Ticking away: Wrexham (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

20 February 2007

Everyone looks so happy these days.

Grimsby Town 2 Wrexham 1

A swirling mist wisped around a hundred or so roaring dragons down in the Osmond stand as the latest converts to the cult of Buckleyball junketed into their seats. Please be upstanding for our first hymn "Lift High the Cross (to Bore Unmarked at the Far Post)'. In the key of A major.

Town lined up in the 4-5-1 formation as follows: Barnes, Bloomer, Whittle, Fenton, Newey, Bore, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Toner and Paterson. The substitutes were Murray, Old Lumpy, North, Grand and McDermott. Nothing had changed from the stroll round the hanging gardens of Mansfield. And why should it?

Wrexham looked like they had a few big bruisers and little schmoozers. Shall we open the box of delights and see what's inside?

First half
Urgh, not much.

Wrexham kicked off towards the Pontoon and straight out of play. La-di-da.

Town... yes, Town what? Town down? No, not yet. A minute of pork scratchings and cheesy dips ended with a cocktail sausage in the eye. A deep cross from Wrexham's left was delicately glanced by McEvilly into the vast emptiness that was Town's penalty area. Their Jones raced straight down their inside left, nudged the ball on a step and, a dozen or so yards out, scoop-lobbed the advancing Barnes, a helpless kitten up a tree. Jones walked away and a thousand violins began to play.

Town... yes. Town what? Slow, deliberate and without guile. Side to side, eye to eye, they didn't break on through to the other side. It was like the start against Bristol Rovers: Town subjected to a full-court press. "Ah, what about this?" I hear you retort with a self-satisfied harrumph and nod of the head: Toner twizzled like a turkey and lapped a deep, shallow cross into the centre of the penalty area. Bore flick-headed on to the unmarked Bolland, dead centre, on the edge of the box. Bolly, by golly, fell off his trolley and the half-volley was shinned yards wide. Five minutes, one attack; Town just a little slack.

Wrexham were snap-dragons, fizzing and flying, and we're almost crying at Town's indulgent pose-athon. They attacked down their right, frazzling a deep cross to the far post. Bore tracked back with his man, but decided to go around the mulberry bush as tiny Carvill shazammed in front of him, cuddled the dropping ball and swipe-lobbed across and over Barnes. The ball sailed on, sailed on by, and Carvill's dreams were on their way a foot or so wide and over the far post.

Silver coins that jingle jangle, fancy shoes that dance in time. Whatever happened to Michael Reddy?

Stodgy and static, inert and ineffective, all roads lead to a punt down the wing by Bloomer or Newey. Town were going nowhere slowly. Everybody knows there's nothing doing, every route is closed, it's like a ruin; everyone you see is half asleep, Patto's alone, and this ain't no treat. Barnes miskicked, fly-kicked, high-kicked and doggy-paddled a corner off his line. We're wobbling and barely getting into their half.

We're bored. Shall we set the controls for the heart of the pun, just to have a little fun? Bloomer hoiked a high cross and Ruddy ducked and dropped. Ruddy hell! He's ruddy-cheeked with embarrassment. Maybe they're better off Ruddyless: he's only on loan, he ain't bona fide.

One thing was obvious: the Main Stand is rubbish at throwing the ball back; all those dentists too busy filling out forms.

Near the half-hour mark - my, my; doesn't time fly by - Town played gooseberry fools on the left. Fenton and Newey exchanged slow strokes and Boshell tapped back to Toner, underneath the Police Box, who carefully caressed a curling back-pass along the edge of penalty area. With Fenton freaked and Barnes bemused, McEvilly lurched on to the ball. Barnes came forwards, stopped and retreated, plunging low to block the shot. The ball rolled back to McEvilly, who prodded a shot on to the left post. With Fenton scrabbling and Barnes scribbling a letter of complaint to Toner, McEvilly lunged and toe-poked the ball in from a couple of yards out. Somewhere, far away in the distance, there was audible joy. The Pontoon sulked.

Town started to pass the ball out of play and ankles shankled. It was, all agreed, not good. Wrexham started to waste time, especially their keeper. This was not appreciated.

Buckley's plans had come to naught but half a page of scribbled lines. The midfield just never seem to find the time. So off came the blameless Hunt and on came old faithful, the Lump. Town, of course, reverted to the patented 4-4-2 formation. Lump, Lump, we love you, but you only have 52 minutes (plus time added on) to save our world. Hey, that's got a funky throbbing beat, let's sing! Let's put a show on right here.

Bring on the dancing girls and the elephant with the tasteless tassles.

The game changed immediately, for the mere presence of Our Jones caused Wrexhamites to cower behind their milk churns and hide from the postman delivering a letter from their Great Auntie Ida. The game was suddenly played out down in the foggy bottom, rather than the middling marshes and quicksands of the centre circle. Passes were passed, rather than hoofs hoofed, and Paterson had the ball near his feet. Town started to sing on the flanks, prodding and probing, and speculative crosses became arrowed fizzers, forcing their defenders to work for their living. Boshell and Bolland began to tick: they'd found the metronome.

A cross here, a slide there, and gradually Town got closer and closer to the big Mr Whoopsy in Wrexham's goal. In the last minute of the half Bore and Bloomer bombed down the wing and won a corner. Up came the big battalions, lined up at the far post, playing slapsticks as they tried to disentangle themselves from bear hugs. Boshell clipped a strong, low corner to the far post, about a dozen or so yards out. Six men rose, and the ball bumped off Bolland's ducking head, arcing back across goal. The ground fell silent, the players stood and watched and the ball carried on regardless towards the top left corner, dipping at the last and dropping under the crossbar. The Ducking Bolland had scored, and that's what the Wrexham fans were saying. Or maybe not.

The crowd erupted, their voice found, and the humming began. As Trevor Francis once said, where there was doubt, there is now faith, where there was despair there is hope, where there was darkness there is light, and where there was sadness there is joy. No wonder he keeps getting sacked.

Shall we have our boiled egg sandwiches now?

Once again 4-5-1 had failed, and once again Buckley had rectified matters very early, and once again Town had scored just before half time. There's a trend here. Shall we copyright it and sell it as a knitting pattern?

Second half
Neither side made any changes at half time.

Within a minute their Jones had scraped a shot wide from 20 yards. You could hear the ground start to deflate with disappointment. Typical Town: big crowd, bad performance. Wrexham still fizzed with McEvilly a nodding donkey constantly setting Jones the Steam into space in front of the Town back four. But it was all just hot air; our extractor fans had been turned on.

Now, now, don't give up on us baby. Lord knows we've come this far in two weeks. After adjusting their toupee, Town started to rock and roll; all started by Tiny Tom Newey, tiptoeing through the tulips. A Town attack was repulsed but possession was retained along the midfield and back four. Patience, dear boy, patience. Boshell released Newey, who surged down the wing, roared on by the crowd. Paterson darted in front, held his ground and dinked a return pass to resurgent Tom, who carried on forward. About 25 yards out, left of centre, Newey smackered a low shot towards the bottom corner. Ruddy superbly sprang to his right and parried the ball away, then rose to collect it, annoying all with a Lehman-like studs up stamp at Newey.

Town's dander was up, both players and crowd. Can you feel the throb?

Back came Wrexham with a dinked volley pass over the top. Llewellyn wangled his way in front of Bloomer and, about a dozen yards out and wide of goal, wildly slashed a shot deep into the areas of the Osmond stand only visited by junior stewards and curious pigeons. They pressed again, like they did last summer, winning a free kick on their left. Waltzing high, wiggled long, Evans, their incredible sulk of a centre-back, stooped and steered a soft header straight at Barnes. Ooh, look, their Jones Poutoning high, then Poutoning wide. Hold on, they did shoot on target. Jones again, slickly licked into space by McEvileye slappering a shot against Fenton's studs. The ball skipped and looped and reverse swung into Barnes' midriff.

Ah, that's better, I did say Town were dandering. After the moped spluttered into life we're off delivering pizzas. Any flavour you wish and would you like some salad with that, sir? Paterson, working three pairs of socks off, was just trying too hard. Nearly here, nearly there, look up and pass it! Once, twice and thricely he cut the ribbon and opened the supermarket, but wouldn't give anyone the keys to the door. A dink down the left and off he went, barundling through, round under and over two challenges. Three defenders submerged him in a red blanket, but he spun and swerved, rolled and served a beautiful rolling, curling shot from eight yards out. The ball dreamed across Ruddy and managed to avoid the far post by millimetres. The Lump, unmarked at the far post, was less impressed with the one-man song and dance routine.

We're back, we're sweeping in on wave after wave of attacks. Paterson haunting Evans, forcing errors, forcing corners. The crowd were stirred and roused by Paterson walking in front of the Pontoon waving his arms and forcing the decibels higher. Maybe we could send the Mighty Mariner to Stoke and let Patto loose inside the foamery?

Oh yeah, Llewellyn had another shot from the same position as he did when he did before, and he did what he did then. And he hit the same curious pigeon with his shot.

Crosses and corners, Town pressing incessantly. Tip-tap, give and go: Bore to Boshell and Lump linking lovely-ly-ly. Boshell wheezed a low swinging pass through the centre of the area and Ruddy fumbled and freaked out his defence. A minute later Toner coiled a free kick in from underneath the Frozen Beer Stand. Ruddy rose on the edge of his six-yard box, dropping the ball behind him. Whittle jerked forward, was nudged by the falling, failing and ailing Ruddy, and stumbled the ball out of play from the bye-line. Penalty claims were ignored by the officials, to the chagrin of all fair-minded individuals with metaphorical monochrome spectacles.

Boshell hunted big game on the left, ensnaring a dopey wildebeest. A short pass to Paterson sent him free. He stepped inside, and inside again, and again; Bore and Lump implored, but Paterson wanted to score: he hit the ground and bedraggled a shot against Evans. A corner to Town, and panic in the heart of Wrexham. Ruddy stayed on his line, the ball dropped seven yards out and Paterson turned, fell, scrappled and scrumbled. Eight legs of various colours joined this hack-fest and a gloriously old-fashioned scramble followed. Limbs were torn and sheep shorn in the confusion, but the ball flew away and didn't return for 20 minutes.

At this the Mighty Mariner got out his plastic guitar, and Town ceased to exist as an attacking force. I think we know where he should keep that silly prop.

Wrexham reasserted their former control, with McEvileye barging and barracking and bullying his way forward. And finally he was booked, for upending Newey. They had another shot which went high and wide: Garrett, or was it Billy the Kid, I can't remember. They began to exploit the void between defence and midfield, giving us plenty of goal kicks. Have you got it yet? They can't shoot.

The tannoy announced the crowd as the largest this season and, above the Osmond stand, some fireworks shimmered in celebration. It's karma, and aren't we all calmer these days.

With about 12 minutes left North replaced the limp Bore, who'd spent a lot of time avoiding being kicked and forgetting the ball. So the inflexible Buckley changed formation again, to 4-3-3, with Paterson on the right, North the left.

Wrexham became slower and slower in their movement, eating up time with yawns and sock adjustments and the odd unnecessary divot replacement, though it was necessary to replace McEvileye, who was dicing with red card death. After visiting some heritage sites in various parts of the ground he eventually managed to reach the touchline before his National Trust card came up for renewal.

It's whistling time again... a free kick irrationally given to Wrexham 20 yards out on their left, the wall, an abstract concept, or maybe just a video installation. You see it, but it does not exist in reality. Their Jones slammed the shot goalwards, the ball spun off Boshell's shins and slithered across the face of goal, a few inches past the post, as Barnes did the Charleston.

I think we'd settle for a draw now, wouldn't we?

There were four minutes of added time, and Wrexham's desire to hold their precious point close to their ample bosom allowed Town to camp outside their penalty area. One minute, two, a free kick cleared, a cross levered away, a flick, a trick, Wrexham fraying, Town fans praying.

Don't give up on us baby, we're still worth one more try. I know we put our last one by, but there's still time.

Paterson wiggled free down the right, but tried to take on two too many defenders. Town tidied up and someone, who I shall arbitrarily claim was Bloomer, curled a magnificent curling, drooping cross into the centre. Sir Lumpsford waited, back-pedalled and calculated the curvature of the Earth's surface, delicately steering a header into a vacant space. Toner skipped gaily through the meadows and, eight or so yards out, level with the left post, chested the ball up, then down, and lampooned a volley high into the net. Ruddy was helpless, hapless and hopeless. To a man Wrexham fell to the floor, beating the ground in frustration and physically deflating. Everyone else was somewhere a few feet above Blundell Park. It was, all agreed, a pleasing ending to the evening's felicitations and perambulations.

See where your time-wasting got you, Wrexies?

Well, well, well, what's going on here then? Goals, wins, fightbacks and happiness. So last century. The ground was a bubbling joyfest as players ran around hugging each other. The crowd was fevered, and the Mighty Mariner held hands with Paterson, leading him on a lap of honour; his tour of duty finished, he received the grateful thanks of a nation. Personality, like a little loving, goes a long, long, long, long way. If he ever gets evicted from his student lodgings in Stoke he knows he has a home to go to. We'd even pay his bus fare.

It was eons away from the purr-some second half at Mansfield, but once again when things were failing and the change it had come, Buckley liberated us from our foe with tactical dexterity. Let's tip our hat to that, though it'll be back to 4-4-2 at home, won't it: he won't get fooled again. Town were a little fortunate, but a little fortune is due our way.

A win is a win.

Nicko's unofficial man of the match
No-one was particularly outstanding, though they all ran around and tried very hard. Fenton's obsession with chesting the ball places him slightly to the left of Paul Bolland's runnin'shinnin'fishin'. You know, in quizzes, if the question is a quotation, your default answer is Oscar Wilde. In a mundane Town performance your default MoM is Danny Boshell. He's our MoMmies boy. Quietly, unassumingly, he got Town moving when they had been stuck in a lay-by just outside Holton-le-Clay: the oil that greased the wheels.

Markie's un-man of most of the match
For being totally incapable of passing, controlling, heading and generally staying upright for 92 minutes and 48 seconds, it's Ciaran Toner. He had a stinking game of great pongyness, so edges out young Misters Bloomer and Bore for ineffectiveness.

Official Warning
A card-happy nit who was a little too indulgent of their big bruisers bruising our fine fellows, Mr A Woolmer couldn't spot a dive from a wine bar and chickened out of giving second yellow cards to at least three of their players. But, hey, we won, let's be magnanimous: 5.002, as he did, after all, allow enough time for the winner.

The Others
They really shouldn't be where they are. Their Jones is an excellent attacking midfielder and they do play positive football with some passing. Defensively they looked no worse than anyone else in the division, though Ruddy was merely a magnified Barnes - a capable shot-stopper with an inability to catch the ball. But they just can't shoot: even their goal was given to them as it took three goes to get it in the net. C'mon Wrexies, sort it! We can't have the rotten borough of Boston staying up, can we.