Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
19 April 2008
Bradford City 2 Grimsby Town 1
Even the dogs bark in a Yorkshire accent.
A chill, grey afternoon, perfect for milling around aimlessly in the middle of the dark satanic fourth division stands, with the ragged-trousered philanthropists touched by the presence of around 300 Townites perched atop the Lego Stand. The wind wafted around and through the stands, catching Ripple wrappers and sending them in mesmeric coils into mini tornadoes. Would Nick Fenton disappear in a flurry of paper, like Sam Lowry?
Two stands wrapped around the pitch like giant strips of coving. They need to bring the house into the new millennium; their décor is so 1970s. Some neutral shades and a splash of colour on the walls will do, and don't forget the green rug; a rug really pulls a room together.
Town lined up in a 4-5-1 formation as follows: Barnes, Bennett, Fenton, Atkinson, Newey, Till, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Toner, Jarman. The substitutes were Montgomery, Bird, Butler, Heggggarty and Clarke. Till and Toner were the rinky-dinky wide men tickling the Yorkshire toes with feather dusters, while Jarman was alone in the Strand.
Town wore the blue school uniform, while Barnes, the rebel, wore a grey V-neck jumper without his school tie.
Bradford have Kyle Nix but the doctors say it isn't contagious, so don't worry, there's no threat to Town's health. Hey, there's nothing to play for, it's like a free day out! A free day out that costs £20.
Bradford kicked off towards their polyglots and polymaths in the polystyrene coving stand. Their joyless functional football raised a titter as it got lost in the litter billowing across the turf; Town oozed and eased, playing simple possession football. Hunt held the centre; Bolland and Boshell sprang forward in support of the Jarmster, while the wings were wondrous stories to tell.
Ooh-la-la, and not a Frenchman in sight. Jarman leaned left and Till licked a lovely little lob behind their left-back, who had hair like a roadie's armpit. Bennett za-zoomed forward and caressed a careful cross through the six-yard box. Boshell stretched, Toner plunged, but a puce bottom struck a blow for the taxis of evil and ordered them out of his car. Jarman rolled right and tickled Toner's toes. Newey travelled along one of Yorkshire's Quality Bus Corridors on an all day rover ticket (adult, no concession) and carefully chucked a chintzy cross to the far post. Till waited, unmarked and from a dozen yards out, sliced yards wide.
Sir, you are no Gary Childs.
Bradford won a corner. Taken quickly, taken short, someone went to the toilet and Barnes collected after Thorne had flicked and fallen. A brief moment of happiness for the local dentists and diehards: it was all Town. Marvellous movement, sumptuous passing and delicate control by all, even Toner, who coated his full-back in a lemon-based marinade and allowed him to soak for a further five minutes while the oven warmed up. Tic-tac-toe, hopscotch, and a game of hide and seek were played out on the edge of the Bradford penalty area. Wetherall was blindfolded by Jarman's trickery as the Jar-Jar blinked to his left, turned and swooshed a swivelling drive along the side netting.
And Town came back and back and back, with Jarman a stout and sturdy presence on the edge of the penalty area, a perfect wall from which the ball bounced into Bolland and Boshell's path. Wetherall rugby tackled the Jar-man, but the referee ignored. The ball returned and the Jar-man retrieved, retreated and hooked it into Toner's path while pinned to the ground by a judo man. Toner sped his boat down the Leeds-Liverpool canal, stepping over a few local locks and placing a low cross through the centre of the six-yard box. Till flew in front of his marker and shinned the ball in tothe emptiest of empty nets. Eight minutes! Why had it taken so long?
Till never got up, being eventually bundled onto a stretcher-shaped trampoline, his knee twisted and tattered, though hopefully not shattered. Heggggarty bounded on and took up position on... the right. How curious, how sneaky, howzabout that then guys and gals: Town leading lusciously.
Town's purring became a little wheezy after the withdrawal of Till, who already had the full-back mounted upon a plaque and a photograph taken with his trophy. Bolland was booked for a mundane foul followed by ostentatious fall by Nix. Atkinson disturbed Colbeck's shrubbery after Toner and Newey had got themselves in one of those hilarious Toner and Newey mix-ups where Tom thinks it's a fancy dress party and Ciaran has invited his new boss around for tea. They really are the Terry and June of the fourth division. Oh yes, Atkinson was booked, but curiously Bradfordians were allowed to use their noble brooms to sweep him into the dustbin.
After 20 minutes Bradford did something. Daley ran the full length of the pitch before swizzling a shot straight at Barnes. That was nice, wasn't, like. Daley did that a couple more times, but fell over the ball, or was shooed into his pen by the good shepherd Bennett. Ah, Bennett: he defends, he attacks, he attacks, he defends. He crosses! Jarman the fulcrum, Bennett the engine, Toner the not-quite-stretching-enough stretchy thing at the far post. He crosses again! Toblerone football released Bennett behind the full-back. He pulled the ball back and the unmarked Heggggggarty took a touch too much.
Toner twinkled, Newey nuzzled his holdall and Jarman, in an instant, flaggooned a shot a foot wide from the left. They are no match for our untamed wit. Jarman pulled down a high hanging drop-kick, swivelled and smashed a volley from 30 yards. Sorry, mis-hit a volley when Hegggarty was poised beyond the last defender. And I've missed out the small moments of nearlyness, with Loach forced to race off his line and thrice smother at the feet of Town-ness. Toner and Newey had the time of their lives down the left, with Jarman weaving magic carpets to set them on amazing journeys. Toner crossed, Hegggarty awaited, but fell with the defender in the exact position from which Till had scored. Newey crossed but a toe-end poked the ball directly to the lurching keeper who grasped desperately as Bolland and Hegggarty waited behind.
With five minutes left Town scored their second goal. A free kick 25 yards out on the left was chippled beyond the far post, Fenton rose and nodded the ball back towards the penalty spot. After some hibble-pibbling Hegggarty turned and ramped a shot into the ground, the ball bumbling through a confusion of masculinity beyond the dumbstruck keeper. As it was about to enter the net, and right on the very goal-line. Bennett decided to knee it in. Up went the linesman flag, down went the Town support in perplexed annoyance.
The half ended with Omar Daley proving his comic worth. Set up on the left, he smurfed a shot well wide. Set up in the centre, he clangered at Barnes. He then ran through eight and a half Town legs and, with Barnes playing a lute on the ground and just 10 yards out, he passed the ball into the lutist's arms; hey, nonny-no, fortune is your foe.
Town were dominant, Town were superior, Town were playing perfectly, except for the goals thing. The tactics and formation dumbfounded the cloddy homesters and tiny Jarman was immense as the single striker. If only Till had remained on the pitch, life would have been even sweeter.
This was a true Buckleyan Town.
Neither team made any changes at half time.
Nothing changed, except Town were a little less expansive and a lot less dangerous. They waved their pin threateningly in front and around, without pricking the balloon. Toner wafted wide form outside the area, Jarman bumped his way through the centre, but Town played a little deeper and little more cautiously, while Bradford carried on regardless, running head first into the solid brick wall that was the Town defence. Thorne headed a free kick imperiously high and wide, Nix nicked a free kick boringly wide. The home fans "ooh"-ed, but then they "ooh"-ed at a blue bag tumbleweeding across the penalty area.
When Town stirred, the coffee cooled. Jarman, on the halfway line, brilliantly nudged Bower aside, drew the full-back close and stroked a perfect pass around and through the gap right into the path of the unmarked Hegggarty. Alas, little Nick has shins the size of an enormophant and the keeper scooped up as Hegggarty chased his demons into the area. A minute later Hegggarty swiped a shot way, way wide after a corner was cleared.
Bradford had caused no offence at all, being perfectly charming hosts, tending to our every need and wish. What can we do to repay them? Shouldn't we have brought a thank you gift? Did you bring a box of chocolates, or maybe some red wine?
Ah, don't fret, Tom Newey was brought up correctly - he's always got a present up his sleeve He chased Colbeck into the corner as Bradford hit and hoped and the shoulder of Tom guided the missile into the sea, before turning infield. What to do, what to do. Newey used his beautiful right foot to miss Barnes by six yards, passing directly to Thorne, who skipped past the grey goose and from a narrow angle lofted the ball into the net, with Fenton failing to hook away with his thigh.
Tom said sorry, so that's alright then.
At this McCall threw on his rugby league forward, Conlon, who has a 12-step programme for success. He's already admitted he cannot control his addiction to miscontrolling the ball and just hoped his greater power would give Bradford strength. They abandoned football and played for scrummages and drop-kicks. Conlon rumbled in the jungle, or was that just indigestion as he barged through the centre? Thorne hung himself near Barnes as a free kick dropped, then fell head first into a plastic bag. It's dangerous out there - have you ever seen a ground like it for rubbish?
With about a quarter of an hour left Hunt was replaced by Butler, and Town moved to the old Model T Ford 4-4-2 formation, though Hegggarty remained on the right. How odd. Hunt was hugged by Buckley for his mighty contribution, for the change was simply tactical. Butler didn't do anything, but Jarman still did do everything. Barnes drop-kicked right down the centre, deep into the Bradford half. Jarman sneaked around the back of Wetherall, shielded the ball, controlled in an instant and dribbled through the centre. Two more defenders converged to clasp this little fly, with one passing back to the keeper, who picked it up. Play continued. Jarman controlled a high clearance on his thigh, rolled into the centre and bedraggled a shot straight at Loach from the edge of the area; Jarman coiled a pass to Hegggarty; Jarman curled a pass to Bolland. Jarman did a lot of things, except shoot very well.
Bolland did a lot of things very badly for five minutes, managing to slice a shot so badly when unmarked that it didn't even go out of play, then passed 10 yards behind Bennett when Town were strangling the headless chickens.
How do you strangle a headless chicken? Isn't that a waste of time?
Nix chipped Barnes, who tipped over easily; Conlon boomed a header lowly and safely, then flicked a corner daintily to the bottom left corner. The ball ambled towards the net but Barnes scootled across his line to plop upon this miscreant.
One more go, Town! Jarman sheared a sheep and made a stylish overcoat, tootling around and flying towards goal. Loach came out, Jarman shot and the ball rebounded, but the referee had long ago penalised this perceived sheep worrying. As the clock ticked down to zero Town attacked again, passing, passing, crossing, passing and Heggarty, alone a dozen yards out at the far post, managed to poke a weak shot loopily across the face of goal.
Oh well, a draw will do.
As the game carried on into the land that time forgot Bradford hoiked the ball into the Town area, out on the left. Atkinson poked the ball away from the orange-booted sub, Medley, for a throw-in. The Town defence turned their back and trotted back but the throw was taken quickly. The ball boinged towards the corner of the six-yard box and boinged back out to the unmarked Colbeck, 15 yards out, who smershed a first-time shot with the outside of his right boot into the bottom right corner, with Barnes unmoved.
Now who should have been marking Colbeck - Tom Newey?
Tom said sorry, so that's alright then.
Buckley walked back to the dressing room, stopped in front of the Town support and held his arms out wide with an exasperated expression. No-one booed. Justin Whittle held his arms up high and smiled. Everyone applauded.
Town were just unlucky today, for Newey was passed physically fit before the game, and no-one checked to see if he was mentally fit. The tactics were impeccable, the left-back impeachable, and therein lies the source of Town's agony and ecstasy. Till's injury blunted the attack, which had already over-run the Bradfordians at embarrassing will and ease.
It was the right performance and the wrong result. This definitely was a true Buckleyan Town performance.