A careless trifle: Stockport (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

23 September 2006

The ground is a museum, where people come to see 'em, they really are a screa-am: Rodger's football team.

Grimsby Town 0 Stockport County 1

Around 150 to 200 mad Hatters joined the dribbles and drabbles of the Town support in an afternoon of song, laughter and jokes old and new. The traditional vow of silence descended upon Blundell Park as four minutes to three ticked ever closer. They really should fix that clock.

After a visit to Woolies' pick 'n' mix department, Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Croft, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Bore, Bolland, Rrrrrrrrrrrricky Rrrrravenhill, Boshell, Jones, Taylor. The substitutes were McDermott, Murray, Toner, Beagrie and Lawson. These were the boys to entertain you: the Beverley sisters strung across midfield and topping the bill we have Sid and Eddie up front. Lump and the Lad; Man and Boy; Benny and the Jet; Big Man, Little Man: choose your own dismissive soubriquet for the latest pair of knickers and knockers.

Town abandoned the lucky black socks and reverted to those silly white things. SatÂ… what was I going to say? Saturday, Saturday, Saturday, Saturn, satisfaction guaranteed, sat on the cat was a man with a hat? No, no idea.

Ah yes, John, what about the orange keeper?

First half
One of the teams kicked off - now there's a way to spoil the day.

County kicked towards the Pontoon and Town just kicked anywhere really. Within a minute Newey had turned the silent apathy into growling lethargy when a long punt rolled slowly, slowly towards the corner flag. He let it run and run and stop, while Poole just let Newey mess it up, hooking the ball back and causing mayhem and mockery inside the Town penalty area. Newey missed a tackle, more madness in the Main Stand.

Stockport fizzed around outside the Town area, like a slow fuse. The hiss was heard, the anticipation of some kind of exciting explosion, but then a damp squib as it all fizzled out into nothing. Le Fondre has a big nose, but that did not stop him fiddling between the Town feet as County were encamped five yards outside the Town penalty area.

Has anyone seen Ravenland and Bohill, or is it Bovenhill and Rayband? Stockport had a big shaven-headed bloke standing in the middle of the pitch, and he was a black hole from which nothing escaped. Everything spun around him and was sucked into his shorts. Fenton headed clear, straight to Taylor; Barnes drop-kicked, straight to Taylor; Stockport cleared, straight to Taylor. That's their Taylor, not ours. Andy Pandy Taylor ran around in large circles, buffeted by the light breeze wending its way through the rafters, searching in never-ending pursuit of a Lump flick. Town were just hopeless. Whacking long and high, mainly towards tiny Taylor. Shuddersome.

After about ten minutes Town made three passes - count them: one-two-three - in quick succession. Croft to Bore to Bolland and Boshell swiped a first-time shot exceedingly wide from 20 yards. Heh, passing. Like hot butter through a knife. Eh?

Back County came with something approaching pressure. A corner, flung long from their right, dropped at the far post and was noodled a little away from goal by Croft. Bore, facing his own goal, lifted the ball over a Stockport foot and back towards Croft. Men tangled briefly without exchanging eye contact and the Pontoon half cried for a free kick for handball. Croft loobled the ball out of the area and life continued without fuss for three seconds.

Then we noticed the little man in yellow pointing towards the penalty spot. Then the Stockport players noticed and smiled in embarrassment. I think you could describe the Town players' reaction as incredulous at the incredible decision. Newey exchanged with the referee words of many syllables but a single meaning, and was booked. Robinson stepped forward; Barnes hopped around behind the goal line and we prepared to bemoan the referee. The penalty was slammed to Barnes' right and he flew majestically to that side and magnificently parried the ball aside. There then followed 90 seconds of slam-dunking slices and dices with danger as County peppered the Town corn, all ending when Barnes casually leant on the bar and plucked a cross from the beautiful clear blue sky.

Bore bored in from the wing past two defenders and passed too far in front of Taylor. Hold on to that precious moment for about 20 minutes.

The penalty miss galvanised no-one but the referee, who was watching the game through a looking glass. He was beginning to ruin a bad game with arbitrary decisions which verged on the perverse and perverse decisions which moved beyond arbitrary.

Still Stockport dictated the tempo, with Town just plain rotten. A cross from their left curled into the centre of the area and Le Fondre flicked a glancing header a foot or so wide of the right post. Murray hinted at movement, for he was too good to hurry, and Town shivered and shook as the ball was manoeuvred across the face of the penalty area. Briggs' shot was blocked by the diving Whittle, the ball squirtling away and back to their Taylor. Repeat ad finitum. Stockport's clock was tick-tocking on time.

They probably had a shot about this time. Probably.

Oh yes, they did: just before the half hour Le Fondre fluttered about like a butterfly, stumbled and curdled a low shot draggingly wide. A minute or so later a long, high ball zoomed towards Whittle, who was barged aside. The ball dropped, bounced and Le Fondle raced on behind the defence, about 25 yards out on their centre-right. From the edge of the area he squished a rubbish shot dreadfully wide, or maybe disturbingly high. So what.

You can let go of that precious Town moment now and hold on to this one for another 20 minutes: Town passed it again, almost along the ground, from right to left. About 30 yards out Boshell swivelled and hit a first-time hooking pass into the area, straight to Jones's feet. Andy Pandy looby-looed around ginormous Jones and twinkled onto the ball, stepping inside his marker and tickling a little pass to the unmarked Jones, a dozen yards out. Jones the Lump steadied himself andÂ… his shot was blocked away by a big blue boot. Ah - shame, that. Boshell retrieved possession and kept up the pressure with yet another pass to a team-mate. Then another. Would you say this was egregious?

And from now on it's back to normal: Stockport waving as Town slowly drowned in front of the Pontoon. Crosses started to curl and clearances started to swirl up and back and out for corners. The tourniquet tightened, Grimsby gurgling and gasping, Stockport sprightly and smashing their way through this house made of straw. They huffed as Le Fondue swerved a shot over; they puffed as Fenton felled their Taylor 25 yards out, and Briggs blew Town's house down with eight minutes left to half time.

It started with a kiss as a long drop-kick smacked off Fenton's forehead towards Jones. Taylor, 35 yards out in the centre, intercepted and started to trudge forward. The black and white stream parted and he continued. Fenton indulged in some wrestlemania and a free kick was awarded. A wall was constructed out of sand and dead starfish, and Robinson lamped a low shot through that nebulous mound. Croft stretched and clattered the ball away, towards a stray Stockporter, about 30 yards out. Briggs set himself perfectly and smackerooned an unstoppable bazooka into the top left corner as Barnes grasped towards the gunshot. Briggs turned and sprinted towards the Osmond stand, pursued by Hill's Angels. Forgive us, Cheshire cats, if we do not share your laughter.

Good grief, they nearly did it again. Poole sizzled a shrieker through a thicket of players and a few inches wide of the left post.

Carry on Stockport, we've got Hattie Jacques up front with Charles Hawtrey. Le-rather-too-Fond-of-himself squirmed past a few letters of introduction from Town defenders to do another screwy shot wide, or high. Then their Taylor had a long shot, then someone else had one. Then they passed it among themselves before steering a volley over the bar from the edge of the area. Then they had a cross, a corner, a free kick, a consonant, consonant, vowel, consonant please, Carol. Di-du, di-du, diddle-di-du. It's half time, can we have your word now?


There, that feels better, doesn't it.

Here's what you need to know: the half-time game between the eight-year-olds was really good. They even had a bizarre freakoid own goal of Poutonesque crackability. And Isaiah Rankin wore a shirt with superwide collar.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

The team that didn't kick off in the first half started the second half, facing the opposite way from the first half. I believe this conforms with the Laws of Association Football, or possibly the rules of the game. Either way there was no chance the game would be voided by technical error.

Town started the second half like they have in every game so far this season: the other team nearly scored. After a couple of minutes of vague meanderings within the old graveyard, the boys in blue tipped and tapped their way through the midfield and down the Town left. Newey was nowhere, Le Fondle-with-care was somewhere and, after doing a little bossanova past a couple of musical statues, he coiled a nice lifter just over the angle of post and bar.

Oh look! Town! After a five-minute snoozathon where the referee desisted from madness for seconds on end, Town had an attack! The ball was bumped high down the left and Taylor managed to hold off one of the nasty big men who'd been following him all afternoon. He twisted around and waited for support and up trotted Boshell, who drifted infield, waited for a challenge and carefully swept the ball across the pitch to Bolland (or was it Ravenhill?), all of three yards away. Ravenhill (or was it Bolland?) looked up and saw plenty of pasta to feast upon inside the area. Jones was free, near the penalty spot, with Bore unmarked behind. Bollenhill scooped a dinker onto Jones' chest. After writing out his shopping list, the former superhero Ginormous Jones chested the ball down and laid it aside to the onrushing Taylor. Taylor swished his boot; the ball travelled a foot then one of those nasty adults got in the way. Shame Jones failed to see Bore behind him. Town still pressed, with Bore droogling down the right, tapping the ball infield and Croft smurfing a low shot straight at Ruddy.

And still Town pressed; Bore again, twisting, za-zooming in the opposite direction to a defender with one of his turbo-turns, stepping over and threadneedlling through a non-existent gap before dragging a low cross towards the near post. Everyone, especially Ravenhill, stood still and watched the ball trudge across the six-yard box from the near post through the centre and beyond before a Stockporter finally thwacked clear. Back Town came with Newey smattering a shot from about 25 yards out which safely cleared the bar and the first nine rows of the Pontoon.

They had a shot, from Malcolm in the middle. Barnes didn't have to touch it, nor even consider moving.

On the hour Bore hit the nitro-booster and glided away on a breakaway, deep into the County half. Le Fondue pursued and legged up our young pretender, earning a booking. Croft launched the ball deep into the area at the far post as the whole of the Stockport defence ran out. Fenton remained, unmarked, with the ball dropping and the Pontoon waiting. Fenton fell like a ancient fir tree, the ball glancing off his head and a yard wide as the rubicund keeper quacked and quaked in a deep pit of his own despair.

At this Boshell was replaced by Beagrie. Boshell had hardly touched the ball, but then no-one had seen fit to pass it near him. When he did get it he was perfectly fine, passing to fellow employees of Grimsby Town; in context that was unusual. Murmurs and mumbles about Ravenhill resounded around the ground: some had to be reminded he was playing; that 'some' would include Rrrricky himself.

Spend the next seven minutes contemplating your drains. Now you now how we felt. The only entertainment on offer was Mighty Mariner wiggling his foam-filled bottom while stealing Ruddy's water bottle.

Time to stop play, just for today. Andy is waving goodbye... goodbye... goodbye. On came Lawson for tireless Taylor after 67 minutes. Unfortunately someone seems to have bilked us, for it looks like we've just re-signed Jonny Rowan. Lawson was not appreciative of high balls or low balls. Or passes. He didn't mind running down the wing chasing a punt with a final defender a la Michael O'Reddy (for young listeners, he used to play for Town when we played in a football kit). Lawson did one thing, and one thing only, on the left: holding off a centre-back and lifting a vaguely interesting cross into the middle of the penalty area. There's no point in even mentioning him again.

Stockport were clearly starting to get cocky, for they even brought on the pantomime dame, Adam Proudlock, just so we could poke him with a comedic stick. They even let him play on their right, facing Tom Newey, and still he was useless. His only contribution to road safety was a shot from the edge of the area, when one-on-one with Tom: he managed to hit the clock with a glancing blow.

The game was nuzzling itself headfirst into a water bucket. Shapeless and shifty, tongue-tied and twisted, Town were terrible. The midfield was absent, the defence hesitant, the attack held together with string and cocktail sticks. Briggs had another shot straight at Barnes, then another, wide and wider still. Perhaps they had another, or was it a cross which Barnes flap-punched? We were beyond caring, merely awaiting the end.

Croft was upended on the touchline, right next to the managers' dug-out. The referee allowed advantage and, when none accrued, finally gave the free kick... to Stockport. Ravenhill emerged from his cocoon to fly away into the sky, his plumage dazzling, his feet spazzling up Taylor's backside. Only a booking when a red card was expected.

Beagrie clattered into tackles, twisted and passed occasionally, but he was a sideshow, as was Bore. Town never had the ball. Two tough-tackling terriers in midfield and Town never had the ball. An indictment: the jury can retire now for its verdict.

Wahey! Ten minutes left and hello Mr Bolland. He smuggled a shot straight at Ruddy from 20 yards. Wahey! Five minutes left and hello Mr Jones. He flicked a grazing header a foot or so wide from a free kick. They are alive then. Quick, quick - roll that mist out: "C'mon you sea fret. C'mon you sea fret." The mist descended with the top of the floodlights barely visible; with any luck we'd be fogged off, rather than fobbed off with excuses.

A Stockport player had a free header; I shall claim it was Murray, who glanced it just wide from somewhere deep inside the Town area. I'd given up caring by then: it was long since obvious that Town would never score. Losing by one, losing by two... what's the difference, it's still losing.

There were five minutes of added time, after the referee had indulged Stockport at every injury, letting them stay on the pitch to have their nappies changed. After a couple Town were applying some kind of pressure towards goal and a clip forward ballooned off a Stockport defender, flying high towards the bye-line. Ruddy raced out and the ball bounced over him, over the line for a corner. The linesman flagged for a goal kick, which at least woke up the crowd. There's nothing like daft officiating to stir the loins of the loyal Mariners. Nothing much happened from the corner, but at least we had the chance to shout at somebody who is not a Town player for being rubbish.

In the last minute Ravenhill wasted an opportunity after being set up to shoot. He delayed, shuffled right, further right and chipped the ball wearily, lazily and wastefully way over the bar as many waited, but few hoped. That's the end of the day's absolution.

Town never had the ball, that's all. The defenders cleared hurriedly and the midfield failed to stand in the right places or tackle firmly enough to win the ball back. Whenever possession was obtained the ball was launched quickly and high to an immovable object and a feather. Only Boshell passed it, and he was taken off. If Lawson is the new Rowan then Ravenhill did a fantastic impression of Stuart Campbell. For all their flimsiness Barnes only had a couple of saves to make.

Town are up to their old tricks again, playing to the level of the opposition. Let's hope there are some decent teams in this division, or else we'll be visiting another galaxy soon.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
Several were verging towards not awful. Taylor really, really tried very hard. Fenton and Whittle had some wibbles but mainly kept the strikers outside the area: most of the chances were long shots. Bore had come with Boshell and got in as a kid for a quid. Barnes did a great penalty save, but had so little else to do that he was hardly there. For entertainment and some silky skills in getting a bottle through a net while an Orangeman was not looking, it has to be Mighty Mariner. Never missed an opportunity to hit his target.

Official Warning
Mr R Lee was plain idiotic. Quite capable of giving any decision at any time anyway whatsoever. It was quite a surprise when he got something right. If he'd been consistent Town would have had a dozen free kicks for handball and a couple of penalties for technical offences. He applied a contrarian logic to events, infuriating and amazing all present. A score of 4.032 seems high, but that's only because he added on the correct amount of time to each half. Hmmm, but that meant he prolonged our mental torture. So even when he was right he was being deliberately cruel to us.

The Others
Stockport ran around a lot. They had a sense of where their team-mates might be. They had a plan and they stuck to it. They barely got inside the Town area and looked extremely rickety whenever Town passed the ball along the ground. On the day they completely dominated despite very limited horizons. If Town lacked gumption, Stockport lacked ambition: they could have embarrassed us. They had what we lacked: a team and a plan.