The rock and roll years: Burnley (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

14 August 2007

Remember: we play chess, not draughts, on this street corner.

Grimsby Town 1 Burnley 1 (aet; Burnley won 4-2 on pens)

What more could 200 claret-soaked sentimentalists want from life than a wet Tuesday in Cleethorpes?

Town lined up in the now usual 4-5-1 formation as follows: Barnes, Bennett, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Till, Bolland, Hunt, Boshell, Toner, Rankin. The substitutes were Montgomery, North, The Lump, Bore and Clarke. Absolutely no change at all from Saturday, absolutely no need to say anything else.

Oh yes there is. Eh, eh, calm down. The referee and his linesmen skipping in front of the Pontoon with little high steps, like a cross between Andy Pandy and Harry Enfield's Scousers. He looked a right prissy little Ms Traffic Warden.

Brollies up, jumpers on, let's get started.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond stand with a Newey wallop straight over Till and in to the tarpaulin zone. That's as bad as it got.

Town pressing, Town tapping the barrel, with a Bolland swish deflected for a corner. Whittle rose, nodding forward and Rankin twizzled like a turkey next to the near post. The ball ran out for a goal kick. One minute, one piece of action, one-touch football. Nice.

Yeah. Lovely. What an interesting friendly this is: competitive, but aesthetically pleasing; Burnley deferring with Lafferty and Akinbiyi, two large lampposts flickering briefly in the dusk. Minutes passed, unlike Burnley. Akinbiyi free, Fenton swooping and punching the ball back to Barnes. No penalty, oh no-no-no-no nonny-no, go-Johnny-go.

Burnley attacks? A goal kick to Town, that's all you need to know. Unsworth aspiring towards laughingboy Lafferty. Big balls don't cry.

Bennett raiding, Till aiding. A cross, a lunge, a catch, this is a match. Of equals. Come back, Buckley's come back. Who said Bolly and Hunt were the Laurel and Hardy of the Town midfield? Hunt omnipresent, omnipotent and omnivorous. Nothing shall pass him, though he will pass to the Mighty Bosh. Town passing the trigonometry test. Passing, passing, passing and passing again. Word of the day: passing. Comfortable parity achieved.

Has anyone had a shot yet? They have now. After a quarter of an hour Boshell, 25 yards out on the left, chested the ball down to where Bolland had been. Mahon snickled in between these two lovers, drifted to the edge of the penalty area and carefully caressed a curling pass a yard around the right post.

As Dorothy Parker, sat towards the rear of the Pontoon, observed: "Ladies get urges when Fenton does surges." Gliding across the lawn like a society belle, Big Nick imperiously waved day trippers aside as the crowd rose. Handysidian roaming in the gloaming. Another minute, another whoosh after some Huntian desk tidying and floor mopping. Fenton to Boshell to Toner to Bolland to Till to Bennett to Boshell and... ahhh, Rankin bundled out of play just wide of goal. Great movement, great passing, it was fast and Cotterill was almost furious.

Slowly Town's attacking flower opened in the floodlight. The less than profitable Isaiah manfully wrestled and rolled the Michelin Man marking him; or is Unsworth the Pilsbury D'oh Boy in human form? Rankin dances through the opposition like the Crazy World of Arthur Brown. He is the god of hellfire, and he brings you... a slightly disappointing end to an exciting opening. Perhaps Isaiah should stick a burning helmet on his head to shake off those close-marking defenders.

Hey look, Burnley came to visit us again, with Unsworth delicately glumping a header way into the empty spaces of the Pontoon. See you later prevaricators, or in a while with a smile?

Oooh... ahhhh... can we have a shot sometime? After 33 English minutes Toner tapped a free kick quickly to Rankin, unmarked 15 yards out on the right side of Burnley's penalty area. Without blinking, the crazy socks-in-the-box spun and whimpered the ball across the face of a passing pigeon. Do pigeons have faces? Town's bushy tail was brushing the Burnley cheeks coquettishly, for a couple of minutes later the Bosh bashed to Toner, who crashed a flat first-time cross beyond the far post. Till waited eight yards out and slabbered a volley towards the bottom left corner. Jensen intercepted in his cravat and slacks before driving off to a cheese and wine party in the chintzier cul-de-sacs of Cleethorpes.

Aye-aye, they're at it too. Copycats. After a brief period of pressure where our elevated adversaries began to swing their pendulous pants from side to side, their right-back, Foster, trembled forward and scobbed a low shot through a thicket of legs. Barnes watched, watched, watched and finally fell to his right, plopping upon danger, smothering it in lard and baking it for quarter of an hour at gas mark 5. You can take off the tinfoil now, Phil.

The half ended with Till being pushed in the face and their left-back waltzing up the touchline with no consequence.

No pawns sacrificed, Town in the ascendancy, so no need yet for the Queen's gambit, or even to castle Rankin. You can munch your Mars Bars with a rosy glow. You want attacking? We can do that later.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Well, you wanted attacking. Fifteen glorious minutes of pummelling Buckleyball, with Burnley turned slowly on the spit and basted in honeyed passing and mustard movement. Tip-tap, slap: Boshell blocked at the last by Unsworth. A corner, a throw-in, another corner, and another. Pressure mounting, the Pontoon pouting as Town set up base camp ten yards outside the Burnley penalty area.

A Toner corner was dimpled into the near post and bodies coalesced. Jensen flapped his Danish pastries and the ball slapped against the outside of the post. Rankin flipping, Till teasing and Bolland's shot was charged down for another corner. Overhit, cleared, returned, out, in, out, in, out and Whittle the winger clipped a dipping cross into the centre. Rankin bursting and Jensen racing out to clutch at his feet after some fine, fine embroidery around the hems.

Hello Tom Newey! Booooiiiiiinnnnnggg, it's Homerpalooza Unsworth, flesh rippling in rhythmic shockwaves as a Newey cross boombled off his stomach for a corner. Burnley have a walking water bed at centre-back.

A Town break! Hunt and Boshell unbuckling a shoe and releasing Bolland, 20 yards out. He sidled to his right and baroomphed a humping drive a few inches over the bar. Time for a change, time for Danny North, replacing Rankin just before the hour. More Town pressure, just passing and sweeping across the ground. Toner whipped in a vicious dipping cross which flipped against the underside of the crossbar and away behind Till. Ah yes Till, the insatiable runner, brilliantly blocking in defence one second, then terrorising Trumptonshire the next.

Town haven't been as Town as this for a decade.

With his team being washed away by the Town tide, Cotterill hauled off his leaning lampposts and brought on Gray and Blake. Oh dear. Burnley's style of play changed as they moved to 4-4-2 and they began to pass it along the ground, quickly, to their own players, who were moving. I preferred them in ineffectual mode. Within a minute Gray was almost free, but Whittle steered the ship to port, with Barnes scampering off his line to pluck his eyebrows.

He's getting better at coming off his line, old Barnesy... oh. Gray chased a clip down their left and Barnes edged off his line, walked a few yards, stopped, thought about his collection of cuckoo clocks, then decided to trot out to where the ball had been. Phil Barnes was a-kung fu fighting and the referee's hand action was a little bit frightening as the Humber Lifeboat launched to rescue Gray from a spot just this side of Haile Fort. Just a yellow card and a free kick, betwixt area and bye-line. Mahon rolled up and wrapped a dipping, curling kick around and over the wall. Barnes arched back and spectacularly tipped the ball over for a corner. Some big Burnleyite nodded the corner wide.

Burnley were stretching Town on the rack: it was their turn to pump the bellows and blow wind up our... ooh, nice tackle by Hunt. And again. What a great header, a great block and great greatness from Hunt who shunts them away. Burnley's Jones, a flame-haired, flaming useless wideman, slashed a shot towards the moon after yet another corner was grazed away by our man with a piano, Sir James of Hunt. They had some kind of cross which shot across the face of goal from their right. The battalion of Burnleyites got reasonably excited by that.

Hunt volleyed a cross clear towards North on the halfway line. The ball was laid back to Boshell, who drove forward and tickled to Toner. The Oirish rover roamed infield, cultivating quite a following among the Lancy defenders who left the field empty, perhaps mesmerised by his lilting Irish brogue. Toner prodded the ball into an unmanned expanse on the centre-left. Ah, but it was manned, by Boshell, with not even Flash Gordon approaching. Danny B took a touch, then another, while Jensen's satin shorts shimmered in the arc lights. Transfixed by the acres of green manhood, Boshell, about 10 yards out, passed the ball against the keeper's shins and it squirtled just past the left post.

How disappointing.

His job now done, Hunt was replaced by The Lump with 20 minutes left and Town moved in for the kill, with a 4-4-2 formation. Back roared Town, with music and passion and the old rugged Lump dancing in the moonlight. His daintiness distressed Duff, Unsworth's floppy-haired partner in grimy defending. Toner this and Toner that, traumatising the tender hearted Lancastrians with two-footed crossing. One over, one through, a block, a stumble, and desperately humbling the ball away from their goal. Pressure. Corners. Pressure. Corners.

Let me hear you say "ooooooh"...

Let me hear you say "aaaahhh"...

Let me hear you say "d'oh!"

Finally Town got a throw-in near goal and Bennett hurtled it long and flat. Jones and Fenton clumped together and flicked the ball on. Toner waited seven yards out in the centre. The ball bounced once; Toner rocked back and steered a volley into the roof of the Pontoon. It's Town. All Town. Toner coiled a beautiful cross into the near post. With the Lump waiting, Duff, five yards out, stretched everything he had to just flick the ball away for a corner. The corner was cleared to Boshell and Town just stroked the ball around, retaining possession and returning the ball to Toner, just inside the penalty area. Toner thwacked, the ball thundered through eight and a half legs and thudded against Jensen's chest and out into the area, but the keeper fell on it like a dead tree.

We're not over yet. Toner crossed again, Duff cleared, Burnley attacked. Bolland intercepted, Boshell and Lump flicked, North rolled and smershed a half-volley to the right of Jensen, who clutched the ball to his ample bosom.

And so it was to extra time.

Extra time
Did anyone notice Unsworth being replaced by Harley? How did we miss that? The crab nebula was now visible, as was half the Main Stand; although there was nobody in that half.

First half
Ooh, I dunno, it's all a blur. Burnley had a bit of fibbling around the Town area, but Whittle bestrode the earth and boomed his commandments to the masses. And the others did things too: no harm done. Burnley started to get sloppy in possession, with Boshell and Bolland starting to nick and knock, and North a pest. Twice North was almost through, with the ball rolling out then rolling into the waiting arms of the onrushing Jensen.

After ten minutes Boshell nicked again and Newey raided. Burnley played a high defensive line and so Newey did a cheeky scoopy flip-chip down the centre-left. North hared off after the ball, Jensen flew out of goal, and the twain met, 15 yards out. North reached the ball first and lifted it over the hands of Dr Caligari, got up and stampily toe-poked into the empty net from a narrow angle. North disappeared off into the Pontoon in search of someone to hug.

Jones was booked for scoring a sublime lofted dink after an offside, and Town turned the amp up to 11. Boshell and Bolland kept stealing possession on the halfway line and driving Town forward. Crossed were crossed, passes were passed and North brilliantly riverdanced across the face of their defence and smackerooned a rising shot from 25 yards out in the centre towards the top right corner of the goal. Jensen contacted air traffic control, received clearance for take-off and trundled along the runway, sweeping up, up and away to brilliantly fingertip the shot on to the crossbar and over for a corner.

I think they need another rest after all that excitement.

Second half
Within the first minute Town were flowing and the crowd glowing with pride at such Buckleyan passing and movement, Till tipping and running, passing to the Lump, with his back to goal on the corner of the penalty area. A Reesian back-flick released the ball into the path of Boshell, who swatted a shot straight into the keeper's midriff.

Ah, we're back again: Toner and Newey one-touch typing down the left, with Newey on the bye-line. Screeching a drooling cross through the centre of the six-yard box. The Lump flew like only he can toward goal with the ball squishing through, untouched by human foot. The linesman had flagged for offside and Burnley took it quickly, flashing the ball up towards the Town left. Toner had retreated to cover Newey and headed the ball back towards the halfway line, straight to tireless Tom, who tried to lever the ball back upfield over his head. Alas, poor Tom, he didn't do it well, for he skewered the ball vertically. The ball bounced and Burnley obtained possession inside the Town half. Newey was neither upfield nor downfield, and now Toner was neither downfield nor upfield. Blake seized the moment, dribbled towards the penalty area on their centre-left and espied this temporary imbalance in the Town-space continuum. Blake flicked a cunning pass and Gray, who sneaked into the space, took a touch, waited for Barnes and caroused the ball into the bottom left corner from a dozen yards out.

Town deflated, Burnley elated and a minute later the same trick was almost repeated, with Blake puppy-dogging on the left, releasing Gray, who crossed along the six-yard box. The ball drawled like a Texan and S Jones, four yards out, leant back and tried to clear the Pontoon. He hit the rafters as his team-mates hit the roof with this terrible miss, but terribly pleasing to us.

With nine minutes left Bore replaced Till. Bore did not touch the ball and nothing else happened. These two events are not connected. Oh dear, it's penalties.

Taken in front of the aerobic Pontoon as midnight approached, with everyone expecting the expected, which is what one would expect. So which Town players would miss first?

After an eternity Blake strolled forward and calmly lifted the ball to his left. Now, you see, Barnes had gone left too. Unfortunately he went to his own left, not to Blake's. 1-0.

Jensen unhooked his chequered towel which clashed so garishly with his green ensemble and awaited the arrival of Ciaran Toner, whose knees you could see knocking from the Fitties. Toner opened up this body and steered the ball over and wide of the left angle of post and bar. All the while Jensen was searching for earth worms on his way to McDonalds. 1-0.

Little Harley got on his moped and chipped the ball into Barnes' midriff. Now we're cooking! 1-0.

You can always rely on Tom Newey. Boom, straight into the top right corner, despite Jensen flying the same route. 1-1.

Barnes hopped and hoped and dived to his right, while Gray ignored this hoopla and placed it to the empty side. 2-1.

The casual Mr Fenton arrived, waiting for Jensen to stop drying his hairs. Three steps forward and one step back, for Jensen threw himself to his left and parried the ball aside at a comfortable mid-height. 2-1.

Mahon clipped the ball to Barnes' left, Barnes, dear Barnes, flew left but just underneath the flightpath. His fingers groped, but the ball eloped into the toppish left. 3-1.

Smiley North smiled forward and calmly rolled it into the bottom left as Jensen suckered right. 3-2. It's not over yet!

It is now: Barnes dived to his left a few years before O'Connor took his penalty, lifting it to the right. 4-2. Time to go to bed.

Ah well, we didn't lose really, and we should have won with some marvellous pure football played with purpose and passion. It was exactly what we want; except the winning bit, obviously. All to be lauded, none to be criticised. They are from two divisions above and Town were the ascendant team: those are facts and they will speak for themselves without need for embellishment.

Be proud, get that head up high, walk tall. There's nothing to be embarrassed about and everything to laud. Hail to the chief!

Nicko's unsponsored mannest man of the match
All of them, every single one of 'em. We love 'em all. From Barnes the flying kung fu king through to Toner the killer crosser, they were magnificent. Like Ade Akinbiyi, just throw yourself at the feet of Justin Whittle, the wise but peckish owl swooping upon the little field mice.

Official Warning
Mr C Oliver was a preening ninny who was inconsistent in applying the advantage rule. Perhaps someone should tell him that if a man's shirt is moving over his head while his arms are perpendicular then it is unlikely that he was taking his own shirt off. If I said 4.37886 would you hold it against me?

The Others
Burnley had no attack until they brought Gray and Blake on, for Lafferty and Akinbiyi were statuesque observers who did not seem to appreciate the lumpen tactics of lumping the ball long for them to chase. Their midfield was weak and the defence functional, but breachable. It was only when Gray and Blake arrived that Town had any problems, for Burnley only then started to play football on the ground. Overall Town were the better team, which probably says enough about the strength of Burnley's squad for them to be a little concerned, and enough about Town to make us happy.

They got the result, we got the performance: is everybody happy?