In safe hands: Carlisle (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

20 November 2007

So has our form been lost in the post?

Grimsby Town 1 Carlisle United 0 (nil)

What a miserable night for a moondance with a mizzling drizzle sheeting into the faces of a hardy hundred Cumbrians secreted in the Osmond Stand. Two thousand souls had a brainstorm in a rainstorm and were sat listening to the rhythm of the falling rain telling them just what a fool they'd been. Well, we're here now.

Town lined up in the old bamboo 4-4-2 formation as follows: Montgomery, Clarke, Fenton, Bennett, Newey, Till, Hunt, Bolland, Toner, Sir Lumpalot and Danny Boy North. The substitutes were Overton, Taylor, Hegggarty, Jarman and Bore. You can work it out, for life is very short and there's no time for fussing and fighting over who stood where.

First half
Carlisle kicked off towards the Pontoon and eschewed the fashionable hoik out for a throw-in favour of something a little more jejune, de trop, à la mode, mon petit. They passed it to themselves before hoiking it carefully over the top towards the bye-line. Bennett chased, Graham chased Bennett and there was a ménage á trois just outside the penalty area. Graham hooked the ball back and slipped a teasing pass to the unmarked Joel Garner, who swished his right foot airily like a poor pantomime cow, and fell over.

What's this? It's football: passing and movement, that old Mariners' mantra, was incanted and Carlisle were decanted down their left. A pass, a flick, a run and cross; Till fleeced the ball to the near post and North, fifteen yards out, flew and spun and hung and volleyed across the face of goal. The ball bounded off the turf, bounced off the post and a minor scramblage followed.

What's this? It's a miss: Carlisle plundered their way down the Humber as the terrified locals hid behind the sand dunes. The ball was whippled in from their right, drooping beyond the far post to their big bad wolf at the back, Livesey. He toppled like a skittle and thudded a loopy header back across Monty, across the face of goal and about two inches past the far post.

Backwards and forward the game zipped, with Carlisle practicing their show pony flicks and tricks, but Town held steady in the centre; Monty came out and defenestrated Garner. We're safe in his hands. Not for Monty the Barnesian drop kicks towards no-one, our new number one rolled the ball out quickly to fellow Townites, setting Till and Toner off on counter-attacks. Here we come again! Town, frizzling down the right with Till tormenting the flowing locks of Aranalde. A cross, a header blocked and a North volley za-zoomed an inch or two over the bar.

Another minute, another Town effort: Till broke, Till passed, North shimmered into the area and lambasted a low drive across the creeping Westwood, who careered into the ball with an unidentifiable part of his anatomy. It's all Town, it's all action, it's all square; it's not at all bad. How disappointing for the absent.

Carlisle? Still pittering and pattering, causing moments of danger but no shots, just fluttering around the edge of the Town area. Fenton and Bennett were staunch, while Bolland was an immense, immoveable object in the middle of their road to nowhere. Ah, Aranalde swung something simple and wide. Sit on a stool and say niiiiiiice.

As the game stodged into the centre circle for a couple of minutes, North was subtly obstructed when chasing a through ball. With a girly trippy-lash North upended his obstructor and after a gentle chat the referee wistfully wafted a yellow card over the Waltham wanderer. Thank goodness we didn't have some swivel-eyed mad monk of a ref like that Nigel Miller.

Are we happy? We surely are. This is Town as we knew it. Newey glided and Toner prided himself on his new-found lust for Town life, stepped infield and delicately dinked a cross to the far post. Lumpy waited, Lumpy rose, Lumpy nodded and the ball plopped off the post and was smirgled aside for a corner. In came the corner, up went Lumpy and the ball glanced off his ample forehead, curved over and then away from the keeper towards the far corner. Westwood leapt and levered himself to his right, dramatically, acrobatically, macrobiotically thrusting his fists at the ball and parrying spectacularly.

Darn it Boss Hogg, we could be four up already.

We know what this all means - a lucky, stupid goal for them is coming up. Oh, here it is. Graham and Garner mesmerised with their free ice-dancing routine. Graham wiggled his bottom and dripped the ball to Gall, about 25 yards out on their centre-right. He let the ball bounce once then thwacked a slicing, dipping volley goalwards. Marvellous Monty soared to push it aside for a corner. Monty's the man: we know that, now you do too.

It was all going swimmingly, which was apt considering the weather; and then after 35 minutes, Bolland walked off, replaced by Hegggggarty. Oh dear, he'd been the glue and the string and the staples and the rivets in midfield. And now we had timorous Toner in the centre. Let's inflate the armbands and try and keep our heads above water. You never know, something may turn up.

As Town rearranged their deckchairs Carlisle upped their pace of everything. They took throw-ins and corners quickly as Town players got out the scrappy bit of paper with their notes on. They took a touch fewer, made a pass now, rather than... now, and the game seeped towards the Pontoon. Corners and crosses started to rain down upon the sodden Town defence. Newey headed away from under the bar, Bennett blocked, Fenton felt Graham's pain and then Clarke just about stayed insane as he was threatened by the shadow of Aranalde and exposed on the right.

Something tells me something's gonna happen tonight. Is this it?

Carlisle won a throw-in underneath the Police Box. They zigged and they zagged and Newey decided to mark Hunt, leaving Garner to his own devices. The throw was thrown straight to Garner on the bye-line who turned and crackled a hooking first-time cross. Newey raised his hands and the ball deflected off his knuckles straight to the waiting Graham, five yards out at the near post, doing a Roger Moore impression. The ball skimmed off a raised eyebrow and slowly drifted across the face of goal, and past the far post.

No, this wasn't it.

The half meandered to a close with Town infrequently under pressure, but no further shots towards Monty. The defence stood in a line and dared Carlisle to stare back.

You know, that was pretty good.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Town slunk forward with some semi-demi pressure, but nothing emerged from this phoney war. Both teams had got dry during half time and were not appreciating the invigorating soaking they were enduring. If they were that bothered they should have played in their raincoats, with the goalies using umbrellas. Not golfing umbrellas, mind - FIFA have a maximum brolly law.

Ooh, hang on! Graham suddenly finagled himself free down their left, whizzing into the area and... so what. Nothingly, rubbishly, widely shot.

The game sailed on and on and moments came and moments went. Bennett tried to launch his long throws but naught came of this sneaky unBuckleyan subtlety. Carlisle popped down the Osmond end occasionally to say hello to their travelling tens, and the rain came down and down and down. On the hour the ball dropped to a small baldy type Cumbrian in the Town area and a swerving half-volley flew across the penalty area, carrying on and on and on for a throw-in to Town near the halfway line. Alan Pouton would have turned in his grave if he was dead. We'd witnessed the impossible: he'd been out-Poutoned with the worst shot ever.

As the telegram was winging its way to the Guinness Book of World Guinness Records, (shame it's too late for this year's edition), Town trudged forward. Clarke thrumped the ball off a crumbling Cumbrian right under Buckley's nose and caressed a pass upfield towards the waiting Lump. Sir Lumpalot allowed the ball to run on and peeled away, bamboozling his marker by elongating his stride, but moving his legs at the usual velocity. The impossible is possible in imperceptible Lumpmotion. North pursued with vigour, knocking it on towards the bye-line, sneaking a quick look in his mirror and Rees-heeling the ball back into the path of the rejuvenated juggernaut.

Approaching the corner of the penalty area, Lumpy espied Westwood approaching and brilliantly, nay, magnificently stroked a shot with the outside of his right boot. The ball rose and rose, curling, curving, swerving beyond the transfixed keeper. Would the ball dip, would the ball ride the thermals and sail away, sail away, sail away? Would it dare miss? It dare not, reader, for at the last moment it bowed towards the Pontoon, kissed the underside of the crossbar and nestled nicely in the bottom right corner. The very ball itself turned to applaud Gary Jones, joining all in acclaiming the wondrous beauty of the moment, genuflecting to genius.

Town roared on and the resurgent confidence was palpable, you could taste it in the air. One, two, three passes were clipped and clapped and Toner, 20 yards out, splurged a first time drive a few inches over the angle of post and bar. Town remembered to be Town again, like they been in the first half. Carlisle did not exist; they had nothing to offer but their rather odd kit, which looks like a half-made bed. Where are they, what are they doing?

Top of your league, you're having a... Monty!

A Town attack ended and Clarke was tapped and unwrapped into 20 golden segments. Graham was tickled free, surged in from their left and battered a low shot across the face of goal from a dozen yards out. Monty plunged, stuck out his hand and brilliantly pushed the ball aside. The goal was gaping, but Newey waltzed across and flanged a clearance into the outer reaches of the Crab Nebula. Bridge-Wilkinson dripped a diagonal dinker over the top and Graham dived to head very wide. Who does he think he is? Isaiah Rankin? They pressed and Town started to gurgle a little. Tackles were desperate and the Pontoon hyperventilated as they got near and nearer and nearer to Monty. Why are you worrying? Monty's here.

Woah: a shot over. Woah, woah: a shot further over and wide, and another wider still. As Carlisle got closer to Monty their shots got further away: he's a human force field, glowing slightly from his toes; see his psychic emanations as he flies!

With less than 15 minutes left Taylor replaced Till, with North moving out to the right side. The impact was instant as Taylor startled the shivering salt cellars by sliding between sheets of paper down the left. He dribbled into the area, looked up and carefully rolled a pass to the onrushing steam train that was Toner, who feigned to shoot, but just lifted the ball over two dangling boots. The keeper rushed out and Toner, on the corner of the six-yard box, prodded and paddled a shot against Westwood's chest.

Did I tell you about Monty? I did? Well, here's some more Monty magic. A corner curled in from their right and Livesey, at the near post, slapped a thwonking, glancing header across the face of goal. Monty calmly calculated the parabola, then threw himself to fantastically fly to his right and punch the ball away and over the bar. Saves were the icing on the cake, the chocolate chip in the mix, for Monty exuded control. Carlisle battered Town with crosses and cheeky infiltrations, especially when Hackney came on, but crosses were calmly flipped aside to Hegggarty and caught nonchalantly under the crossbar as a Cumbrian curdled beside. There's no fear now Monty is here. And don't forget Fenton, who stood upon the burning bridge and allowed no flames to pass by.

As Carlisle pressed on, Town broke away, searching, looking for the love of a second goal. Toner barundled on the left and passed towards Lumpy, who again dummied to allow the ball to roll along the edge of the area. Into the void rode Danny North, who swiped a rising drive goalwards; it arced gently away and away from Westwood. Anything Monty can do Westwood can do also, as he fingertipped it aside for a corner. Town sought a second goal, Carlisle an equaliser, as the game staggered like a drunk from end to end, side to side.

It's them! It's us! It's them again! Hackney slobbering wonderfully wide, another blue-collar worker launching a long shot towards Neptune. And Town broke; Taylor again, sizzling down the left, awaiting assistance and stroking Lumpy free, who lifted the ball over one foot and battered a drive goalwards, the ball deflating off Livesey for a Town corner.

North ran to Buckley, receiving instructions to waste time with a short corner. Duly shortened, the referee gave a free kick to Carlisle for an invisible obstruction. Toner bellowed in his ear and the ball was played upfield. One last go, one last chance, one last second to hang on. Stay in your area Monty! Keep your hands to yourself Fenton! Keep your hands in your pocket dear Newey, dear Newey. Put the whistle in your mouth dear ref, dear ref.

So that's what victory tastes like. Sweet and fragrant with no bitter aftertaste, it makes people smile and be happy. Let's do it again sometime.

Town had snarled into tackles and passed the ball to each other. There was a unity of purpose and a collective confidence in each other. They did things and did them well. It was not perfect but, given the personnel and the opposition, it was better than one could hope for, let alone expect. The front two played as a partnership and Toner was surprisingly robust, such that Carlisle never managed to go through the middle. Ah, that's it: Town's spine was not bent double like an old crone, but strong and flexible. Carlisle were kept to the periphery, behind the wooden fence, and Town's bouncers didn't let them into the backstage party, no matter how much they cried "Don't you know who I am?" Yes, and you're not the drummer from Level 42.

How do we make 'em play like this in the league? Shall we tell them that from now on every game is a cup game? Sometimes only a cliché will do.

Nicko's Unsponsored Half-Man of the Match
If he'd stayed on longer Bolland was heading for plaudits and praise rather than a pool of sorrow. But he didn't. Gary the Jones moved, as only he can, towards the standards of usefulness and sublime surprise he is known to show after the clocks go back. Overall, for just exuding command and confidence, and some great saves, it has to be Gary Montgomery. It has to be, it was and is.

Official Warning
Disgracefully not inept, Mr N Miller fell way above his usual standards. Not once did he get a decision wrong: he failed to fail. It's a mixed-up, shook-up, muddled-up world when you can't rely on referees to be incompetent. Am I deranged? Are we through the looking glass here people? If the Football League is upside down then he gets 9.125. I'm confused. Nurse... nurse... nurse...

The Others
A fast team who play directly, but not hoofily, they seemed to treat this as a glorified exhibition match, merely an opportunity to show off their individual skills. They do have skills and they could move more quickly than Town players, but they didn't do it together very often. And when they did we had Monty. Not as good as they should be, but that's not our problem.