Six assorted cupcakes: Macclesfield (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

25 August 2007

Cuckoo clocks and plastic socks, lampshades of old antique leather. Ah, walking down the Grimsby Road... you won't get those evocative sights in Great Coates.

Grimsby Town 1 Macclesfield Town 1

On the day summer popped in for a cup of tea and a jam tart, around 120 Macc lads got out of the traffic jam and popped into the Osmond Stand to tart about. I suppose they're getting used to us now; Cleethorpes isn't exciting any more.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Bennett, Fenton, Whittle, Newey, Till, Bolland, Boshell, Toner, North, Rankin. The substitutes were Montgomery, Tiny Taylor, the Lump, James Shunt and don't-mention-the-right-back Clarke. A-ha, the patent Buckley formation returns, and goals will surely follow. The grumblers have what they want, so nothing can go wrong now.

Are we bothered about them? Oh yes, for Macclesfield catwalked their new summer collection - a blue shirt with a swizzy zigzag across the front, like they'd been slashed by a dyslexic Zorro. There's always one team who has to have a silly shirt - it's just their turn.

Oh yeah, Martin Gritton. He's had his hair cut neatly and looks like an accountant. Their goalkeeper, way off in the distance, had a frizzy darkness hovering upon his scalp, which offered hope for an interesting distraction in the second half. The rest of them had about 12 hairs between them, for they favoured the bullet-headed Saxon mother's son look.

The clock says it's 2:56, it's time to inflate the bouncy castle. Please take off your shoes and steel-capped socks. OK, you can start jumping about now.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Osmond stand with the usual Newey high punt from left to right, avoiding Till and going out for a throw-in. Within a minute North was poleaxed and prostrate in the shadow of the Frozen Beer Stand. Well, it's a hot afternoon and the fair-haired funster's got to stay out of the sun when he can. Perhaps he didn't put strong enough suncream on and Dave Moore had to run out with Boots own brand warp factor 12. You can never be too careful these days. The word you are striving for is 'etiolated'.

My my my, it's hot. Shall we have a little snooze?

Mwurrr-urgh. What was that? Newey clobbered by an accidental elbow? Now I'm sitting here, listening to an ice-cold sneer as the Pontoon's purple wind chimes tinkle an old favourite. It's taken Mr Purple just seven minutes to explode into space. Is that what athletics commentators would call "a PB"?

Really - nothing happened, The ball went out of play and came back in, before going out again. Like standing on Cleethorpes beach, the tide brought in some old rubbish and left it at your feet. Most of it is harmless, and after staring at it for a while you go home, mildly disappointed.

Macclesfield had a corner and a cross. Town had Isaiah Rankin shivering and shaking down the left, like a hyperactive limbo dancer. You just know that he's going to lean too far and fall on his backside, but we can all clap along and cheer when he does. It keeps the customer satisfied.

While the Zorro-astrians heckled, Town just couldn't get their zinging one-liners out. You know what the secret of great comedy is... being funny. This was just a bit dull, with Town unable to pass and the game having no pattern or flow. It was men running around in the sunshine; they may as well have flung a frisbee.

After 13 long, hot summer minutes Town won a corner on the left after the crazy world of Isaiah Rankin shimmied in the haze. Toner coiled it to the far post where Fenton rose and nodded back into the centre. The ball dropped a couple of yards out and a Macc boot wellied clear from near the goal line. Something stirred.

A couple of minutes later, after noodling and voodoo-ing in the middle of the pitch, Newey burst forward and sublimely dinked a delicate dipping chip diagonally over the top. North, on the centre-right, bundled into the area, stumbled as Lee ran out and mumbled a shot against the keeper from about six yards out. Till muckled the corner into Bennett, whose header was ferreted away by a succession of Macc heads, tails, bedknobs and broomsticks.

The comic meanderings continued, with the occasional Macclesfield foray into the outer reaches of the Town penalty area. Green pestered but was no match for brother Justin's sharp extremities or Fenton's mind-reading. We shall treasure one little moment of magnificence, with Fenton stepping back a pace to allow Green his little party piece tango turn, then walking away with the ball as the travelling salesman booked into the local Travelodge. They had a couple of crosses which went through the area. One was even mildly concerning until Whittle stooped and steered the ball away.

Are we a set piece team now? Another corner, another moment of high danger for the Cheshire cheesecakes. Fenton soared near the penalty spot and bammelled a header down towards goal. Rankin lurked; a defender jerked his boot around the breezeblock and thwacked the ball off the line. They couldn't cope with Town's aerial dominance. A Newey free kick was headed over by Fenton. See, more proof for your pudding.

Town were shapeless and shiftless, but in the ascendant. Rankin's roving was worrying the sheep and Boshell was starting to tease. After 25 minutes Toner juggled his way through the aisles and curled a superb cross into the centre of the penalty area. North, unmarked less than a dozen yards out, adjusted his neckerchief and steered a header back towards the top right corner of the goal. The crowd rose to acclaim the first of many goals this afternoon as the ball rolled along the back of the net. Ah, that's the back of the back of the net, for the ball had crept over the angle of post and bar, clipping the pole and rolling along on the crest of a wave of misplaced pleasure.

Three passes; Boshell flipping, Fenton roaming, Rankin rolling and Rankin free. Rankin did the jitterbug and collided with the onrushing Lee six yards out on their left, the ball rebounding off Isaiah's shins and out for a goal kick. It should be several-nil by now, with the Mariners mundane and rather poor.

Here we go again. Rankin roistering free down the left like a hearty breakfast, boistering into the area near the bye-line and rolling a precision cross precisely two feet behind Danny North, unmarked eight yards out. North poked the ball back to Bolland, who flipped the ball aside to the unmarked Till, just inside the area. And all the while Tommy Lee was searching for the keys to his moped, scrabbling between cushions and screaming at his mates. The goal was open. Till took a touch, then another, then bazoomed a shot goalwards. The ball ignored Regan, dismissed Lee with a jaunty wink and was kneed off the line by some bloke with hair.

There is no football to describe. It was like the Romanian National Grid: just isolated moments of connectivity, where a light flickered to briefly illuminate a drab world.

After 36 minutes Martin Gritton tried to shoot. The ball apologised against Whittle's ankles, 20 yards from Barnes, who was wearing a violently vibrant orange kit. That was really as close as they got until they got closer. With three minutes left the Zorro-astrians tried a little haw-hi-haw in the centre, tickling a tip past Whittle just outside the area. Whittle fell, Green was nearly clear, but Sgt Rock breakdanced and body-popped, swirling around to swipe the ball away. Ah, but straight to Reid on the left edge of the Town area. He bedraggled a fumbling shot across goal; Green groped his right leg forward and deflected the ball an inch past Barnes' right post. A stumble, a rumble, a fumble and nearly a grumble. That's their only effort in the first half, and it should have been a goal.

In the last minute of added time Town started to link passes together in a string of adequacy. Fenton plucked a mouse from a bale of straw, releasing Boshell, who calmly turned and caressed a chip through the centre-left of the Macc defence. Rankin strong-armed his way through and hurtled towards goal. Lee ran out; Rankin waited then smithered a tremendous drive from about ten yards out. The ball thrashed against the post and decapitated a steward.

The disappointed all shuffled round in circles as they slunk off for half time Rich Tea and a symphony of Buckleyian advice. Town were absolutely stuffing them 0-0 - playing, by our new standards, poorly. Macclesfield tried hard but kept passing the ball to Town, which was nice of them. Their only real threat came down their left where Thomas was often unmarked, with Till caught betwixt and between and Bennett drifting across to cover the centre. These were moments of potential, for nothing happened. Much like when Till had the ball near their penalty area.

All in all, much ado about nothing.

Second half
The Lump replaced the ineffective Till at half time, with Rankin sent out to the right wing.

"Be-dum di-dum di-dum, be-dum di-dum di-dum". Tommy Lee made his way towards us to the sound of the opening bars of 'Thriller'. He has early eighties frizzy jazz-funk hair. Perhaps he rolls the sleeves of his jacket up to his elbows and wears a lot of pastel shades too. He could always get a job as a Level 42 tribute band keyboard player - one of those hand-held strap-on ones, of course.

Macc kicked off, Town got the ball. Within a minute normal service had been resumed. Boshell sumptuously levered the ball over the top, down the centre, straight into North's flight path. North chested the ball forward and let it bounce, then, from a dozen yards out in the centre-left, volleyed with the outside of his right boot. The ball thundered past Lee, arcing slightly as it dipped and twanged against the post, belting Lee on the back of his head as it rebounded out. It was cleared, excitement over.

Bolland - ah yes, I remember him well - was free, but his cross petered out in the blue morass. Rankin pootered down the right but crossed behind North and Toner, resulting in a bit of scramble, but no shot, or chance, just general "ooo"-ing. Bolland again bundling in the box: a corner. Fenton boomed the ball back across goal and North, three yards out, twisted, turned and missed the dropping ball, it bouncing sagely into Lee's waiting bosom. Another burst from Newey: a cross, Rankin waited but was crowded out by trippers waiting for the candyfloss to set.

Lots of huffle, but nowt but a scuffle to show.

Oh Danny boy! Town had Macclesfield in a ditzy whirl of confusion. The ball was tapped left and right, a kaleidoscope of colour, mesmerising the Macc lads with Tales of the Unexpected. Toner chipped, Rankin retrieved at the far post and lumped the ball back. Regan, on the six-yard line, volleyed a brilliant cross across the face of goal. North, unmarked five yards out in the centre, leant back and deflected the ball a few feet over the crossbar. We're never going to score, are we.

After about ten minutes Lee bonked a drop-kick downfield, Green shoved Fenton in the back, and the ball bounced into the area. Green flabbered a shot towards the bottom left corner and the belisha beacon plopped down and parried excellently.

Town were disjointed with old Lumpy in one of his immobile hindrance modes. On the hour Taylor replaced Rankin, with North moving to the right wing. This was disastrous. North neither stood in the right place nor moved towards the right positions. He became unable, even by his own occasional standards, to control the ball or pass to a team-mate. He acted as a surrogate 12th man for Macclesfield; Bennett was exposed and Macc pressed that button. A cross from the left whizzed through the area and another was dinked into the centre. Men jumped, the ball hardly deviated and smacked off the inside of the far post before being cartwheeled clear to North, 30 yards out on the touchline. North daftly fouled some blueboy, giving them a free kick.

The free kick was curled in towards the far post. Players rose, players fell, the ball carried on and bounced. Players stopped. Except Regan who, from row C of the Osmond stand, hooked the ball back across goal as Barnes belatedly moved across and beyond his line. Gritton, alone, two yards out, apologetically tapped the ball in. There was no celebration. The ground was silent for a few seconds, then the purple piper played his tune and his choir did softly sing three lullabies in an acid tongue. Straight from the court of the crimson king.

Town were still a mess, then with 25 minutes left, Hunt replaced North. Boshell was instructed to be behind Jones and Taylor, which suggests a once fashionable diamond formation. But with Town, diamond formations aren't forever, as after about five minutes Boshell moved to the right wing. This revved the game back towards Town, for Boshell...oh, hang on did I tell you about a shot from Levi Reid which bewitched through the area and just wide of the right post? Hang on, I'll just check... no, I hadn't. Anyway, as I was saying before a random memory rudely interrupted, fings ain't wot they used to be.

Town this, Town that; roving in front, sneaking down the side of the Macc lads. A series of corners and free kicks and don't forget the toothbrush of Bennett's long throws: all panic-inducing inside the tremulous heart of the Silkymen. With about 15 minutes left, Taylor pestered and won a corner, which Boshell strolled over to take on the right. The corner was clipped low and fast to the far post where Bennett, 15 yards out, thudded a header goalwards. Lee moved across his line and, as it passed, Taylor stepped outside the line of off stump, flicked his little head and diverted the ball into the right corner. Well done lad, we're all a little bit happier now.

We only score from a set piece.

It's Macc's own fault - they brought on another defender and played three in the middle. It just meant that Town were encamped in front of the Pontoon. A long throw from Bennett was flicked and Lumpy numped the ball straight to Lee. A free kick was bunkled to the far post where Whittle rose and headed across the face of goal. Bolland ran in, unmarked and two yards out, and waited for the ball to arrive. It did, at the same time as a Macclesfield shoulder. Bolland and the shoulder missed the ball, which looped on across goal and a few inches wide of the left post. Lee came out for a cross and flapped it against his own defender. Ooh, aah, so near, yet so far. Many moments of almostness.

Here we go again. A Toner free kick coiled to the far post where Bolland, five yards out, headed straight at Lee.

Macclesfield kept making substitutions during what appeared to be added time. Who knows, the fourth official didn't put the board up for either or neither. Let's just guess what's going off out there, shall we? In this limbo land which time forgot, Green soft-shoe shuffled along the right edge of the Town area. Whittle was sent away to have some dance lessons and Green flibbered a screeching shot high to the near post. Barnes parry-punched the ball aside, phewsomely well. Is that it?

No, there's just one more thing. A helter-skelter whirlywheel of misfortune saw a Town corner drop, be slashed, be thwacked, be mishit and be dragged wide. The ball was here, there and everywhere inside the area. Whittle's shot was charged down but flew across the goal to Hunt, eight yards out. With his back to goal and a slab of Cheshire cheese between him and the net, he spun and shankled a shot towards the top right corner. The ball swayed and the Pontoon swore as it sailed across the angle of post and bar and out for a goal kick.

Oh, is that it?

How did Town manage to avoid victory? Without ever being any good, Town had managed to hit the post twice, miss three one-on-ones with the keeper, have around four cleared off or near the line, and miss two free headers. Well done lads - it took a lot of hard work to not humiliate Macclesfield. We could even have lost it too. Ridiculous. And by far the worst performance of the season so far, with a low quotient of cohesive passing football being played. Macclesfield were adept at hassling, which meant Town often looked a man short in midfield. Can't we just play with 12 and hope no-one notices?

We're in exactly the same position as this time last year, though statistics tell you nothing but numbers. There's a difference between quality and quantity. It won't be long now - we just have to be patient.

Nicko's unsponsored man of the match
Not too many shone today, though Taylor was sprightly and effective as a pesky substitute. He resembled a lower-league Michael Owen with his acceleration and pester-power. That's modern kids for you. Rankin was at his most persistent and fittest, but he never looks like scoring. Fenton was Town's most persistent and dangerous attacker, and didn't seem to do anything wrong in defence. However it was noticeable that Town were only threatening to play football, or create a chance, in open play when Danny Boshell was on the ball. He was flexible and our only footballer. We'll gloss over a couple of others. Maybe they don't like the heat.

Official Warning
Mr M Haywood was less annoying than he has been in the past. His biggest problems were his linesmen, one of whom was terminally incapable of seeing Taylor onside (at least two terrible decisions when Taylor was away). Ah, but having not been negative enough, he was intriguingly creative with his decisions. Sometimes advantages were given, others not; sometimes a nudge was a foul, others not. He favoured neither side in his inconsistencies, but decided to go card crazy towards the end, and all towards the badly shirted boys. More crème fraiche than yoghurt today. How about 5.734?

The Others
Macclesfield were distinctly average. They were not dreadful, just inferior to a sub-standard performance from Town. They are organised and, provided they have a little luck, quite capable of not getting beaten in matches of association football. These silkyboys are designed, and hope, for nothing more than the avoidance of relegation. You cut your cloth accordingly, don't you.

Their defence was as comforting as a knitted shed and they had an over-reliance upon pace as a striking option. Green and Gritton have enough nous to cause difficulties, if given time, space and defenders who desist form bare-knuckle fighting. Their keeper is small and their kit is terrible. In short, they should not be regarding anything above 20th place as achievable. I wish them no ill-will, but they are unlikely to have too many happy days ahead. At least they don't play biff-and-bang football.