The handbag of history

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

24 February 2014

Grimsby Town 1 Cambridge United 1

A blandly bright day of sun and breeze in the open prison for repeat offenders, with around 400 academics on a field trip oop that north.

Ooh look, the non-chairman of the board has blown the clubcard vouchers on the biggest telly in Tesco. Welcome to a digital future where every second counts… three seconds. Hardware error! The montage of McMenemy's lunching, munching and food moodery frozen on an empty table. It's a sign, it's a metaphor, it's a new scoreboard. Looks good, doesn't work properly. Indeed madam, it is a metal Mariners metaphor. The Metaphorical Office hasn't got it wrong yet this winter – too much hot air causing a persistent drizzle of disappointment.

As the concrete and clay crumbled beneath the season, Town lined up in a unique 4+4+2 formation as follows: McKeown, Bignot, McDonald, Pearson, Fyfield, Rodman, Kerr, Disley, Neilson, John-Lewis and Hannah. The five auxiliary fish filleters were Hatton, Thanoj, Colbeck, Cook and that newly acquired Tonka toy.

Can you feel the handbag of history on your shoulder? Town could be at Wembley! Again. It's getting tiresome isn't it, we're bored of Wembley, all that fuss and expense. Wembley is like taxes: for the little people, like Scunny or 'Ull.

Kingsley Black walked on by. Let's hide the tears and sadness that this conveyor belt of Mariners' memories brings. Just don't ever think of inviting Tommy Widdrington, for if you do I predict a riot.

Shall we get on with it or shall we continue this dance around the handbags of history?

First half: Whatever happened to our likely lads?

The game started and Town were believed to be kicking towards the Osmond, but seen to be kicking straight to Cambridge. Remember, what's important is what you believe, not what science tells you. An Amberite chipped slowly, Pearson dillied, McKeown dallied and comedy chaos nearly ensued. Twenty seconds in and Town were all of a floppy ploppyness. Mmm, time's really dragging already. Was it only twenty seconds?

A corner, drifting calmly through the Town penalty area without a care in the world. Monochromers watched without interest as Champion sauntered and slashed into the side netting. Ah, Craig Disley, there you are, emerging from a mole hole.

Every second counts, every second counts three in the wacky world of digital TV. The scoreboard's counting clock was running at 33 1/3 rpm. At least it gave us something fascinating to watch.

A corner drifting calmly through the Town six-yard box without a care in the world. Berry sauntered to the far post and shinned inches wide. Ah, Diggory Diggory Disley! A little old man in black and white misery. He digs and he delves, you can see for yourselves the mounds dug by Craig Disley.

Do you remember the first time? I can't remember a worse time. But you know that Town've changed so much since then, oh yeah. After five or 15 minutes (depending on which time dimension you were in, Grimsby or Cambridge) midfield mundanity was transformed by Mariners' mendacity. Pugh twisted a reverse pass between Bignot and McDonald. Pearson watched as Bird rolled and lolled and strolled and lofted over the helicopter hands of McKeown.

And what had Town done by this point? Someone nearly crossed it once. Watch out lads, all those jeers will put hairs on your chest.

Somehow Town managed to get even worse. The midfield was the Blundell Park Triangle. You're lucky you didn't see it from my angle. Hannah was such an obscure object of desire that he wasn't even offside, ever. Town were a concertina stumbling down the stairs, wheezing discordantly, in danger of being stamped on, snapped into tindersticks and tossed upon the nearest open fire. Add in Fyfield's powder-puffed passes and over-hit crosses, and wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, these are a few of my least favourite things.

Under the Frozen Horsemeat Stand the ball bounced. McDonald, all 6 foot 27 of 'im, missed and messed, reaching up to flip-flap away. Clayton, dear boy, I know the pitch is a bit sandy but we're playing football today, not beach volleyball.

Not half an hour gone and Town should be four down. And deserved to be four down. At least all the world can't see you're laughing at Grimsby

Clayton, dear boy, I know you've booked a table at the Bombay Brasserie, but we're playing football today, not kabaddi. McDonald lay down with the lamb, missing and messing a simple tackle inside the penalty area. Taylor eloped to the bye-line, passed lowly to the penalty spot where the remarkably unmarked Berry carefully walloped against the crossbar and into the crowd of disbelievers beyond.

Not half an hour gone and Town should be four down. And deserved to be four down. At least all the world can't see you're laughing at Grimsby. Again and again, and again and again and again.

Well you don't say, Stan. Yes I do, Ollie, I surely do, hurr-hummm. Not only did Town kick the ball into the Cambridge half but two Townites touched it. Neilson must have been involved somewhere along the touchline (though cutting into his right foot) as Town were, in all real terms, Scott Neilson vs the world. Rodman kicked goalwards. The ball went straight at the keeper's head, very nicely. That's it. Go away. Come back in about 15 minutes.

Pratting about by Pearson under the Police Box, Hughes wellied sillily when overburdened with options. Cambridge couldn't believe their luck. They were playing against a skip full of old kettles and ironing boards, but without the mobility and nobility.

There's a big boom coming here in five minutes, let's get ready to go... huh? McKeown punted a free kick deep, deep into the Cambridge penalty area. Bodies moved slightly, the ball dropped to the last man, way beyond the post, a dozen or so yards out. Neilson took a touch with his chest and carefully volleyed low, across, through and under the squirming ball boy and into the bottom left corner. Surprise, surprise, it's the greatest feeling, nobody denies. It's laughter, love and joy in disguise! Yes, we were as surprised as you, Dickie Dosh and the Disco Divas.

And all of a sudden Cambridge became wooden, Town surged and the Fenland Funsters drained way. Hannah coiled a free kick a yard wide. John-Lewis chesty swivel volleyed spectacularly over the keeper, over the bar, over the hallelujah hands and over the roofs and houses. And the half was over.

Town were despicably appalling unto the accidental goal. They needed to start with a bang, but didn't even start with a whimper. Fyfield disintegrated before our very eyes. McDonald played like the rejected rear end of a pantomime horse. There was absolutely no midfield, no organisation, no discipline and above all no obvious will to win or general interest in the game. You couldn't see the point of Town being on the pitch. Physically and mentally weak.

Second half: Porridge

Neither team made any changes at half time.

A-ha, this is more like it. Town players running, Town players tackling, Neilson a little pocket dynamo, harrying and hassling, twisting, turning and folding their right back like a tea towel. Get the old ironing board out of the skip, there's some hot crease action coming your way.

Marvel at the marvellousness of the lord of the dance. Neilson rhumbaed and rumbled. Rodman feebled a header. Diggory Disley exploded into occasional omnipotence. I recall the thrill of it all, as I remember you as you were, at last. Cambrdge no longer had time and space to butter their parsnips.

Neilson, Neilson, Neilson. And don't forget Neilson.

This was so much better. 'Better' is a relative term, remember. They can now be seen to be trying, which is at least something. Let's just say there was a series of crosses. What do crosses do? They hang. That's too simplistic, you say? You want a second opinion? What do crosses do? They hit the Pontoon.

Passing and movement. Remember that? Remember the York way, the Buckley way, not the way of the clog. One beautiful moment. One-touch passing and flicks starting with McKeown, triangulating down the centre through Disley and Kerr. A brilliant, evocative, marvellous passage of passing, manipulating and moulding, caressing Cambridge's flanks and ending with a dreary, lazy loopy cross that plopped easily into the keeper's hands.

Cambridge pinned to the rafters, forming a circle around their ball boy. An outer layer of snipers and sandbaggers, like a well-drilled, well-planned defensive siege. All angles covered, all hands to the pumps, all aboard the Skylark! John-Lewis, suddenly awoke, began to fight, the ball remaining near occasionally. He burned the sandy turf under the Frozen Horsemeat Stand, leaving Miller flustered and floundering. The Shop hit the bye-line and fizzed a low cross to the near post Hannah arrived and poked goalwards. The keeper stood still, paralysed, and the ball hit his chest and ballooned away, straight to an Amberite.

We really must take off our only effective player and maybe, possibly, if we are really lucky, win a couple of throw-ins – that's what we needed to get to Wembley

Now, you've probably noticed there is no mention of Amber attacks. Well, my fine fellow, they nearly had an attack after the ref obstructed Kerr when a Town corner was cleared. McKeown punched a free kick, caught a cross and caught a Fyfield slice. And right at the very end Donaldson disturbed the crocuses emerging in a backyard flower tub in Harrington Street. That was all, for all they did was defend. And defend most serenely too. They proved themselves very capable of heading aimless punts and charmless clumps.

Hannah wallowed from way off, McDonald clattered their ball boy, John-Lewis volleyed unto the stars in the night sky. And then came the substitutions: Neilson was replaced by Colbeck, which was exactly what everyone in the ground was saying Town needed. Oh yes, of course they were. It was so obvious, we just couldn't understand why this hadn't been done earlier. Oh no. We really must take off our only effective player and maybe, possibly, if we are really lucky, win a couple of throw-ins – that's what we needed to get to Wembley.

Or maybe it's because he's a Londoner? Neilson just needs longer in the shower to do his hair; that's why he never lasts a full game. Efficient use of showering facilities, minimising the water bills. It'll all have been worked out on Prozone and a spreadsheet.

And on came the Tonka Toy for Hannah. Colbeck almost won a throw-in. Tounkara was very French in his loafing about with a certain je ne sais quoi. What a big booming balls-up. Town abandoned their non-passing game and went straight for route zero. Miller marshalled his acolytes into a little semicircle around Norris as Town relentlessly pumped high hanging non-crosses way beyond any Townite and straight into the waiting, unmolested hands.

After about five minutes of this nonsense McDonald was replaced by Cook and Town moved to a 3-4-3 formation. I say 'moved'; formations were irrelevant by this point. The game was a terribly dull defence versus attack training routine for Miller's minions. McKeown wellied it high; eventually Norris caught it, kicked it back to McKeown, who wellied it back. Repeat, repeat and take that pill now.

And out of all this, what moments of madness can we alchemise into purest golden chances? John-Lewis slapped pathetically wide from the edge of the area, Rodman slapped weakly at the keeper from the edge of the area and, with the last kick, Rodman walloped a couple of yards wide from way out.

It ended, they were happy and Miller made a point of clapping the Town fans in every stand. How are we going to spin this? Easy! It's what 'everyone' says they wanted, to avoid the distraction of the FA Trophy and concentrate on the league. Wembley avoided, we're quids in. It's like a supermarket sale – lose this game and save £££££s! And we can go to Nuneaton to play ball after all, Cinders. This loss is a win-win situation.

Town were terrible. They deserved to lose both games by a lot. It's all so very much like last year, isn't it.