Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

16 February 2014

Cambridge United 2 Grimsby Town 1

It started in a gale and ended in a gale of laughter. A thousand Townites marched south, braving floods, road blocks, war and pestilence to sit in the wind watching the wheels go round and round.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Hatton, McDonald, Doig, Fyfield, Rodman, Kerr, Disley, McLaughlin, John-Lewis, Cook. The five alive were Thomas, Thanoj, Neilson, Hannah and our new French fancy. A-ha, a full complement of Minstermen with Deputy Doig returning and McLaughlin on the left wing. There were no great expectation there: the Goatman always has hard times when sent wide. And we had that old curiosity of the Shop being permanently affixed on top of our cake.

It was windy and they had no Miller. They had a ball boy in goal. That is all.

First half: Sliding bores

Town kicked off downwind and out of sight, away from the throbbing throng with a chip and ping, McLaughlin bonking from the halfway line and the ball drifting a yard over the backtracking keeper. And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is the defendant's case. We decline the opportunity to take the witness stand and be cross-examined.

Town simply refused to defend themselves and they were being examined with cross after cross. We were very cross indeed, I can tell you. And I will tell you again later. That's no plot spoiler, for Town had lost whatever plot they never had. No tackles, no run, no fun, no wonder it's dark. Everyone around seemed a total stranger. A whacking windy waft high, high and drifting. McDonald headed over weirdly for a corner, half cleared, half-hearted, a half pipe cannonball bailing. Donaldson scraped low and McKeown settled upon the bumbler.

A shot, a scramble, a cross, a bundle as Elliot hugged and mugged McKeown. The ball… well, beach balls fly, don't they. Space. What is it? A void. We can't avoid mentioning the space that Amberites were allowed by the most generous of guests. Here, have our wallets too and help yourself to our lips.

Burgerboy unsubtly liquidised Elliott with a hand-held scythe. A booking. A rare moment when a Townite connected with anything of this world.

We'll draw a veil over the rest of the half. Started shabbily, became shoddy, ended shockingly

Rodman sleeping, Fyfield dreaming, many moments of almostness for the locals, as Big Bird roamed freely. I cannot defend Town's defence, for there was no defence. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and nothing going on. Doig half cleared halfly nowhere, the ball returned. McDonald lumbered, Fyfield slumbered, Bird slipped between the sheets and casually passed across the statue of McKeown that had been erected and into the bottom right corner.

What's taken them so long?

More of the same: shambles, messes, misses and hisses. Every header lost, every tackle missed, every picture tells a story, every second counts, and every loser wins. Fyfield and Rodman a disaster area: a cross, a stretch and the ball slithered inches wide of the right post.

Some Town fans were still stuck on the A14, roadside radio listeners in the rolling flatlands. They tweeted their thoughts and prayers to us at this difficult time. We had their sympathy.

There came to pass a moment when Town players passed the ball to each other, almost frequently. At least three times, without kicking it straight out of play! And lo, the ball was crossed and high the Shop did plop his header. You can tell the regulars: they don't stand up when the Shopping Trolley is near the ball in front of goal, alone.

I don't want to cause any more psychological trauma, so we'll draw a veil over the rest of the half.

Started shabbily, became shoddy, ended shockingly.

Second half: A sting in the fail

Neither team made any changes at half time. I repeat: neither team made any changes at half time. Yes, that's right, you're thinking what I'm thinking: it's time to top up the bird feeder.

Town got worse. And worser. And worserer.

Flapping and flopping, Donaldson shin-volleyed stupidly over. Cambridge kept hitting diagonal crosses towards Town's full-backs. Their centre-forwards sneaking over to challenge and thus their wingers and full-backs could lace daisy chains and laugh at the wind and the world. The end of tactic talk. Let's see action.

BOOM from their right. Hatton exposed, Rodman dozed and Taylor chose to tickle a cross. Bird, alone, carefully glanced down and across McKeown into the bottom left corner.

Town got worse. And worser. And worserer. And worserererer.

You do realise I am withholding details from you. You don't need to know, you don't want to know. I have taken that emotional pain for you.

Elliott crossed. No-one was around, especially Town defenders. Things kept nearly happening way, way in the distance, not involving Town players. And what crumbs fell from the table and were scoffed by famished rats? The Hatton free kick shenanigans. Perfectly placed for Telegram Sam to smackle into the top corner, he waited, the wall waited, the wall broke, Berry was booked, the wall retreated, the wall awaited, and Hatton tapped lightly into the shins of one of the bricks.

Scott Carr (sic) was replaced by Neilson and McLaughlin moved into the centre. I say 'moved'; he was nearly always there anyway. Let's see action: we almost did. Neilson started to dribble Neilsonly, always infield, but things were slightly stirring. A Town corner! The crowd roused, this is our time, the moment. In it came, off they flew. Our corner, cleared off our line.

Andy Cook. I have not mentioned him yet. There was no need. He didn't exist; like Mr Craig Disley, he was Campbellesque in his invisibility. And here's proof that he's a pudding. In exactly the same position, the same scenario as when Bird scored in the first half, Cook turned his back and ambled offside. And on came Tounkara, diving for dear life.

The ball slowly arced and apologised vaguely goalwards. John-Lewis had accidentally scored. I am still laughing now

And on came Thanu (sic) as McLaughlin hobbled away from a crunch. How we wished he would g-nash his teeth at you. Oh, yes, we started to g-nash and mash a few passes together. Thanoj put his foot on the ball and passed accurately to his team-mates. Neilson and Tounkara moved. You could taste the difference. John-Lewis sliced mildly, wildly wide. Wahey! The Shop had our shot. And another, on target too, John-Lewis pffting straight and slow to the ball boy in goal.

We'll just ignore all those Cambridge breaks, shall we, when they had several against less. Berry's low slap drifted wide. Berry's low slap was parried aside. Moments, just a box of chocolates a day late.

Neilson started to dribble and nibble at their nerves, swinging his pants to the bye-line. Tounkara started to wibble and wobble down the centre, Rodman dribbled past four but ran into a fifth. There were four minutes of added time.

What's the left foot for? Neilson and Hatton wouldn't shoot when near on the left. Rodman crossed into the crowd and the dam nearly broke. Seats tipped up and a flow of grumbling, rumbling disgruntlement began seeping down the steps. Thanoj piddled about, waiting for someone to move. He flicked, no-one moved, the ball ran out of play. The Albanian ambler sank to his knees, held his head, and pleaded with the referee that the ball had kissed an amber shirt as everyone else started to wander back upfield.

The referee stared at the crowd, saw two thousand sad eyes and pointed towards the corner flag. Suddenly the sad eyes were roaring throats. Hatton chipped and The Shopping Trolley rose at the near post, a dozen yards out. The ball slowly arced and apologised vaguely goalwards. The man on the post stood aside. The ball boy stuttered and waved as the ball sniggered in. John-Lewis had accidentally scored.

I am still laughing now.

An absolute hoot. Town lost, but it felt like a victory. Town were an awful mess, utterly pathetic, with no redeeming features, save the substitutes. This was the worst non-performance since the September slapping in Halifax.

Was it worth it? We'll find out the result of Town's shoplifting expedition next week.