The White Feather Club: Rochdale (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

1 January 2007

Ooh Fenty where's yer trooosers.

Grimsby Town 0 Rochdale 4

Grit your teeth and just let's get through this without committing too many ritual murders on Cleethorpes beach.

A gritty breeze blew down the pitch into the faces of around 150 cowboys in the Osmond stand. The rest of us sat snugly and silently inside our big coats: another year over, a new one just begun. Meet the new coat, same as the old coat; we'll wait for the players to do something before we get excited, we won't be fooled again with pan-flashing winning and scoring goals.

A mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up Town lined up in the usual 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, McDermott, Fenton, Newey, Boshell, Till, Pulis, Harkins, Hegggarty, Rankin, Paterson. The substitutes were Murray, North, Bolland, Roland Rattyhill and Betty Boo Michael Reddy. Oh dear, no Justin Whittle. He really shouldn't have eaten Alan's psychedelic breakfast this morning. So tonight, Matthew, Danny Boshell will not be Tom Newey: it's left-back today for our right-footed reserve central midfielder. You can guess where everyone else was. And when you have an answer send them into Radio Humberside - you may win a prize.

Four Town fans wandered along the Lower Frozen Beer Stand dressed as Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I hope they will enjoy the show.

Rochdale played in blue and had some men who were taller than Town players and some who weren't. Simon Ramsden had shaved all his hair off. When you're tired of mullets you're tired of life.

When you're tired of rambling introductions you'd better start the game.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond stand and were superb for seven minutes. Till and Paterson flicked a kick and Stanton didn't know. Till was away, crossing dangerously into the centre. Walloped clear. Town returned, with Rankin chesting and turning in the centre circle, before dinking a pass down the centre for Paterson to chase. And chase he did, behind the defence on the centre-right. Gilks raced out and Paterson lobbed the ball over and across the hopping keeper. The ball dropped a dozen yards out, on the left, with Hegggarty haring in and heading softly straight at the retreating Gilks.

Like at Stockport, Town were dominant and oozing control with lovely, lovely passing, purring up and across the pitch, with ne'er a blue man in sight. Olé! Till teasing. Olé! Paterson pleasing with a jink and jive in from the right and a flabbling shot which Gilks fingertipped over the bar. Heggarty haggling, Boshell boshing and Pulis pulled down way out on the left. Newey knocked the free kick to the far post and Fenton nodded the ball down. Harkins slalomed through two blue gates and hooked a shot into the ground and straight at Gilks. Seven minutes, three shots; no Dale doodlings at all. Easy this, isn't it. No wonder they let in seven against Lincoln.

And then it all changed.

Newey supposedly fouled Dagnall on their left and the cheeky chappies took the free kick quickly, five yards further forward than the offence. Town were having a little lie-in and the Dalers were off, free inside the area on the bye-line. The cross was cut back low to two onrushing, unmarked midfielders. There was a higgle and a piggle and Newey blocked Jones, then Rundle thrapped a shot straight at Barnes, who parried the ball aside. A corner not cleared, falling, appalling doziness and Dagnall sniggled a low drive through Fenton's legs and three yards wide.

The Dalers roamed freely, trampling upon the locals. Town were unable to clear, to control the ball, to do anything but sit back and wait for the next wave of attacks. Tish and pish, Pulis blocked a pass and the referee gave a free kick for handball. Thirty yards out on their right, the free kick was simply lofted towards the back post. Heads headed, knees knocked and the ball arced slowly into a large space a dozen or so yards out on the centre-left of the Town penalty area. Ramsden, with his back to goal, leapt and twisted and hooked a hoiking loft slowly over and across Barnes into the very top right-hand corner of the goal.

They spent the next five minutes fouling Town players in the middle of the pitch, before anyone could get anywhere near goal. Rankin brilliantly rubed Ramsden, who hauled him to the turf, and McArdle mugged Paterson after a super spin.

The Dalers succeeded in dampening the silence. Can you have a minus volume?

Ah, a Town corner. Aargh, Fenton steered a free header way, way over from six yards. You can get back to your podcast of French students performing Atom Heart Mother. What was all that dancing in sacks about, eh? I'm referring to the podcast, not Town's midfield. Or am I? Pulis was lethargic and uncomfortable with Gary Napkin, the strolling drone, leaving Town bereft of manhood in midfield. Till and Hegggarty fluttered on the flanks, but butterflies die in winter weather, and it is still the winter of our discontent.

Town attacked occasionally, with smatterings of triangular football. Hegggarty almost, Rankin nearly, Paterson clearly blocked and Hegggarty's shot diverted by the last Daler's boot. Fenton nodded the corner wide, and Paterson volleyed the next against a big Lanci-bottom.

Here they come again: crossing, Town failing, Murray spurtling a shot straight at Barnes. Rundle rounded the ailing, failing Macca and bumped a low drive across Barnes, who parried away through the centre of the area. Where's the will? Where's the way? A-ha, Paterson, the little wind-up puppy, yapping and snapping and smootering a shot from the right corner of their penalty area, which Gilks fingertipped over the bar. Pulis hit a left-footed volley between the scoreboard and the roof of the Osmond. Sigh: boring.

There were two minutes of added time during which Rochdale got a free kick on their right, near the halfway line. Again Town dozed as the Dalers chipped the ball down the pitch into a vacant penalty area. After much haggling about the price of a gourd, Newey blasted the ball out for a corner. Or it may have been Fenton. Details, who needs them. Let's look at the big picture. It's very ugly.

While shepherds watched their flocks by night Rochdale took a quick corner, tapping to the unmarked Doolan on the corner of the penalty area. With all the time in the world he caressed a droopy dipper to the far post where the unmarked Murray, a couple of yards out, headed comfortably into the net. Please don't wake Town, no don't shake Town, leave them where they are, they're only sleeping.

Last kick of the half and another kick in the... oh look, there's a plastic bag, how interesting.

Well, we ain't getting away with it now, are we. Let's see how these little lambs cope with the flying teacups, an a cappella group from the 1980s. I reckon Watkiss does the doo-wop bass parts.

Second half
Town replaced Heggggarty with North and Pulis with Bolland. This was an attempt to make us better. Let's get out the goggles and Bunsen burners and see if this theory holds water.

Rochdale kicked off towards the Osmond stand and Town were superb for seven minutes. Paterson roaming and rolling, searing with pace but unwilling or unable to pass to teammates. All frills and spills, and action Jackson, but what have we got at the end of his milk round? Just a couple of corners and the old false hope. Macca, Till and Paterson beautifully crafting a wicker chair on the right, but the cross was blocked. A corner lofted, Fenton noddling wide.

Has North touched the ball yet?

Paterson, on the halfway line, wiggled west, sending his marker towards the team bus without his shorts. On and on, burning his markers into cinders, the crowd rising, the goal enticing and Paterson, from about a dozen yards out, tried to curl the ball with the outside of his boot around Gilks towards the near post. Out came a big hand as the keeper flew horizontally to tap the ball away for a corner. Fenton headed the corner wide from about six yards out.

That's it, go home now. Please, I beg you, don't stay and witness this callous execution of the frail and frivolous. Have a game of Ker-Plunk, or rearrange your toolset. Anything... anything... anything... please... please... turn back now.

Dagnall missed a sitter, unmarked two yards out at the far post, heading wide; Murray turned and schlepped a swerver across Barnes and a yard wide. Another shot maybe, and another. Danger here, danger there, danger everywhere as Town's cheesy midfield melted into the grill pan. Bolland injured himself with a last-ditch tackle after Newey's dreadful back-pass and Rochdale took a day trip through the Town defence. Harkins, I can hardly express my mixed emotions at your uselessness. He'd be a virtuoso playmaker in a veterans' charity team. It's a waste of a shirt.

Has North touched the ball yet?

What else do you want to know? Reddy came on for Rankin after 65 minutes; the few boos were drowned out by ostentatious cheers. At least there's a bit of fight left in the crowd, if not on the pitch (Paterson excepted). Around this time Paterson was cuddled free down the centre. He shrugged off a shirt-pull and bounded after the ball, falling over a blue sock and claiming a penalty. None given.

The rest of this report has been passed by the BBFC with an 18 certificate: contains scenes of torture and extreme suffering.

Throw-ins, boring throw-ins trudging up and down the Town left. Level-ish with the penalty area, the ball was dropped to a little lad, who spun to the bye-line and his cross looped off a Town toe towards the near post. Murray stepped in front of whichever Town defender happened, by indolence or error, to be closest and flicked the ball back across the six-yard line. Two blue shirts and just old Macca: what hope? Rundle walked around, wrote a few thankyou letters to his relatives and placed the ball into a barely defended net. There was some movement in grey, which suggests Phil Barnes was nearby. Only a suggestion, mind.

Town had sung out of tune once too often: the four Beatles of the apocalypse stood up and walked out at 3-0.

Shots and corners a-go-go with Town merely statues watching the blue blurs go hither and thither at will. Another corner, on their left, was curled low to the near post. Everyone stopped as the ball went out for a goal kick. Err, why has Ramsden tapped the ball into the emptiest of empty nets? Because we're a cheap Christmas cracker joke.

You could say the Pontoon was delighted.

Someone ran out of the Lower Frozen Beer Stand and performed a little extract from Swan Lake, just for the happy holidayers from Rochdale. After his climactic death scene he ran back to his seat to collect his flowers. Darling, you were wonderful.

Rest of the game? Pitiful, pathetic, and pusillanimous, though maybe not in that order. Town did not exist. Rochdale did as they pleased and should have scored a bundle more. Miss after miss, slice after slice, perhaps even a tackle or two in their too. It all melds into one faraway blur of blue men moving and shooting. Perhaps Barnes made a save, maybe Newey a tackle. Paterson kept on running and there were vague memories of occasional visits by Reddy. I'm sure we had a shot, and Reddy a run and cross. Or maybe that was in a parallel universe where most of the Town fans are hiding. All these memories lose their meaning when Town are holding on at 0-4 at home to Rochdale.

And to cap it all Rochdale brought on a little leprechaun for ten minutes. He did an Oirish jig and cast a few spells upon the befuddled fiddlers in monochrome.

Did I say Town were pathetic? No, I'm being kind. Half the team visibly gave up halfway through the second half. Rochdalers ran and Town players sometimes moved alongside, never tackling, never challenging and in neverneverneverneverland if they think they can call themselves professionals. Rochdale could have scored ten.

Town were magnificent for the first seven minutes of both halves.

I can't be bothered to detail every mishap, every Rochdale chance. Why should I bother when the Town players didn't? A rotting tooth was extracted and the new-old dentist put in some temporary fillings. It worked for a month, but that appointment for root canal work just cannot come soon enough. He should do it without using anaesthetic.

I have just one question to the Town players: how do you sleep?

Do we need anybody? We just need some players to love.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
The Plastic Bag of Hope billowing over the Osmond stand just beats the Chip Wrapper of Despair scraping among the empty seats in the upper Frozen Beer Thing Stand for the metaphor of the day award. Some great passing and movement from Polythene Pam.

Markie's un-man of the match
The jury has reached a majority verdict after 24 hours locked in a broom cupboard. Mr Gary Harkins is guilty of being junk in charge of a Town shirt. With him in the centre we're a soufflé.

Official Warning
Mr J Singh could have given Town a penalty at 2-1, missed a couple of handballs and was erratically picky over where throw-ins should be taken. Apart from that he was perfectly fine. Any score below 6.978 would be simply displaced, and misplaced, anger.

The Others
They had a simple plan and stuck to what they can. They hit the ball into the corners and chased it, or broke down the centre with a midfielder running past the forwards. Organised and energetic, committed and competent, they were all the things Town weren't. Their Gary Jones sat in the middle of the park and collected every rebound, clearance and misplaced pass. The world revolved around the wrong Jones.

They look like a team that will win or lose 4-0.

Has North touched the ball yet?