up front, eh?

County had more of our players than we did, and we had some of theirs. Who was who? Who should we boo? Who is booing who? Who do you boo? Wasn't that an early 70s ITV programme? Let's hear those boos, folks - it's just for a little bit of fun, but here's the boo-ometer. Mr Mendesbooooooo, Parkybooooo, Edwardsboo and finally one for the older viewers, Leeboooo. Why bother?

First half
County kicked off towards the Pontoon, inducing narcolepsy and Sladian memories with a hoof-and-hump approach. Some kind of throw-in followed, then another, and another and another and another. Am I on a permanent tape loop, like modern installation art? Should we show Town games in the Tate Modern? Bore bulldozed down the right, winning a corner. Toner clumped, Fenton jumped and noodled firmly just over the bar.

There were probably another eight throw-ins, then County were given a free kick, about 25 yards out on their right. Flung in high to the far post, the ball was nodded back across goal by a big lad. Bolland shimmied and shallied on the six-yard line while White hovered, swishing a shot towards the bottom right corner. Barnes, unsighted and on the goal line, poked out his right arm and brilliantly saved low down. That's the lowdown on the second minute.

What a cracker! Town boombled back, winning another corner on the left. Toner fizzed it in; a flick, a block and Bore thwacked a drive goalwards from ten yards, the ball hitting Parky's backside and scuttling to Pilkington. Will this action ever end?

Come back in five minutes, after you've washed your hands.

Are they clean? Is it safe? It's a free kick to Town, way out on the left. Toner clipped it long and from a flurry of snowmen at the far post Fenton emerged, unmarked, a dozen yards out. He swayed backwards, leant low and scissor-kicked a flying volley back across goal. Pilkington adjusted his underpants, shuffled to his right and superbly arced back and across to tip the ball over the bar.

Now just what did David Smith purchase from the healthy eating kiosk? Minutes turned to years and still he nattered with his back to the game. Why not - there ain't nothing going on. Did he buy a macrobiotic potato? Was he bamboozled by choice, or simply concerned that there was no giant Twix on offer? Ah, he's going for his pudding now - latte and dinky doughnuts to go, please. You have read that right: diminutive former Town left-sided utility player David Smith had an alfresco two-course meal in between anything happening. Bring back Dish of the Day so we have something to read during the periods of longueur. Fifteen minutes of ineffable rubbishness. Poor by the standards of dross. Anything they can do we do worse. A stray pass here and there was soon snaffled away for a throw-in. It was all bump and grind, perhaps after a while they can work on points for style.

It was like watching two poor Russell Slade tribute teams. Artlessly dull, dreadful: where's that thesaurus? Aren't they extinct? We soon will be.

Junior Mendes ha-ha-ha, rollerblading away down their left, cutting inside and draining a shot well wide and over. That's the Mendes we know and loathe. A few minutes later, after two Town players played a game of after-you-Claude when a Town corner was cleared, County broke quickly. With Town in full retreat, the ball was zimmered down their right and shuffled into the centre. Lee, just outside the penalty area, drifted a first-time steery shot a foot past Barnes' right post. There's only one Jason Lee-ee, one day he may share the poems of his soul.

A minute later, after much dawdling by the marsh, Parkinson was allowed to thwingle across the face of the area and swingle a shot against the pole keeping the net up. Or maybe he swingled then twingled; you never can tell with Parky, who looks a bit taller these days. Perhaps he's got lifts in his boots. Town's response was to, erm, do something. Detail, details... who needs them. They got a corner, anywhere, anyhow, which Fenton volleyed over from a dozen yards out. And back County came with a Mendes meander down their right and a cross to the near post, which perky Parky pooped two yards wide.

That, my friends, is all you need to know about the first half. It was just very boring without substance or style from two bunches of souring grapes.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't effective; it was just Town, and that was them. I'm confused. What's going on?

Nothing. Perhaps David Smith will provide some much-needed movement down by the food stall. Beans on jacket potato? No, that's just old Lumpy and Thorpe, trying hard, but failing. Some movement, a brief moment in time with the ball bouncing up near Bore, ten yards out. White snaffled, Edwards snuffled and Town sneezed quietly into their handkerchief, apologising for their appalling manners in front of guests. Don't look - it's not the done thing in polite society to stare at these things.

Maybe Mendes had a shot; maybe he didn't; maybe I'm making it up to create a sense of futile, frustrated derision. Why are we bothered by Mendes? He never bothered any defence when he played for us.

You're not missing anything by the way - just a throw-in.

Has anyone passed it yet? I don't mean a driving test, or the port and cheese; I mean the ball. You know, that thing they keep running after like Keystone Cops. That was another thing in black and white that wasn't funny either.

Oh look, a County corner, caressed to the back of the area and headed over by an unmarked man in yellow right in the centre. You get used to these things after about five years, don't you. Those dinky doughnuts are tempting - finding solace in dough.

On the hour, as Hegggarty prepared to come on, Pilkington whacked a drop-kick upfield. Newey stood under the ball as Pipe ran in from the side and half won a flick-on. The ball went forward. Pipe carried on. Newey stood still, and Pipe was tickled free down their right. One touch, one look, one cross, one goal. Junior bloody Mendes, unmarked six yards out, flung himself at the ball and it glanced off his head into the bottom-right corner. Now there's a funny thing: Junior Mendes scoring a goal at Blundell Park. Who'd have thought it? Pity he didn't think of doing that last season. Heggggarty replaced Thorpe to a chorus of disapproval. Methinks Mr Jones was the replacee of choice for the discerning mad Mariner.

Hegggarty put in a decent cross - no-one there. Boshell flipped a superb reverse pass to Jones - no-one there. Is this a drunkard I see before me? Is Rodger playing Pictionary on the touchline? Or hangman?

Five minutes after the goal Booland was replaced by Gary Napkin, with Lumpy given the Make Poverty History wristband. Did I say Booland? I meant Bolland. Any more performances of Campbellian invisibility and that will be a prediction. The paper Napkin, shorn of hair but fleeter of foot, had a very good five minutes. Now that he's had his teeth out, he runs quicker. Less weight, you see.

Good grief, we nearly scored! A free kick on the right, 25 yards out, was dinkled into the centre and Jones stooped and looped a header goalwards. Pilkington arced back and tipped the ball over the bar. A couple of minutes later Harkins jinked and jived through three challenges and swept a short pass to the unmarked Toner, 15 yards out on the Town left. Toner stubbed a curler straight at Pilky. It really wasn't that exciting. I've probably forgotten several County efforts and attacks, but hey, they detract from the narrative flow. Some things have to be axed to make it ready for a cinema release.

With about ten minutes left the ball bounced near the halfway line. Fenton hesitated, then advanced as some yellowman nodded the ball beyond him. Fenton did as he does once in every game - a rugby tackle of such subtlety that it can be detected only by those high-speed cameras that scientists use to watch mating fleas. Oh, and the ref saw it too: what ill-fortune we continue to endure. Fenton was booked and Town were under pressure. A minute later Town were shredded down the left when Newey tried to saw Pipe in two, missing both man and ball. Newey lay in a heap off the pitch and Hegggarty ran over and clobbered Pipe, then got up and had a bit of mutual chest-rubbing.

A free kick to County, close to the bye-line, way outside the area. Ross curled it to the near post and an unmarked big bald bloke flicked the ball on. On it bounded to the unmarked fruity Lee at the back post. He fell, the ball hit his head, it went in. If only he'd had a tropical fruit on his head he may have missed. No, Graham - it isn't the letter 'p'. You'll have to draw the noose now.

Questions were raised in the house: how fast does a fly swallow?

There was a long, long delay when McDermott replaced Newey with five minutes left. At the same time the referee decided he'd used up enough of his life wandering the streets of small towns in a brightly coloured shirt, handing over his letter of introduction from the queen, and his whistle, to the portly and frankly useless linesman. Boshell kicked the ball onto the roof after a Macca raid and Jones glanced another Macca cross an inch wide of the right post.

Despite the unutterable appallingness of its abysmality, there was still a little corner of the Pontoon that sang in support, rather than asking for Mr Graham Rodger to be deported. Perhaps they have the right idea; this motivation-by-boo lark hasn't really worked for the last five years, has it.

I'm not going to waste any more of my time thinking of young men wandering the streets of our small town in brightly coloured shirts. There is nothing positive to say, no external excuses. Town were beaten by a pale imitation of last year's suit, made up from some old threads and broken buttons. The Town players kicked the ball and moved in its general direction sometimes. Other than that, there was no apparent strategy, no method and no apparent leadership. I'm outta here. I've an oven to clean, haven't you?

Have we reached terminal velocity yet?

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
Do I have to? Gary Croft. Because he ran a long way a couple of times in the second half. In popular parlance that almost counts as evidence of that elusive, but evidently necessary quality: passion. Though whether that would be enough to win the heart of a fair maiden is a moot point.

Official Warning
Nothing terribly terrible sticks out, unlike Parky's ears. Mr K Wright generally blew his whistle at the right times and didn't score with a flying header a la Brian Glover, or Junior Mendes. In my book that goes a long way, though I don't read books, so make of that what you will. He gets 7.214 for his 86 minutes on planet Mirth. Oh, hang on - there was the curious case of Lee's flying elbows, which earned a stiff rebuke from the headmaster, so deduct 0.014, and don't give him any clubcard points for his petrol home. Ref number two, Mr Tiffin, was the worsterest of the two bad linesman, so he gets 0.123456789, as spleen has to be vented somewhere, for no accountable reason.

The Others
County were clearly built upon the Town template from last season: big blokes at the back, if in doubt get it out, whack it long, chase it, hurry up Harry, hit and hope for a set piece. Lowest common denominator stuff, but effective. They were a bunch of men who were doing what they were told, and that was enough. They were nothing special. In fact they were a bit of a bore. If they told a joke you'd probably have heard it before. They had no pace at the back and a keeper who liked to come out and kick despite the accumulated evidence of a thousand miskicks. In short, we thought they'd crumble, that they'd lay down and die; but oh no, they will survive, but shouldn't go up; that'd be taking Jacques Derided's post-modernist theory of football far too far too far too far, indeed. It doesn't take much to deconstruct Town.