Don't think twice, it's all right: Swindon (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

17 March 2007

Always have gravy with your sausage pie.

Grimsby Town 1 Swindon Town 0

A wicked wind from the west billowed up the noses of a couple of hundred stray Swinders, stuck in the middle of the Osmond stand after their journey to the middle of nowhere. The sunny uplands of mid-table calm were a big wet blanket dunked over the heads of the Town support: we're here, we're happy, we're just going to watch the world go round and round. We've had our month of Sundays.

Is it fashionable to wear a hat? I only have one question for those tempted by cap-chic: have you seen a hairy Maoist this side of 1968? [Shurrup, Butcher. If I do it then it's fashionable by definition - uberstylish ed.]

Town lined up in the 4-5-1 formation as follows: Barnes, McDermott, Whittle, Fenton, Newey, Bore, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Toner and North. The substitutes were Murray, The Lump, Till, Grand and Bloomer. The same as last week then? That's what you think - you're not taking account of the subtle tactical changes in bootage: Dapper Dan had plumped for some white boots. Are the orange ones being auctioned off on the official site already?

Have you seen Michael Reddy, baby, standing in the shadows? He lives in a fancy apartment, off the Boulevard Clive Sullivan; but not for long.

Swindon, ah yes, Swindon: a team full of unpronounceable names, especially for Mr Tannoy. Zaaboub, Noubissie and Jutkiewicz: they're just making them up now, to use up the spare letters in the Letraset shirt machine. Ricky Shakes and Michael Pook. Of course they do, every Saturday night. And what about Whistling Jack Smith? If only someone had the wit to construct an entire team out of one-hit wonders, they'd be more scientific than Nicky Law. You know, you can do it if you really try, even if you don't count Mr Blobby, which no-one should.

Ah, I see on the teamsheet we've replaced Ricky Ravenhill with a foam-filled fool... please complete your own punchline in less then ten words and send your entry to the usual address. Your prize? You get to sing a duet with Stuart Watkiss at the player of the season do.

Especially for you, the game will start.

First half
Your topic for today's duller moments: there are no good comedians called Jimmy. See, there aren't, are there.

Swindon kicked off towards the Pontoon and threw imaginary sand in the face of little Grimsby. Roberts turned and ran goalwards, following a crazy path across the lawn, through the flower beds and towards the old apple tree. He followed the yellow brick road too. But that's where the dogs of society howl.

"Foul throw"

All roads lead to a throw-in within 30 seconds of the kick-off. It's the law.

Roberts and Captain Peacock trundled and rumbled across the crumbling land, stumbling and tumbling whenever a Town player breathed, winning free kicks at will from their ducking and diving. Town were unable to pass the halfway line as North - all alone, naturally - scurried underneath pure, cured Wiltshire hams. Town held firm, with Whittle the impregnable membrane stretched across the edge of the penalty area. Roberts swished left, swayed right and bapped a shot against Whittle's shins, and that was it from them. Possession and crosses, but no chances: not a half, not a quarter, not even one sixteenth. Nothing. They created nothing as their forwards were drowned in a vat of Town. Barnes caught a cross and watched the domestic pigeons swoop between the rafters of the Pontoon.

Finally, in the fourth minute, Town got hold of the ball and started to pass, to pass, to pass, to pass, to pass, to pass, to burst forward and to pass, to pass, to pass. Patience with prodding. Newey played a one-two with Toner and ran on to a dink into the area. Only a big bad boot stopped further excitement. A corner, caught, and normal service was resumed: Roberts kept running for 40 yards and losing possession. It looked worrying, but nothing happened at the end of it: all fur coat and no knickers.

I'll gloss over the time Boshell charged down a shot using the lowest part of his shoulder. Ball-to-not-hand-to-ball, ref! And we'll hail to the chief for deferring to royalty: MBErmott diverted a cross for a corner with an audible click and visible snick, but a goal kick was given. Deadman's dead good today.

Town started to pass, to pass, to pass...

To pass, to pass...

To pass...

To p...

Sorry, did I miss five minutes somewhere? Do we still have the ball? How did we get that corner? Never mind, we did. Toner coiled the corner in from the left and the ball hung high, caught the wind and smacked against the face of the crossbar, dropping to Bolland eight yard out. He swiped; the ball hit a red short and spun away, and another white sock hacked about in the undergrowth. The ball pinged, it ponged, there were no songs to be sung as Roberts ran off with the ball for forty yards and... and... and you know the rest. The game was a constant loop of the same thing - five minutes of huddling and muddling in midfield, where Swindon crossed feebly, then two minutes of Town teasing and pleasing, with a shot blocked inside the area.

Oh look, it's happened again.

It's a game of chess and Town haven't castled yet. Swindon were organised and disciplined, but then so are we, now. Hunt was booked, Bolland was nearly booked and the game carried on and on in the same cycle of wash, spin, dry, wash, spin, dry. Poor little Danny, burning out his fuse up there alone.

After 34 minutes it was time for Buckley's gambit: Boshell was replaced by the Lord of Lump, with Town reverting to the one and only truly original blueprint: 4-4-2. Slowly, slowly, as it would be with old Lumpy, Town forced Swindon closer and closer to their own goal. The imperceptible tide ebbed away from the Pontoon, towards the Osmond. The unwary visitor often gets caught by the tide creeping behind and cutting them off from land.

Within a couple of minutes of Jones the cat's arrival, Straight Peter Bore had woken up, drifting infield and ker-racking a shot goalwards from the edge of the area. A big, red bottom got in the way of the shot, then of the rebound, and then of the rebound of the rebound. Town's Toblerone football was peeling away the layers. Tap it, unwrap it, Swindon's golden segments were being eaten one by one. [That's a Terry's Chocolate Orange, not a Toblerone! - pedantic chocophile ed.] The Robins were rocking slightly. Old Jonesy was making a difference, mobile and manly, they bounced off him as he kept the ball just for fun, for a laugh, a-ha-ha-ha.

Here they come again, like the lift at Grace Brothers: going up, going down, going left, going right. Are you free Mr Bore? Wake up laddie - there's a football match going on. You're in the first team now, not behind the plough. You're a man, not a Myspace Muppet. Hunt and Bolland clamped the middle of the park and Town were in control; that's all you need to know.

This is no time for anyone to mention the Tigers of Pantang. It is, was, and never will be. Oh, it's half time already.

It was a fascinating, if rather sterile, chess match between two wily old coots. Grandmaster Buckley's masterplan was working. Neither keeper needed to make a save, nor even dirty their knees: it was like old times at the old ground. There's a lot to be said for boredom. It builds character. It's the solution to all Britain's ills.

Will the half time shake 'n' vac put the freshness back?

Second half
Both teams made changes at half time. Shakes was replaced by the fantastic Mr Scrabble, Jutkiewicz; and Bore was replaced by Till. As it could only ever be, this was a straight swap, and that's official.

With Town attacking the Pontoon, the crowd bothered to wake up and scientists were able to detect life. And the Pontoon began to detect signs of life in the Town attack. From the off Town rippled forward and North had what can be classed as a shot. He kicked the ball from 20 yards away from the goal and it bumbled along the ground. The goalkeeper picked the ball up. If he hadn't, the ball would have continued along its trajectory and eventually hit the back of the net. Therefore it was a shot on target. Hooray! A first! The game's really hotting up.

Thirty seconds later Swindon weedled upfield with three and a half passes. Jutkiewicz, 30 yards out in the centre, bedraggled a shot four yards wide of Barnes' left post. Barnes, meanwhile, was distracted by the glare from the wind farms out near Spurn Point reflecting off the floodlights and on to the windows of the executive boxes. Or maybe he was completing his half-time suduko. Thus, after 46 minutes Swindon had their first shot. Impressive.

Away with frivolous frippery; the game is afoot. Town roared back, rollicking and roistering on the Swindon right. Toner and Newey tickled each others fancy with one-twos buckling Smith's shoes as Tiny Tom roamed free to the bye-line. He looked up and curled a flat cross in to the near post. The Old Lumpster himself rose unmarked above the hoi-polloi and imperiously flannelled a header high into the Pontoon. Town started to turn the mangle. With Buckley back, the pump does work, no vandal would dare take the handle.

North pestered the life out of the centre-backs, chasing everything and everyone like an eager puppy. He twisted and turned, he earned his corn. Ooh, nearly through - he twizzled past and through two, but overhit the final tingle. Aargh, almost licking Lumpy away down the centre. Town almost, not quite, but very definitely nearly. Behold new Lump-plus with added vitamin C. Confidence and competition do wonders for a footballer.

North was felled under the Frozen Beer Stand. Toner curled the free kick in towards the penalty spot. Jones and Fenton came from the south, Vincent and Smith from the north and east, and the keeper's fist just managed to lift the ball off Town heads. Till started to twinkle a little on the right and Macca started to wander up in support. The tide was up to Swindon's ankles, and they were still sat in their deckchairs listening to Radio 2.

"That ball is going nowhere but out"

Till chased a long punt into the corner 'twixt Pontoon and Main Stand. The keeper came out and flailed his right boot at the back-pass. The ball squirmed high into the sky, dropping dead centre, 25 yards out. Only one man was near: Danny North. The ball spun and dipped and swerved as he adjusted his feet. Smith was careering back towards goal, with his six-yard line approaching. The goal was a-gapingly open, inviting, inciting, enticing young Danny. North swayed in the breeze and wafted his right boot at the ball, connecting somehow, somewhere and slicing it away. When are you gonna come down? When are you going to land?

It is out now - I told you so.

On the hour Swindon decided to visit their friends down Mexico way. After some higgledy-piggledy this and that-ing on their left a cross was lobbled into the near post. One of them was unmarked and he grazed a little glancing, looping header through the six-yard box. It was slightly concerning for a second or so, then normal service was resumed.

Fleet-footed and fancying being free, Till whipped the tablecloth from under Swindon's dinner party. Ta-dah! In one bound a hero was free, r-r-r-racing away as the teacups rattled and the spoons clang-clan-clanged like a trolley. He hugged the wing, he mugged Brown continuously. To the bye-line, a cross dissecting all. Macca hauled himself forward as Till mauled Brown again, with classic Town triangles sending the blue-booted ex-bluenose free. He jinked past his marker, hit the bye-line and crossed low towards the near post, where North slid in and diverted the ball straight at the keeper from six yards.

You could feel Town getting closer and closer.

With just less than 20 minutes left Town started to beat out a rhythm. Swindon, hiding in their little chalets, quaked. Down the left, through the centre, Town prodded the floppy Robin underbelly. The ball was switched to the right and Macca sprinted up beside Till, who played a one-two with the Lump. Then another. Till's cross was blocked, his second one too, and Town started again. Jones waited and Macca hurtled down the wing, right underneath the Police Box. As Brown came forward Macca shook his hips and drifted down the outside. As MBErmott went past, Brown grabbed his shirt and tugged once, tugged twice, and thriceley failed to halt Sir John. The linesman waved his flag and Macca carried on, hit the bye-line and, from the edge of the area, dragged a low cross back.

Everyone stopped.

Deep inside the executive boxes a dry white wine was spilled.

The referee looked at his linesman.

A large container ship drifted by; a flowering quince blossomed in the back of 56 Harrington Street; and someone bought a Mars bar.

The ball carried on rolling into the centre of the penalty area.

A mobile phone beeped, as a text message arrived requesting a score update, and a steward noticed someone loosen their tie in the Main Stand.

Everyone looked at the referee.

Toner, on the penalty spot, twisted and swept a low shot across the keeper into the bottom right corner.

Everyone stopped and looked at the referee.

...A goal! And aren't we happy: it's the least Town deserve for their perseverance and endeavour. You should always endeavour to persevere.

At this Swindon switched from chess to draughts, seeking simply to hop over Town. The red, red whines launched the ball forward without passing go, reeking of desperation. They loved a long throw and seemed to settle upon that as their Big Bertha. But this is a new Town, like the old Town. Solid yeomen, hunkering in the trenches, they will not let the foes pass. Whittle and Fenton headed everything away; Hunt and Bolland scrappled every loose pass, every rebound away from the edge of the area. Barnes, yes, Barnes, came out and caught a cross, then a corner, then a free kick. Whatever next - a save?

With Swindon piling forward Town skipped gaily through the gaps. Oh yes, I forgot - at some stage, just before the goal, their centre-back Vincent had to go off injured, which helped the cause of righteousness no end. And gaps there be, huge mighty chasms of unmanned air and mud. Woah, Till again, winging his way down the wing and winging a cross in like a winger. Yo, and again, with North standing near the penalty spot, but swiping a shot straight at Smith. Oh yes, our day is complete, for Lumpaldinho chased three defenders down the touchline, underneath the Frozen Beer Stand. With dainty, dancing feet he just snapped his fingers and they were like dogs, hanging on his lead. In a spin, shaking on a string, two collided after he nut-mugged one, then forced the final defender to stumble the ball out for a corner.

Wait, there's more. Fenton Futcherly strode forward to repel Swindon, and Till turned infield, swiping a pass through the centre circle to the unmarked Toner, who held on to the ball waiting for support. Newey choo-chooed down the touchline, dragging two defenders with him, and Toner surged into the space created. With North and Jones waiting, Toner lashed a shot into the singing ring tree corner in the deepest recesses of the Pontoon.
So many moments, so little for their keeper to do. Not that Barnes had had to do anything. Do we need a keeper? Ah, I suppose we do. With ten minutes left a loose clearance fell to Roberts about 30 yards out. He set his controls for the heart of the Town defence, then skewed off to the right, with Fenton and Newey in pursuit. Roberts hit an unseen turbo button behind his left ear and left the terrible twosome trying to straighten their hair for the group photograph. Wide of goal, perhaps ten yards out, Roberts smashed a drive towards the near post. Barnes stood tall and punched the ball away from his chest and out for a corner.

The corner was cleared and Till sprinted away down the left, tapping the ball past Timlin, who lunged and gloriously upended Till 30 yards out on the touchline with an old-fashioned professional hack. Off he went. Yee-haw.

The last few minutes were rather bizarre, with Town in apparent control, and wasting a couple of three-v-one counterattacks, but Swindon kept humping the ball downfield and winning throw-ins. Ah yes, throw-ins - their only choice for a weapon of Mariners destruction. Hurled deep, hurled often, but always, always headed clear by Fenton. Barnes was protected by a massive steel gate: Swindon could see him through the bars, but couldn't touch him.

As the clock ticked to 90 Till was booked for time wasting, when he was waiting for a Town substitution. Bolland limped, but refused to come off, so the substitution wasn't even made.

Bang! Swindon lumped it upfield again. How long left? No idea, no-one told us. A long throw clipped a Town head and went out for a corner. Up came their keeper, in came the corner to the near post, hitting a Town head a few yards out and squelching a yard wide. Another corner, cleared. Town attacked, they launched it back, another corner, and back upfield ran their keeper. Where's that whistle? There it is. See that bag there? It's ours and there are three points in it.

As the game progressed Town realised Swindon that had nothing but the dullness of adequacy, and the initial caution became merely a platform upon which Lumpaldinho could dance. Swindon, third in the table, had one shot on target all game, and just a couple more off target, if you're being kind. They couldn't get near Barnes, and Town were just stronger and better.

Town are playing football, Town are winning and look a solid unit from back to front. What have we left to complain about? Even Mr Purple was smiling and didn't a-cuss once. This is terrible, awful and dreadful. People pay good money to be unhappy and they have a right not to be entertained.

It's all coming together nicely. You can be proud again. This is Grimsby, this is what we do. You can like it, because we don't lump it.

Nicko's unofficial man of the match
The result was built on a strong defence, where all four played superbly, but the central two should get the bouquet. Fenton was fine, but Whittle was wow-er. Justin Whittle does exactly what it says on the tin: he whittles on twigs until they're sawdust.

Official Warning
Mr D Deadman had a shockingly good game, hardly getting anything not right. It's a disgraceful situation. He allowed advantage appropriately (of course he did) and only his booking of Till could be quibbled over. You can tell how good a referee is - the home support was largely silent. He gave us nothing to moan about, so 8.237.

The Others
They were like a poorer version of last year's Leyton Orient. Sturrock's built their city on the rock of Vincent, and the rolling of Lee Peacock. But only Roberts and Whistling Jack Smith looked like players who'd get in Town's team, though Roberts looked a bit greedy and probably more dangerous in theory than practice. A classic 'is that it?' promotion candidate. Is that it? Apparently it was. They won't score many - they lack pace and height up front - and have a defence which was easily undermined down the left flank. They didn't look like a team playing in the wrong division and will be very fortunate to be promoted. Town were a better version of them, which bodes well for us, but not for them. Should see them next year.