I saw three points come sailing in: Mansfield (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

15 December 2007

Grimsby Town 1 Mansfield Town 0

'Twas dark and dank and three thousand grim hearts sank into the torpid pit of fear and loathing. About two hundred shivering Stags skulked in the Osmond Stand as the clock ticked and the bells tolled for theeeeeeeee. Welcome to the Match of the Day.

There's no-one here. Even the Boo-Berater, the Pontoon's lone piper at the gates of the forlorn, was absent. No-one booing, no-one to boo the boo-ers; this game is for no-one.

Town lined up in a 5-3-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Hird, Atkinson, Bennett, Newey, Heggggggarty, Bolland, Boshell, Toner, North and Captain Lumpwash. The substitutes were Montgomery, Whittle, Butler, Taylor and Bore. Hird and Heggggarty were the potential H-bomb wig-backs. Sorry, wing-backs, not wig-backs. Perhaps Town players should wear wigs now and again, just to spice up our life.

Mansfield wore blue and sported the Boulding brothers upfront. Readers over the age of 46 please insert your own old film here; readers under the age of 46 get moogling and a-googling. They'd also brought along an old McIntosh they found in a charity shop in case it rained. Yep, the same one we borrowed last year, and we still got wet when we used it, even when it wasn't raining.

OK, let's concentrate. This is important.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon. What else do you need to know? Until 1979 Faisalabad was called Lyallpur and is laid out in the shape of the Union Jack; and Grimsby is laid out in the shape of a giant sneer, like an outsized Cliff Richard. Not all those facts are facts, but two outta three ain't bad.

Two out of three passes went in the general direction of a Town player, and that ain't bad either. Two out of three throw-ins went to Town, and two out of three cats said their owners preferred Lumpy to Butler.

Ooooh! Nope, nearly, but not quite.

Have you posted all your Christmas cards yet? Hey Jarman! I dig your tweed coat. Town have the ball and Mansfield don't; nothing happened.

Ooooh! Nearly, but not quite. Three passes, a flowing move: Hird overlapping and roaring a curling cross into the centre, Baptiste shinned away for a corner. Sit down again; nothing happened.

Toner bustled through one, then two tackles, whizzing a shot goalwards from outside the area. The ball hit North's backside. Sit down again; nothing happened. A minute later Town thribbled forward again, hacking and thwacking in the general direction of old Muggleton, who'd been time-wasting since the warm-up. A hopeful, hopeless waft drifted from left to right, nowhere near anyone. Jelleyman, their perfectly named wobble-bottom left-back, shrank underneath the falling ball, falling over it and stumbling the precious thing straight into the path of the unmarked Bolland, perhaps 20 yards out and to the left of centre. The ball rolled gently, invitingly and pleaded with Bolly to do the right thing. Muggleton muddled forward and Bolly waited.

He's still waiting.

He's still waiting.

Nooooooooooooooo. Bolland sliced a woeful shot high and wide, the ball kissing the outside of the pole behind the goal, when he'd been expecting to kiss a dandy Danny.

With the Pontoon still scowling and the Main Stand still howling, Town rode on the back of the wild hog of hope. Lumpaldinho, way out on the right of the penalty area suddenly spun and looped a dipping, dripping volley over all and sundry, the ball dropping on to the roof of the net. North chased a clearance, barging through one, two, three challenges, drifting in to the left side of their area and pinging a low shot across the old Mug in the Mansfield goal. Muggy dropped to his left as Buxton slid and Jelleyman unsuccessfully bid for a pair of matching earrings on eBay. The ball careered off Muggy's knees and out towards Bolland on the edge of the area. Bolly played Chase the Lady with Dawson and Town won a corner. Town pressed; the ball was flung in and in and in, but kept coming out and out and out, getting further and further and further away from goal. The tide receded and we could all get back on the beach and read the paper.

Town were flowing, Mansfield were just occupying the spaces between Town players, like giant blue carrots at Carrothenge. Bolland, on the left corner of the area, suddenly dinked a dainty chip which slid over and across the face of goal. Muggleton affected disdain as the ball drifted a yard wide, bursting into seasonal song and yo-ho-ho-ing across his line. Still Town flowed Pontoonward. I see a little silhouetto of a man! Jake Buxton, Jake Buxton will you do the fandango? Toner bustled into the area and tripped over the ball. Of course it was a penalty, anyone can see.

Corners to Town, variously ending in cul-de-sacs of disappointment. Mansfield were simply absent from proceedings, with their full-backs playing bingo at the Golden Nuggets shed of earthly desires on the seafront. For the sake of public order in the north Nottinghamshire area they'd better keep Gareth Jelleyman right out of sight or there's gonna be a riot down at Field Mill tonight.

And then after 20 minutes someone forgot to put another 50p in the meter and Town just stopped. Big Baptiste was allowed to saunter forward from the edge of their area. He walked, he waltzed, he wandered lonely as a cloud and the collywobbles returned. Someone tackle him! Luckily Dawson fell over his own id as Big Baptiste coolly slotted a pass through to the unmarked scamperer inside the Town area. Town were dangling on the washing line: pegged up and pegged back. Their wingers started to wing and Town started to concede corners. Taken short or taken long, it matters not, for whatever Town didn't do, Mansfield were also capable of not doing.

Boulding broke, Bennett blocked. Which Boulding? The not-quite-so-quick Boulding, the young pretender. Minutes passed by, with the ball down in the swirling mists of the Osmond end. Noises were heard; perhaps it was the day trippers? A corner flew in from their right, headed on and headed down by one of their ball-bearing centre-backs. Boulding, six yards out and unmarked, ducked his headed and nodded towards Barnes; the ball bopped up and over the bar. Which Boulding? Does it matter?

It was all a bit tensely dull, with only the referee's arbitrary fussiness keeping us alive and kicking. Ooh, I missed that. What was it? Hegggarty corkscrewed a throw-in from the left, Lumpy nudged the ball on and North spun and twizzled a shot a couple of yards wide. A minute later, from a Town corner, blond Bob did noodle a header wide from the Fenton position at the far post. That was a shot, that was a header, that was all.

There really isn't anything else to say, unless Young Pretender Boulding's shot in added time which managed to bounce over the top of the Osmond Stand is the bag you're into. We didn't mind: it saved Barnes from having to make a save.

There we are, pop pickers: half of a professional football match. Town should have been two up after 20 minutes, but weren't. Mansfield should have had a shot on target, but hadn't. This was 45 minutes of didn'tness. We are the didn'tmen. How tickled the rest of the division is by us. Nicky-nacky-noo.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

I wish they had, it was boring. Boring. Boring. Boring, I'm snoring, why are Genesis touring? The price of basic commodities is soaring and this game isn't alluring.

It was like watching two chimpanzees playing chess. Things happened randomly without reason or consequence, but there was a lot of uncontrollable nervous laughter. Who's laughing now? After seven minutes of pooh sticks the ball suddenly flew behind the Town defence. Boulding (M, of course it was M) zippa-di-doo-dahed straight down the middle. Barnes ran out to the edge of his area, the ball bounced, Boulding leapt and lobbed and they all fell down in a heap. The ball bounded on and on towards goal, then away from goal, and Bennett strolled back to tap the ball out for a corner. Who cares what happened next?

Town? Well, Mansfield had started to clobber in the tackle, with North in particular feeling the force of their tambourines, being hip-flipped and face-painted whenever he got within 30 yards of goal. The referee even started to give Town free kicks. Nothing continued to happen, unless you count a Hegggggarty pokey shot which went well wide, well high and well, well, said the rocking chair. It's been a while since we've seen such stark despair. Oh, alright, those ten dark Darlo days which didn't shake the world.

The game was so devoid of action that them bringing on their old Mac for Mullins, their psychedelic toadstool of a right-back, counts as a fascinating matter worthy of much pondering in the marsh.

Their defensive change caused momentary mirth and muddle in their middle. Town clipped in a free kick from the left, which was easily repulsed. Toner chased after the clearance, mugged a little Mansfielder on the touchline, turned and gurned forward at pace. Near the corner of the penalty area he espied the unmarked Heggggarty and stroked a perfectly weighted pass forward. Little Nick cracked a fabtastic curling cross at pace across the face of goal. The Staggers stuttered and stood transfixed as from the earth rose a man of destiny. Six yards out Jones the Lump smithered a magnificent diving header into the top right corner, with Muggleton unable to move, mesmerised as he was by the sheer poetry of the motion. We've long been mesmerised by his grace the Duke of Daintiness.

A minute later the not-rubbish Boulding wafted a shot way over from 25 yards. Yawn, yawn, yawn, shall we snooze? Shall we dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair? Shall we put on our red shoes and dance the blues? Ah, no - Straight Peter Bore isn't coming on.

Town created nothing more, apart from a solitary Hegggggarty cross that zippled through the middle of the penalty area as North ambled. There were some exquisite moments, some beautiful team build-up, but then Bolland kept falling over the ball. He's so dangerous when he hasn't got the ball.

There so little to say, but so much time to say it in. Rory Boulding was finally replaced by a footballer, which was a shame. They brought on a Big Mac to dwarf Town's centre-backs. McAliskey, at twelve foot six, had an excellent view of the butter boat gliding down the Humber. With this they started to hoof it up to the Big Mac and the game lost all of its aesthetic beauty. Yes, all of it.

With about quarter of an hour left the Staggies had two moments of surprising nearlyness. Brown fiddled about on the right corner of the Town area, mixing his colours using an old knitting needle as Hird and Boshell doodled. He turned infield and, with minimal backlift, suddenly flanged a rasping drive across the face of goal towards the top left corner. After the ball had passed by, Barnes waved it goodbye. Goodbye, goodbye. The porpoise is waiting. And then they had another attack, overlapping full-backs and men in the box, all that stuff top teams do according to expert-texperts. From the bye-line a cross zoomed as blue shorts waited, but Atkinson, two yards out, swished his beautiful boots and the ball, and danger, went away. Goodbye danger.

With about ten minutes left Butler replaced Sir Lumpalot, and Taylor replaced North, with no discernible difference to proceedings. Barnes still flapped like a Tiller girl, rabbit-punching away a big bopper wallop into the centre of the area. Luckily, whichever Mansfielder was nearest the ball spoondled it airily and fairily in the vague direction of the goal. Bennett placed our fear under his jumper, before folding it up neatly and putting it in a drawer.

There was huffage and puffage from our guests, who kept throwing little pebbles at our window asking to come in. No, go away, we don't do charity no more. Brown dived, Hamshaw moaned, someone else did something else which wasn't pleasing and the referee ignored handball which almost allowed Dawson to be free six yards out. It really doesn't matter if it's raining or if it's fine just as long as we've got time - there was always a young Town boot there to swipe and sway away, sway, sway away, sway away, sway away.

Oh, it's over. We won. Fancy that.

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't very good, but it was a win, and that's all we want at this stage. After thrashing some teams 1-1 we need some uninspiring victories to boost confidence. The defence wasn't unduly troubled by a rather fey Mansfield, but then Town didn't really trouble their defence either. It took just one moment of determination, one good cross, and one decisive thought to win the game.

I've forgotten about this game already.