In a league of their own

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

15 February 2015

Grimsby Town 0 Bristol Rovers 1

I'm so tired of the winter light, when are we going to have some sunshine? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Brizzle are here: a proper old football club from when we were young and that was our time. Yeah, three hundred Brizzle-drizzlers are here. Pfft, is that all you take away?

The hint of sun on a windless afternoon and a bumpy-lump cabbage patch of a pitch. Town should never be without a Scot in the side, even if they are Scott-less. Neilson? Well, he's our yesterday man. It must get better in the long run. It has to get better in the long run. Hasn't it?

Forget yesterdays and tomorrows, let's live for today. Dig it?

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 as follows: McKeown, Magnay, Pearson, Nsiala, Robertson, Mackreth, Clay, Disley, Arnold, Jolley and John-Lewis. The substitutes were Bignot, Parslow, McLaughlin, Hannah and Watson. Chunky Jam man looks like a utility back, not quite a full-back, not quite a centre-back, while Jolley looks lithe, if not particularly jolly in demeanour.

Hang on, where's Ollie? Perhaps he has an appointment with his personal hairstylists. They do get very busy, you know, and you have to take the booking when offered.

The Piratical gasmen were chunky and tall, and came dressed as Brazil. Yeah, and today Matthew we're gonna be Germany. Craig Clay is Bastien Schweinsteiger. At least that's what I think someone called him.

Believe. Yes, I believe things sound better when you're yellin'.

First half: The gasman cometh

Town kicked off towards the Osmond. Town kicked off towards the Osmond and straight out of play. There we are, do you feel better now?

What a curious faux footballing phoney war. And, as we know, it's all over after Christmas with Town. At least it's a higher standard of wrestling – Bristol look ominously competent sparring partners.

Blissett hoiked on, Taylor spun and ran, Dawson back-heeled and Tiny Taylor mis-spooned straight into McKeown's awaiting glovage. Now that's what I call music.

Passing from Jolley, movement from Mackreth, tippy-tappy-nutmeggery from Lennie – but Mildenhall pounced to block and took a knock. On came their physio, off came Arnold's shirt in front of the Dentists' Stand. It's a Valentine's day present for the laydeez. Do you think Arnie pre-gels the inside of his shirts? Am I digressing into areas best left undigressed? The indigestible digressions of a suspicious mind? You don't believe a word I say. We can't build our Town dreams on suspicious minds. Believe!

I believe that the ball touched the sky. Again and again and again. The Brizzlers like to head the ball. The Brizzlers like to tumble and stumble. A glance, a yellow shaking leg at the far post. I've got the facts, I know the truth. A glance and yellow shaking leg at the near post. The officials are all corrupt and depraved! Free kicks a-go-go.

Hey Brizzle, don't be concerned, it will not harm you. It's only Lennie pursuing somethin' he's not sure of. Arnold flat-crossed: the ball grazed off Lennie's flat-top and grooved quickly beyond Mildenhall's left post. Sounds nearer than it was; it was just a thing that nearly happened.

Other things nearly happened, but didn't. It's so encouraging that things are nearly happening now. It's getting better all the time. Magnay crossed deeply and Jolley was clamped in yellow. A rolling murmuring Main Stand mutter claimed some kind of pushage or shovage, as the Findus frothed.

Don't forget that Town lost every lump and dink, as Brizzle had air supremacy

He got us out of the Aswad jam, but what about Robertson? And if you're quick enough to rise you'll catch a fleeting glimpse of Dawson's fading shadow. The new Scot in town was neither fish nor fowl in a cotton dress.

Whoops. McKeown wandered lonely in a cloud of doubt as a deep curly cross wafted beyond the far post. Blissett hooked back amid much jiggery-pokery and happy slapping from the purple plunger.

There'll be no warnings, no alarm, but McKeown'll be the one who'll save. Free kicks a-go-go. Dumped long, headed on, Blissett ducked and dinked, Taylor roamed and rolled agin McKeown's legs. Offside, so forget about it, eh? Don't forget that Town lost every lump and dink, as Brizzle had air supremacy.

A hoiky high hump from nowhere and Blissett chased, while Toto laced daisy chains. Jamie Mack stuttered, stopped, and star-flap-punched on the edge of the area. Blissett's forehead beat his fist to the ball and he headed three yards wide as everyone else headed back upfield for the goal kick. Hang on Sloopy, what's going on here then? The linesman secretly nodded, the referee waddled and wavered before waving towards the penalty spot. Out came a yellow card, up went the crowd in uproar as half the team pursued the black-clad clod.

Taylor strode forward and ostentatiously stared to McKeown's left. Everyone knew he was going to roll it the other way. He rolled it the other way and rolled it against the foot of the post as the roar of justificated anger rolled around the ground, stopping at the Osmond end, of course. Fired up like a Bunsen burner, Town flamed and flared against the asbestos as things reached simmering point. Town were in a slow-cooking stew.

A throw-in by the Police Box, the ball bounced somewhere halfway up the stairs. Taylor spun and walloped one in. Jamie Mack plunged right and pawed aside. Spectacular. But a spectacular waste of time: it was going way wide anyway.

There were four added minutes, and I'd really like to have my sandwich now, Mr De Mille. Nil-nil would do us fine. They've had three shots, we've nearly had three shots. A decent contest, fairly interesting, but there's a nagging undercurrent of impending doom, for when push came to shove the mistakes were being made in monochrome.

Mmm, cheese.

Second half: Crumbling mice

It started and Town were finished off.

What is there to say? Town were nothing until the last five minutes. Mildenhall never had to make a save. The meekish Mariners slowly disintegrated before our eyes as the Gasmen pummelleth like a glacier. The details are simply further facts to fit in to the greater narrative of failure: it's after Christmas, here we go again.

Five minutes of thumbfoolery and thimble needling had us all in stitches. A West Country welly, and Pearson might have heard Blissett's footsteps echo softly in the distance through the canyons of his mind. Taylor danced beyond Toto, our very own nowhere man making all his nowhere plans for nobody. Tinyman Taylor swingled lowly in the D and Jamie Mack superbly flung himself low and left to lollipop aside.

I can't lie to you about Town's chances, the players do have our sympathy for being just not as good as them. You know, facts, staring us in the face. Durr.

Every minute Town played in a bungle they got weaker. The Feet of Clay were a sticky swamp, a no-go zone for happiness. The Pirates swung from the rafters, me hearties, scaring Townites into error upon error. Passes slightly overhit and slightly underhit, slightly miscontrolled; the slightest imperfection leapt upon by the ruthless raiders. Toto shrivelled, Shaun the sheepish centre-back failed to bar the way. A yellowman free inside the area and only the intervention of the Magnayficent One smothered danger's devious advances.

On and on this devouring went – with Town the little pig in the python. A mess of a missed opportunity to break fell near the Feet of Clay. Slipshod sloppiness allowed the Brizzlers to break back towards the mountain. A dink and drive, Mackreth strived to arrive as the ball was crossed from the bye-line. Toto half-cleared straight to Lockyer, who carefully steered softly through Robertson's legs and the ball ambled briskly inside the near post. Amid much arm flapping no-one could work out who to blame for what. No need for the blame game: they were all lame and tame. What a shame.

That's that then. When plan A fails, we wheel out plan A+. Do the same, but worse

That's that then. When plan A fails, we wheel out plan A+. Do the same, but worse.

Brizzle passed and shot, McKeown saved well from a low whacker. I can't remember anything else they did. They didn't have to, but one always got the feeling that they could do whatever they needed to do, if required. They weren't wishing and hoping: they were knowing and showing, towing Town in their slipstream.

With 20 minutes left the regulation substitution occurred: Hannah replaced the dispiritingly dejected and insipid Jolley. This had no effect whatsoever until the last five minutes. Yeah, sure, Pearson headed a corner over from three yards out. These things happen all the time, no need to get excited, said the jumper to the beef.

With ten minutes left, regulation substitution number two occurred: McLaughlin replaced the repressible Clay. This had no effect whatsoever until the last five minutes.

With five minutes left The Short One broke his rules by making an early substitution of a defender for a forward: Watson replaced Robertson. This did have an effect.

Hamish McWatson added a little bit of verve, movement, strength and determination. You could taste the difference. Jamie Mack dumped a long, long free kick from underneath the Findus. Hamish noddled on into the centre of the penalty box. Hannah sneaked along the back and smartly lever-lofted over the star-flapping Mildenhall and into the net. Up went the crowd, up had gone the linesman's flag. Carry on up the Khyber.

Four minutes were added and Town laid siege to the centre circle. At the last of the last of the last Hamish swished momentarily free and passed the ball out to, oooh, I don't know, someone in black and white. A cross was lumped and their centre-half headed it out of Mildenhall's hands, straight to Hannah a dozen yards out. The ball bounced, yellows pounced and the pokey-prod squirmed a foot over the bar.

We could have sneaked a lucky draw.

If you were there you might have seen Town runnin' through the long-abandoned ruins of the dreams they left behind. Town matched them for 25 minutes, and put them under some desperate pressure in the last five. In between there was structural, tactical and personnel inferiority. Not huge inferiority, but consistently everywhere. Town aren't quite good enough, are they.

You want a seven-word summary? Some enthusiastic amateurs beaten by sly pros.