Town and frown

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

10 November 2014

Grimsby Town 1 Oxford United 3

Windy, wet and wonderful on this the most magical day of the year for little clubs like Town. We get to play the big boys! Oxford, the town of dreaming spires, whereas we're the town of burning tyres. Yeah, we'll show these southern poshos. They won't like it up 'em.

Town lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation as follows: McKeown, Parslow, Pearson, Nsiala, Thomas, Clay, Disley, Pittman, Arnold, Mackreth, and John-Lewis. The substitutes were Humble, Bignot, Walker, Doig, McLaughlin, Neilson and Hannah. Clay and Disley acted as a double defensive pivot. Mackreth was wide left, Pittman wide right, and Arnold lurked centrally between the pivots and the lonesome Shop.

Oxford turned up in all white with purple flashings and lots of little lads tippy-tappying away in their warm-up. Huh, men against boys here.

Ah, this formation thing, the cheap Christmas tree. Exciting attacking possibilities or a complete mess waiting to happen? You know the ending. Like an old episode of Columbo, it's a howdunnit. We'll start the inaction when we get back from the commercial break. I promise I'll keep it short and keep it real. That's real, not Real, Mr Cleverclogs with your coaching badges. We don't pay to watch someone doing their homework, you know.

First half: Oxford bags

Oxford kicked off with the stiff wind towards the Pontoon. McKeown dawdled over a back-pass and Roberts panicked the Pontoon with a pacey near-chargedown, right on the goal-line.

McKeown's garryowens and fly-kicks coiled backwards, so Town amended their methods. The defenders' garryowens and fly-kicks coiled backwards, further upfield. The ball rarely reached lonesome Lennie, and if it did the smouldering Shop was outnumbered and outmuscled.

Hmmm. What's it all about? Alfie Pottered at pace, plopping a cross and some little lad nodded wide from six yards out. Town: lumps from chumps. Town: vulnerable.

Ah, Town: visible. The wind died down for three seconds, Lennie turned and burned, and walloped low against the foot of the left post. Woah, phwoar, roar, noise, etc, etc.

Oxford soaked up the non-pressure and tickled their own fancy with nimble nudging and slimcea twirls. Hey-hey-hey, close your eyes and this is almost a contest. Mackreth Scottie-dogged around in a circle in a spiral like a wheel within a wheel, never ending nor beginning. Mackreth bedraggled weakly when sent free; their keeper doggy-paddled aside.

The corner cornered in, the corner punched clear and off they ran in swirls of purple. Our little Jack-be-Thimble hared back, dispossessed their lone ranger and underhit a back-pass, forcing Jamie Mack to spreadeagle and swamp-block. Ding-ding-ding, the bell is tolling, and it tolls for thee.

Now ain't Lennie the complete footballer – he defends his own shots. A moment of almostness as loveable Lennie back-heeled against his shin to clear.

Just forget the rest of the half if you have one black and white eye. Town were vaguely humiliated by talented teens tip-tapping through the tulips

Can you handle the truth? Just forget the rest of the half if you have one black and white eye. Town were vaguely humiliated by talented teens tip-tapping through the tulips. Jamie Mack was discombobulated by the breeze, back-pedalling and finger-flipping over a coily swirly, deeply dippy free kick from under the crossbar.

A clip down the line in the shadow of the Findus wobbled and drifted above Toto. Pearson trotted, Roberts sprinted. Pearson decided not to launch man and ball into the Imp's car park and Roberts turned, feinted to pass, to twist, then to twist, to pass, and subtly manoeuvred Pearson further and further away. The little lad cut infield, Percy Parslow was subtly blocked and Roberts carefully curled a low shot around Nsiala, around McKeown and into the bottom left corner.

A well-crafted, subtle, patient and intelligent goal. Parts of the Pontoon applauded.

There's panic in the streets of Hummmmmberside. The little rascals ran and Town's defence imploded. A lad poked wide, Oxford slapped and tickled and the ball was pinball-panicked over the grasping Jamie Mack onto the Dizzerchest, mumped down and swept off the line. Town attacked: big mistake. Arnold was felled and weakly clipped a free kick lowly. Oxford cleared and ran off with the spoons. Four against Aswad: no chance. Potter pootled, and cross-shot, from the left. Roberts carefully arranged his social diary and caressed into the nettage from a narrow angle beyond the far post.

I shall spare you the details. No-one really needs to see or read the autopsy on a loved one. You just need to know it happened and the result.

They could score as many as they wanted: they are just superior, they don't look formidable, just better. Better organised, better players, better coached. Town were totally outplayed and Mr Clever totally outmanoeuvred.

Pah, who wants to be in the poxy FA Cup anyway, it just gets in the way of not getting promoted.

Second half: Wassup, wassup?

Neither team made any changes at half time. Why change tactics, formation or personnel when it had gone so well, eh?

For several seconds it was almost a match. Disley dinked delightfully, Lennie chested well and poked woefully wide. Maybe we shouldn't have reminded them that they were, notionally, in a competitive game. They passed, they moved, they passed, they crossed, and Rose carefully cracked low into the bottom right cornerish.

Comprehensively, ruthlessly dismantled. The emperor has no clothes.

At times things nearly happened. At times they did, but the referee wasn't interested in heart-warming tales of magical cups. No holy grails, just Town being holey in the gale. Lennie turned, Lennie plunged and out came a yellow card. Tsk, the Shop had been lifted by the merest of purple boots, but amateur dramatics is definitely not his thing. Don't book Lennie as best boy for the club's Christmas pantomime.

A-ha, the change it had to come. We knew it all along. McLaughlin awaited. Obviously Mackreth was to be replaced. Obviously. Mackreth was waiting for the shout. Clever Mr Snippy was oblivious to the obvious. Off came Disley. McLaughlin played well, you know, matching them for tipping and tapping.

Town had a mini-revival. I say revival: they had the ball and looked almost like causing minor discomfort. Pittman jinked and jagged and crackled a swirling drive two yards from the corner flag. From exactly the same spot that Roberts had scored the first goal. Ooh hello, Scott Neilson, we remember you when the world was tickety-boo. Off came Nathan Arnold. One had quite forgotten he was still employed.

The chubby charmer's presence was enough to cause further flirtations with football. Pittman chased a chip deep into the penalty area. An Oxford rogue simply shoved him aside. No penalty given. A corner, despite the ball having trundled away off the plunging, rolling Pittman. We didn't cry: we just laughed.

Hey, did you notice Town are playing 4-4-2? How quaintly old-fashioned in this scientific world of Prozone Mogodonball

In a bid to keep the scoreline respectable, Aswad Thomas ignored the football that was at his foot and slowly trotted back upfield.

Ross Hannah? Offside, even before he came on for Dear Old Lennie. Do you think his ears burned at the mutterings in the Main Stand?

Hannah was offside. Hannah was offside. Hannah was then offside. Then he wasn't, but failed. Then Hannah was offside. At least he was getting in a position to be offside. That's a positive, isn't it? Hey, did you notice Town are playing 4-4-2? How quaintly old-fashioned in this scientific world of Prozone Mogodonball.

There were Town attacks, and things looked a lot less bad. Crosses went near players who were almost in the penalty area. Was it a corner, was it a free kick? Was it Superman? No, it was Super Shaun Pearson spinning and hooking over his shoulder and back across their short-sleeved keeper. Wahey! Listen lads, we can still do this! Yeah, we can still keep this down to an unnoticeable scoreline.

What else happened? They had a shot. They had a cross. We didn't. Five minutes were added out of sheer malice.

Utterly one-sided. Absolutely everything was inferior, individually, collectively, mentally, physically, tactically and managerially. The crowd didn't boo: they just shrugged their shoulders and soaked up the salutary lessons. And looked into the future: is this what success looks like?

The referee was a fig leaf over a huge chasm. With Town these days any chasm will, of course, be yawning. Lessons are to be learned – you don't need to be big and lumpy. Don't be fearful or grumpy, just have two black and white eyes and an open mind, not an open midfield.

Oh well, there's always next year.