The grey men

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

2 November 2014

Grimsby Town 3 Harmless 0

Oh to be in Cleethorpes now that spring is still here. What a lovely sunny afternoon. Around 30 or so Dartsmen took one last opportunity to sample that sinking feeling in Grimsby, perhaps their last chance to sit in the famous old timberland of Blundell Park. Who can't be excited by the chance to sit between a sewage farm and chemical plant – the Poison on the Pyewipe beckons with its siren call.

Town lined up in Mr Clever Clogs' ever so fashionable and clever 4-3-3 formation as follows: McKeown, Magnay, Pearson, Nsiala, Thomas, Clay, Disley, Pell, Mackreth, John-Lewis and Arnold. The substitutes were Walker, McLaughlin, Neilson, Pittman and Hannah. Pell. Tall. Tattooed. Playing in the hole behind Lennie The Happy Traffic Cone. Pell is very tall, very tall indeed. Neilson was very not in the team indeed.

And out there in the cold distance a wild cat did growl, two riders were approaching and the wind began to howl. Well, that's the Imp car park for you.

Can we be bothered to heckle Peter Sweeney? Can we recognise him now he's been on a special doughnut-based diet? It takes a brave man to wear a pink shirt and pink socks in Grimsby. Brown is very brave, and pretty in pink. That's the end of the joke – we're losing ourselves in our dreaming of getting Joe Waters and Frank Womack in our next set of stickers.

The grass is very long, you know. At least it stops teams like Dartford zipping the ball around like Barcelona. It's the attention to detail like that which has got us where we are.

Where are we? Oh yes, Blundell Park. Back to life, back to reality. OK, we've had our fun, let's get into to character.

First half: Darts bored

Dartford kicked off towards the Pontoon. I overcooked the chipolatas this morning, which was a shame. Not as much of a shame as this tosh-fest of caber tossing though.

They kicked the ball now and again. Townites sleepwalked and slapped vague chip-'n'-chasers. Pell had a magnificent opening three and a half minutes of all-action rotavating motion. And he did a pass. To his own team-mates. Twice. How long gone? Five minutes? Time is a relative concept and I normally ignore my relatives. You can't choose your family but you can choose Town. Or you can choose life. Did we get a corner? Does it really matter?

After ten minutes of desperate displacement activity someone fell over towards the covered corner. Arnold dripped a deep coiler beyond the far post and Magnay nudged and nurdled his marker to the floor. The Kentish man plunged mudwards, stumbling into the flightpath and accidentally clearing against a blue knee. The ball went for an afternoon constitutional, ending up in the bottom left corner via the footbridge over the railway line. Half the Pontoon remained seated awaiting the free kick, the other half-heartedly waheyed, half expecting the dissolution of the monasteries and a disallowed goal.

We haven't been so underwhelmed since Menno Willems scored from a corner at Bramall Lane. Ah, Menno Willems, is he in the sticker book? Can we collect a whole set of Lennie Lawrence's loathed loanees? Or is that next year's USP: a stickerbook of anti-heroes. That's a bumper edition going to several volumes. How about a special hair-raising Hallowe'en version – bad perms and bad poems we have known.

The increasingly happy Shopper was tickled free. Now where's me tickling stick to beat Lennie? Exercise your chuckle muscles, missus, as Lennie misses again. A plodding prod of a poke that was a joke. Where's the punchline? You can get thrown out of Blundell Park for throwing a punchline, you know.

Mackreth flicked, Arnold flexed his beard at the bye-line and Magnay swept majestically onto the roof of 54 Neville Street, dislodging three tiles and displacing two pigeons. The Darts got a corner and Town panicked; the ball hit a blue chest two yards out and they never came again. That was the end of them for this end of the pitch. Magnay swung his pants again and at least this pant swirl stayed inside the postcode. It's all about delivery these days.

One-two-three: wahey! Are you still tickled by misses? The Pink Laddie was all discomnockerated by a long punt and Lennie tattyfilariously arose on the penalty spot to graze wide of the empty nettage. Hang on, their keeper hasn't touched the ball yet. Oh, he has now. Feet of Clay flabbled into the turf and the ball flibbled into the Hands of Brown. Less a horror flick, more tales of the expected. Long Tall Harry faded from view, which is quite a feat for someone the size of the Dock Tower. I'm not sure he's got everything that Uncle John needs.

It's amazing how Peter Sweeney's physique is exactly the same as his career trajectory and, of course, Julian Dicks' hair in 1993

Darts were a nine-piece doo-wop revival band from the 1970s, unfathomably popular at the time. The Darts are an eleven-piece Sunday league revival team from the 1970s, unfathomably still in the Bananarama. These are two different entities. Do not confuse them, for if you do then you've just pitched a primetime BBC1 sitcom. And hilarity ensued for all the family.

A Town corner, or something of some sort. Arnold shot from afar: the ball hit the Dizzer, who turned and burned wayly over. Mere moments to pluck and polish and place on the mantelpiece, a memento of nothing but false class consciousness. It's about class in this sceptic isle. Never forget that, fellow citizens.

It's three thirty six, it must be Dizzer time. Disley drove through the night on the right, deep, deep into the heart of Dartness. Lennie waited, Lennie got the ball, Lennie bedrudged wiffily wide. It's amazing how Peter Sweeney's physique is exactly the same as his career trajectory and, of course, Julian Dicks' hair in 1993: it's all gone pear-shaped.

Lennie mugged the posing, pusillanimous Peter Peardrop of pap on the half way line. Clay pottered, Mackreth jotted down a few thoughts, sketched out a plan and crossed thigh-highly into the heart of the penalty area. Arnold swayed and sweetly swept a sumptuous volley arcing across and away from the Pink Laddie and into the bottom right corner.

There really is no point in carrying on. Wouldn't it be easier if Dartford simply toppled their king and conceded? We've got 45 minutes of grim grinding to go, just to complete the formalities for meddling bureaucrats.

Without doing anything but existing Town had already won. Grim, grinding, gloopy Grimsby Town; the mirthless Mariners on the march with narrow-minded narrowball. We want to enjoy, not just endure.

Has anyone got a George Kerr they can swap for Paul Hurst? For the sticker album. Why, what were you thinking?

Second half: Total tosh

Neither team made any changes at half time.

Dartford had a cross. There we are: 15 minutes of football summarised in four words. Am I being efficient or are Town being deficient? Hey, I just give you the facts, not sentimental codswallop.

On the hour Dartford made a triple substitution hauling off three blokes and replacing them with three blokes and probably moving to 4-4-2. I say probably as they had two wingers on the pitch and two men standing near Pearson and Nsiala. Never assume, never presume, but you can infer that, in all probability, they changed to a more attacking formation and really went for it.

They had another cross.

With the blue moves there was animation inside the Town technical area. Mr Snippy scrambled for his lecture notes and found those for module four (day two, afternoon session) on what to do when the opposition makes a change… ah, here it is… stroke your chin and pace around the technical area for a further ten minutes and then do the opposite of what the crowd wants.

Goodness gracious me. That's even more exciting than living next door to two 'guys' named Hugo and Freddie. In the 64th minute Long Tall Harry, who is built for speed, wellied a wobbler from afar. Brown shivered, shook and squealed, holding has ankles. Yep, the first effort of any note and we hurt their keeper. Espying this physical weakness, Town ruthlessly bombarded Brown with up-and-unders, and shots from every angle. Well, they ruthlessly kept it tight, keeping their shape and ensuring that Dartford didn't break through. Yeah, Town hung on heroically while their keeper hobbled.

Magnay saved the day with a superb interception after much muffling and complacent shuffling from fellow monochromers. McKeown tipped over a cross, McKeown scooped the ball off the head of a blueman. That's everything, that is really everything that happened inside the Town half. Unless you want to get a little vicarious fretting from Jamie Mack's casual kicking.

Mackreth darted, Clay outsmarted and dragged back to Arnold, whose near post soft shoe shuffle was blocked. Look, you want the good bits, don't you? You'll get absolutely anything that resembled something that might have happened that wasn't tosh. That wasn't much, but it might have been something.

Mackreth ran straight and hammered straight and wide. That wasn't much, and it wasn't anything but should have been something.

Flicking, flicking, Arnold snicking and snickering a long 'un just over angle of post and bar from afar. Something of nothing, nothing of something. There's something in the way he moves that attracts defenders like no other winger.

With ten minutes or so left Pittman replaced Mackreth. With this Town moved from 4-3-3 to a crowd-pleasing… 4-3-3

Aha – it isn't a shop dummy or a hologram. Mr Snippy moved and look, it has real hair. If you pull the little cord in his stomach it speaks one of four realistic phrases: "keep it tight", "got to be professional", "don't lose us shape", "not getting carried away with the [insert appropriate result]".

With ten minutes or so left Pittman replaced Mackreth. With this Town moved from 4-3-3 to a crowd-pleasing… 4-3-3.

Passing! Movement! Hallelujah. Slick flicks under the Police Box. Magnay swept a cross, Long Tall Harry balletically swirled eight yards out and steered low back across Brown. The Pink 'Un scooped off the line. Now that, finally, was something to cheer not sneer. Finally, after all this time.

Do you think the officials are as bored and annoyed as us? I can't think of any other reason for suddenly entering the wacky world of linesmen. They got their biggest laugh for flagging dear old Lennie offside when four yards in front of three blue men. I'm still laughing now.

With five minutes to go eyes were drifting towards the gates. Freedom beckoned. Town got a free kick for something or other nowhere much. The ball was tossed boringly into the centre, way, way out, where John-Lewis stooped and headed morbidly wide. Why is the referee pointing to the penalty spot? Is he as bored as us and wants to put a bit of spice in his life? Oh well, trick or treat. Brown flew left as Lenell John-Lewis rolled low and right. It's barely worth celebrating; let's have a little dignity and decorum, shall we, and just politely applaud.

Now this is where those coaching badges really kick in to game-changing adjustments: McLaughlin and Hannah replaced Arnold and Disley. And Town finally moved away from that dreary, cynical drudge of a 4-3-3 formation to… 4-3-3.

What more can we say? The Shopping Trolley ran and ran from inside the Town half right up to the edge of the Dartford penalty area, pursued by lions. A delayed pass left to the unmarked Hannah and little Ross did the Grimsby rabona, the ribena, completely fooling everyone who'd expected a shot rather than a crazy loopy backwards stab which floated onto Pell's head and into Brown's arms.

Four minutes were added. I really don't know why anyone bothered. A blue boy nicely passed to McLaughlin on the edge of area and the big-eared Goatman volleyed spectacularly against the inside of the left post.

The end. It barely even started. What a waste of time.

Nothing new at all, except Town struck it lucky. It's better to win when playing rubbish then lose or draw, but it's still rubbish, no matter which way you skin that dead cat.