Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
5 February 2008
Grimsby Town 4 Chesterfield 2
So the Ponceyship finally ate itself: the 39th step too far and Frank Lampard in a cravat.
A beautiful sunlit day in the capital of carping with around 700 Spireites spiralling out of control down in the Osmond stand. After the silliness at Saltergate the old streets were crammed with police. Are they for real? That one there, near the club shop, looks like he's in fancy dress; with his hair beyond his ears he's more like an undercover hoolie. They look not only younger these days, but scruffier; standards are slipping. What would PJ (Con) have to say about that? Send the gumboots in!
Town lined up in the oddly snug 5-3-2-ish formation as follows: Barnes, Hird, Atkinson, Fenton, Newey, Hegggggggarty, Clarke, Hunt, Boshell, Till, North. The substitutes were Montgomery, Bolland, Bennett, the lemon meringued Bore and Mr Gary Jones: a man, not a car coat from Worcester. He may not be a snug-fitting sheepskin but there's something comforting about having the Lump on hand should we get snowed in and the council forget to send the gritters out.
Chesterfield turned up in a red kit, not a red kite, but they did bring their own glossy ibis. Ah yes, the return of the Jack, who was given a respectful clap or few, to drown out three stray boo-ers whose nappies were still damp when he left all those years ago. Actually they may still be, but that's a hygiene issue best left for the stewards and their mums. Though not the stewards' mums. That'd be most unfair.
There was a buzz about the old ground, that old hum of anticipation, and it wasn't just the thought of Ireland's Eurovision entry. That's sheer poultry in motion.
Ok, let's pluck some chickens.
One of the teams kicked off, which was handy, otherwise we'd be watching musical statues without the music. So I say thank you for the music. Whoops, Jack has a talent, it's a wonderful thing, when the ball's played up to him he starts to spin. A brief momentary moment of worry and confusion as Moloney tinkled into a space left by Newey to bedraggle a scruffly shot a foot wide of the left post.
Now here's a thing. After this first-minute meander, Town began to retrace the past, with passing. Atkinson and Fenton magnificently brushed aside the feeble Smith and the rather sheepish Lester to calmly caress the ball to team-mates. The precision-engineered clock began to tick and tick and tick relentlessly. The clock will chime every 15 minutes and if we're lucky a little cuckoo will peek out and cluck.
Clarke to Hunt to Boshell to Hegggarty. Over to you Mr Hird. Ah yes the effervescent North, and not forgetting tripmeister Till on his magic swirling ship. One-touch triangles tortured the giant deadwoods into wailing at the wind. First you gotta speed it up, and then you gotta slow it down, cos if you believe that Town can hit the top you gotta play the ball around. Wonderful, wondrous, wagnificient: I'm feeling woozy alweady.
Is it a kind of dream? There's a strange glow in the sky and no defender seemed to know where Town players were. Can you hear the Pontoon purr? North flickered into the area and a shot was blocked by who? No-one could tell in the miasma of muddle as Hegggarty followed up and they all had a cuddle. Tents were pegged into the luscious turf as Chesterfield were pinned inside their own penalty area. Town teased, pleased and tickled toes at will. Till shot wide, North was blocked, Hegggarty... ooooh... almost in, almost out, it's back with Town.
That's-a my Towna! I can remember a big accordion solo!
Patience, possession and passion: Town reeling in the years with perfect passing. Newey roamed, Hegggarty flicked, Boshell flipped and Hird bazoomed down the right, unheard and unseen by the Derbyshire dolly mixtures. Near the corner of the penalty area Hird took a touch and thwackled a bilious drive goalwards, the ball twanging off the angle of post and bar and careering back into the area. Spireite panic, Town delight.
Chesterfield: buried under an avalanche, but breathing still. Lowry pummelled forward after a clearance avoided the hungry hungry Town hippos; on he belted down the middle, with the back three retreating. He saw Barnes slightly off his line and spanked a long, long shot from a long, long away. The ball dwindled away from the left post without fuss.
Back Town roared, with the midfield smothering with a duck and down pillow. North was freed into the area after some juicy chunks of Toblerone were chewed down the left. Roche crept out and Dannyboy rolled the ball across the face of goal to Clarke, about a dozen yards out. He shot, Roche parried and the ball fell to Boshell on the edge of the area. He shot. The ball was deflected and diverted via shins, ears, noses and throats, but Town retained possession and broad brushstrokes swept across the canvas. The impressionists are back in town!
Tick, tick, tick... at the third stroke it will be closer to when Town score.
Town, Town, Town, Town, Town. It's Town, all the way here, and all the way there. It's like an exhibition match. Ooh and coo! Crossing over, crossing through, passing and pulverising with give-and-goes, wall passes and hey diddle-diddle, piggies in the middle.
I told you Chesterfield were alive under the snow. A breakaway, a rock and then a roll by Lester to tipple to Niven, who advanced into the D and carefully placed a shot towards the left corner. Barnes sailed into the sun and parried firmly aside and beyond the creeping Lowry. This animal is caged, but not tamed, keep the game wardens out with their shotguns and shoot on sight! The ball was retrieved and possession retained. Town built a little Lego castle on the left, before releasing the Lego hounds. Boshell and Hegggarty nicked and knocked, tapping to Newey, who clipped a drifting through ball down the left. North penetrated the ring of steel, bounding free into the right corner of the penalty area. Roche raced out, dived and Danny dinked the ball away, failing to avoid the sliding keeper.
Over came the referee, out came the right arm and finally the yellow card for Roche.
Boshell stepped up to take the penalty. As Roche flapped like a castrated goose Boshell calmly strolled forward and placed the ball to the left of the goal as the keeper plunged right.
On Town pressed, strangulating the play-off stragglers with more pace, more passion and more passing. Atkinson mugged feeble Smith and swerved passes at will down the touchline to Hird and Till. Clarke glided and glanced nuanced nicks and Chesterfield were Shredded Wheat waiting to be drowned in milk. Atkinson headed a corner gently to Roche, but the relief was temporary, as Town brushed aside the Chesterfield challenge. Another corner to Town on the right! Fenton rose majestically at the far post and murdered a downwards header. Roche was frozen in fear as the ball boomed down, then up to crawl over the crossbar.
Let's just bask in the glory of glorious football on a glorious day...
Oh, I forgot about them. The daytrippers hinted at possibilities. They twisted and turned, burning forward when given the opportunity, but kept running into a solid impenetrable wall. Atkinson and Fenton were the bricks, with Newey the unlocked gate at the side. A free kick was nicely coiled at Barnes from way out and there were crosses and corners, all nicely handled by Big Phil. Lester twisted at the near post, but failed to fall as Newey slid. Lester again spun and slung a weak dribbler past the left post. These Spireites were dispirited.
After about half an hour Town again played keepy-uppy-outy-pouty down the left. Who was involved? Ooh, everyone... and Hegggarty spun away from his marker to clip a crossfield pass diagonally over the top of the defence. With North in front of him and running down the left, Gray staggered backwards and, just outside his penalty area, glanced a header back to the warm and comforting arms of his goalkeeper. Roche was waiting warmly and comfortingly behind him and the ball bumbled beautifully down the middle of the penalty area, rolling, rolling, rolling towards an empty net as the two tweedle-dumpsters stared at each other, clucked and plucked feathers in frustration. North gleefully sprinted after the ball, just managing to catch up with it as it crossed the line, thus allowing him to join the Town fans in celebrating the new year. We'd been partying for days beforehand, master Danny.
The two-goal lead allowed the Town players to start showing off. Passes were pinged faster and harder with backheels and flicks aplenty. Olé-olé football and Town became a little holey themselves. Lester just missed a scruffed cross, with Barnes plucking at the foot of the post. Lowry munched the earth in a spectacular ramble down the centre before swiping a shot from about 25 yards out. The ball dipped to the left, wobbled to the right, rose and dropped and swerved again, forcing Barnes to sway to his left and brilliantly parry away from goal.
Suddenly Chesterfield were throttling Town with long throws and corners, free kicks and crosses. Barnes caught and punched; Fenton dived to head away manfully. A free kick was awarded under the Frozen Beer Stand and they sent up all the king's horses and all the king's men. Pumped high and long, a header was glanced further into the area, right on to Lester's forehead. He ducked and steered the ball straight at Barnes from five yards out.
A minute later a cross was deflected crazily up and loopily down, the ball dropping in front of Fenton and bouncing over his head. Kovacs sneaked in as only a 25-stone lump of goulash can, with Barnes sniggling the ball off his forehead a yard out. And after that five-minute flash in the pan, normal service was resumed, with Town beating out the rhythm, ra-ta-ta-ta, ba-doom-tish, yeah.
A breathtaking half of football where Chesterfield were simply subsumed by Town, eaten in a bap with a little bit of pickle. Yum yum. Do you remember the good old days before the ghost Town? We danced and sang, and the music played... are they back again? It had been a superb 45 minutes of football, for Chesterfield were dangerous, but Town were dominant with style and grace.
Town got a standing ovation as they walked off for the grace and guile was matched by irrepressible desire. Everyone ran so hard, so fast and so often. Till was a human dynamo, here, there and everywhere. Stand up now and rejoice, rejoice, rejoice! Football has come home, for a little while anyway.
Chesterfield replaced the unseen O'Hare with seasick Steve Fletcher, while Town left things as they were, being so very fine, so happy together.
The game carried on as usual, despite them having put their Lump on the pitch. Within a minute Clarke had been released by Hegggarty and rolled a shot at Roche from exactly the same position from which he'd scored against Bury. Maybe he needed Ben Futcher to duck for him again.
Gasp and gawp, for Lowry was on the warpath again. Roving freely on their right, he bundled and barged through tremulous Townites to crankle a low shot across Barnes, whose fingertips did the talking, pushing the ball aside. Hird cleansed the palette with a swig of water and swag away for a corner. Atkinson dealt with the corner. Rest easy, reader, for the plot twist is near, but not now. This is just character development.
Town wound up the pocket watch again. Ding, ding, di-ding, ding. When the chimes end, Nick, pick up your boots and shoot.
Town were mesmerising for five minutes, mugging freely and marauding at will. Boshell clamped a Spireite near the managers' dug-out, swivelling while on the ground to lay off a pass to, ooh, someone. Hird and Till exchanged passes in an instant and one of them was freed to the bye-line. Which one? Who can recall? It was a blur of movement, a blitz of excitement. The cross was levered into the centre and North swept a shot towards the right side of goal. The ball struck Gray in the thorax as Roche fell silently towards the setting sun, and it bounced agonisingly inches past the left post. The corner was cleared but Town returned, passing and passing and passing again. Chesterfield were unravelled like the old pink cardigan they are, with Till rabidly revving to the bye-line on the right. The cross flew over everyone straight to the unmarked Hegggggarty at the far post, who calmly steered a left-footed volley low into the net from about six yards out.
Hey, we're gonna have a party.
Chesterfield immediately replaced feeble Smith and some other bloke with Ward and Cooper. And this changed everything.
They abandoned their attempts at something resembling football and went for the basic 'big it up to the big man' approach, which is what they should have done from the start. Wasn't their manager watching last month? The Spireites started to make Town players run back towards Barnes, through the simple expedient of kicking behind them. Fletcher began to annoy, with his bulky bigness allowing him to act as a fulcrum around which Lester and the little men twirled. On the hour they finally did something, with Fletcher nodding high and wide from a dozen or so yards out.
This awoke Town from their siesta. Boshell and Hegggarty picked a pickled pepper, releasing North down the centre. He ran and he ran to catch up with the sun, but it was sinking, especially when Kovacs legged him up as he passed. From about 25 yards out, Clarke and Newey consulted their tealeaves and Newey swirled a shot over the wall and a foot over the top right corner.
A minute later Town were ravishing these maidens again: Hunt stuck his wheel clamp on a dawdling Vauxhall Astra and Town were off. Was it Till, was it North, does it matter, for it was Town Towning again. Boshell was flipped free behind the last defender on the centre-right. He brushed aside this interloper and, from a narrow angle, wrenched a cross-shot past Roche and an inch beyond the far post, a foot in front of Hegggarty. Change the names and you have old Town: it was John Cockerill pounding up to a Reesian back-heel.
Fletcher dragged a shot wide, no-one cared. The game was over, Town were sauntering and swaggering to victory and a rose-strewn parade down the promenade. Chesterfield had blown a gasket; their pride punctured, they resorted to unsubtle pushing and shoving. Hegggarty was forearmed into the Lower Frozen Beer Stand by a clumsy Lowry challenge. Fenton headed the free kick gently goalwards and Roche was forced to flip it over for a corner. Ah, nice. A stroll towards five o'clock.
After 70 minutes Town turned their power setting down to medium. It's all very well conserving energy in the green days of green-ness, but if you turn the lights off too early you can't see where you're going. With Chesterfield biffing and banging, Town were hanging on. After 15 minutes of fiddling by their geeky little replacement wingers, the Spireites turned on their large particle accelerator in the search for dark matter, going to full-pelt route zero football, and Town collapsed. Fletcher was more than an annoyance: he was a danger, and Chesterfield started to believe. Town wilted, Town were panicking, Town were all over the place.
Bobbling and bumbling, long balls were nudged on and fights were fought, knees were knocked and nerves shredded. A scramble, a desperate block by Atkinson, then Fenton. Hunt, was that Hunt diving and nearly dying to save the day? Nice shins Mr Hird. A Town head here, a Town head there. A shot saved, or blocked and everyone in the area. What's going on, where's the ball? Is it in, is it wide, is it a foul? Questions and confusion. Lester turned and crossed the ball, which was cleared, but only back to them. Hird stood off as Levens levered a cross to the far post, Fletcher nuisanced himself and the ball dropped, bodies tangled. Cooper, a dozen yards out, swished a low shot towards the left post. The ball went straight through Barnes' legs as he stooped to scoop. He'll be scooping eggs, or something similar, on Monday morning.
Town briefly flurried upfield, with Hegggarty drifting infield to speculatively smackle a rising shot a yard high and wide from outside the penalty area. Town were playing on the break, with moments of nearlyness. A last-ditch tackle and a poor pass saved Roche's bacon, presuming he's not a vegetarian. He doesn't look like a vegetarian, but you never can tell with these things. The daytrippers tightened the tourniquet further, with long throws pelting down upon the six-yard box. More height required and on came Jones for Till, who'd been indefatigable, the highlight being a chase back from centre-forward to right-back to track a breakaway and save the hour.
A shot wide, another, and another. Was it over or wide that one? It's like a can-can convention down in the Osmond end. Barnes flew left, flew right, and Lester levered a cross over towards Fletcher. Fingers grasped and clasped, as they got nearer and nearer to the goal-line. Yes! Barnes caught a cross and saw Hird and Clarke breaking up the wing awaiting a pass. Barnes duly threw the ball straight to Ward on the edge of the Town area, who collected, steadied himself and belted a low shot across the face of goal. Some part of Barnes touched it as it squirtled by and missed the left post by micro-nano-metres.
Phew, got away with that one.
Not for long. Back they came hooking and crooking, lamping and swamping the Town area with big bodies. Town were sliding under the water as the ship went down. How can we be drowning in shallows? Shots swingled through the area, over legs and limbs and past posts, left and right. With less than ten minutes left Chesterfield poured forward again, bombarding the trench as Town huddled together in the mud, just waiting for it all to end. Lester swayed into the area wide of the right post; Newey followed, but was bamboozled by a little overhead flick and spin. Lester spun and dug a cross from the bye-line. Barnes dived and parried the ball straight to the unmarked Ward, about six yards out in the centre. Ward did not miss, simply passing the ball into the middle of the emptiest net in the world.
And now they believed they could fly.
Town's boiler was still cooling as Chesterfield ratcheted up the pressure even further; their pistons chugged in a blur as more and more coal was thrown in to their engine. Thick black smoke billowed from their chimney as they worked beyond full capacity, seeking to grind Town into the dust through sheer brute strength and will power. Into the fire they threw their sofa, their shoes, their hats, their ties, everything, everything, and salvation was an inch away. Someone was free on the left edge of the Town area. He shot, the ball sailed across and beyond Barnes. On it went drifting, drifting towards the top corner. Bang! It thumped off the post and somehow someone scrambled it clear.
On this, Bennett replaced Hird in a straight swap, which at least added further height to the beleaguered back line. In the first half they'd been beguiling.
Momentum swung back towards the Pontoon, with Town breaking once, breaking twice and breaking a third time. Boshell calmly steered a pass through the inside left channel, with old Lumpy himself careering after the ball. Roche approached and Jones stared meaningfully into his eyes; Roche started to fall towards the ball, as did Jonesy. It was like Kabuki theatre on mogadon as both players artfully, gracefully placed their bodies near each other and slumped to the earth. Or a bit like Torvill and Dean doing Bolero. I'm not sure which was Torvill; are you? Once again the referee pointed to the spot and Roche was... simply told off.
What to do, Danny B? Same again, to place, to blast? Trust your inner vision, don't let others change your mind. Boshell, with the serenity of a particularly relaxed Buddhist monk, walked forward and dinked the ball down the centre as Roche flew left.
Still they would not die. Look here, our durable Derbyshire friends, we've dug your grave, signed your death certificate, paid for the funeral and read the will. It's over. Stop trying to score again and spoil our party. It's our party and we'll cry if we want to. Cooper shot wide, and then at Barnes, and then someone else did something which made Barnes stretch like Armstrong and fingertip away for a corner. Ward had a shot blocked brilliantly by Boshell as they pressed on and on and on.
C'mon Chesterfield, it's added time now, just stop it! The radioactive Bore came on for the knackered North, his lemon boots glowing slightly from his toes. The shortest-lived isotope of boron has a half-life of 3.26500x10-22s, which has, uncannily, been the exact length of Peter Bore's attention span so far this season. And let's not even contemplate his rhombohedral crystalline structure. Bore added some vim and viz to the dying seconds and Town broke again, with Boshell's pass being scraggled away by Gray as Bore waited. A few seconds later Bore was sent free again into the penalty area on the right. He turned in fury as the whistle blew... for the end of the game, which at least amused the youth team stood five yards away and laughing perhaps not with him at this precise moment. He chuckled later, no doubt.
Oh yes, it's over. Town had won.
The last 20 minutes were chaotic and corrosive, though they should not obliterate the memory of the previous 70. Town had been fantastic, doing everything you could ever want from them. The lead had been the least they deserved for the all-round superiority and the general sumptuousness of the feast they laid before us. That's why we watch them.