Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
30 March 2008
2 Grimsby Town 0
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you. Ah, memories.
So this is Wembley and what have they done? An old era over and a new one just begun. Will we have fun? Walking up the Wembley way, what do you hear? Just Town, there's only us here. Don't take those explosives in on your moped, they're prohibited items. Modern football has been so sanitised, hasn't it.
Town lined up in the fine-tuned 5-3-1-1 formation as follows: Barnes; Clarke, Fenton, Atkinson, Newey, Heggggarty; Bolland, Hunt, Boshell; Till and North. The substitutes were Montgomery, Bennett, Sir Lumpsford, Bore and Ms Karen Toner. You don't need a map to chart those choppy waters. And if you do it'll cost you a tenner: they've got to pay off the construction costs, you know. At least the toilets were as free as the view.
Here come the fireworks hang on aren't they prohibited items? Hypocrites.
Ground Control to Captain Tom: commencing countdown, camera's on; check ignition and may cod's love be with you. Town did not kick off towards the massed ranks of Mariners fans and the 20,000 occasional day trippers scattered like cushions on a trendy sofa bed.
Get into them! Get into them! Getting in to them. Hunt and Heggggarty: hassling, harassing and haranguing with Till tip-toeing into the area. One slip and a momentary lapse of reason saw hope rise and fall like a roman blind. The minutes passed, as did Town, with Till teasing with his trickery, casually causing brief encounters with North.
Danny boy, could it be magic? Till flipped a tic-tac, bore down on goal and coolly clipped a pass to the unmarked North. Alas poor Danny, we know him well. A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, he passed the ball weakly goalwards. There is no more to say, for it was not to be. That is the answer.
Look up there on the big screens. It's the be-suited Buckley! We ain't got no money and he ain't got no hair, but he's hoping to kick someone or something.
Please stand behind the yellow lines: Hegggarty alone in the station as two fast trains speed by. Barnes shimmering low to grasp the ball to his bosom as it zipped to his right. Repeat action, wind on clock five minutes: Newey groping for nylon, Barnes swooping low to clasp to his chest as the ball zimmered to his right. All our problems are coming out of left field.
My mother said to get things done you'd better not mess with Captain Tom: Newey magnificently sliding and swiping to deposit waste products into the skip. Town were repelling insects with a mixture of honey and poison. Let's not sniff the jar ourselves.
Town pressing buttons randomly: the rabbit popping up hither and thither. To the right, to the left, a cross, a dummy and the ball rolling way out to the left corner. Bolland pursued and far, far in the dim distance, was flipped like a donkey by a flapping hand. Play stopped, the referee walked and talked, but did not chew gum whilst pointing, eventually, to the penalty spot. Bosh awaited in close-up, the big screen showed his eyes narrowing, widening, narrowing, widening. He caressed a shot to his right and the glove that tripped Bolland flipped the ball aside. Alas poor Danny, we know him well. A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy, he passed the ball weakly goalwards.
I guess the Bosh was not ready for his close-up, Mr De Mille.
Pausing for breath, Town had parity for five minutes but then there was panic in the streets of London: a shot, a block, a rebound and the most magnificent of saves from the park keeper, Mr Barnes, who fingertipped away a point blank header. Will someone please change the timetable on the left, those trains still aren't stopping. Choo-choo, change the signals or at least park a car over the tracks. That's better. A free kick conceded, 25 of your English yards out; pinball wizardry and supple wrists averted unhappiness. Another free kick, another block, another feast of frenzy as balls swooned through the Town area.
Town passed to each other nicely for about 80 yards of the pitch. North was knock-kneed and ordinary, whilst our little poppies, Clark and Hegggggarty, were overgrown by fast growing weeds. Ah, three passes. Lovely. A cross. Lovely. North leant back, stretched and headed way, way over. Not so lovely.
We're back in the pit as the pendulum swung overhead, swooshing and whooshing on a long, long swing, the sharp edge of the axe glistening in the sun. Fenton retreated and was twisted like a lemon, Clarke unwrapped like a sock in a suitcase, and Barnes superbly dissolved to his right, holding the ball close. Hold it close, don't let it go, oh no.
Er, didn't Fenton just punch the ball away? Let it be our little secret, we'll keep that to ourselves as a wonderful Wembley memory.
C'mon Town. Hold tight, we will fly, swinging low, swinging high, we're gonna reach the sky. Every cloud has a silver lining, it's nearly half-time. Wahey, Barnes didn't even need to touch the ball as it crept above the bar. It's half-time, let's join a queue.
Town repelled alien hordes with varying degrees of Barnesian excellence. Newey acted like a grown up, but the midfield was the central dilemma. As narrow as a boat and as slow as a coach, water was pouring in through holes in the outer wall.
Bore replaced North at half-time in a straight swap. Of course it was a straight swap. Ah, SPB is wearing his red shoes today. Remember: a striker who relies upon the doubtful comforts of human love will never be a great striker. Never!
Off we go again, and carry on, don't follow that camel. Clarke and Fenton threw all their lives and limbs across the turf and the ball skewered into the upper reaches of nowhere land. Town were stretching across the canvass, twanging slightly, like a banjo.
Ah Town, breaking with speed and finesse down the left. Bore and Heggarty rolled pancakes and crossed droopily. Ooh, it's a corner. Boshell clipped low, Fenton clapped high and pummelled a header back across the face of goal. Is this the moment? Is this history repeating itself? Someone had been watching Wonderful Wayne's wonderful flick Atkinson, three yards out and facing the goal flicked his right boot as the ball passed behind and back-heeled the ball over the bar. A moment, that's all.
Hegggarty was flayed as Bolland strayed and Barnes beat the ball aside. The corner cleared, the ball returned and Barnes defied again. One man between hope and despair. One, two, then three little bodies were dumped in the desert as Newey and Boshell hacked their way through the jungle. Wouldn't it have been easier to leave the bodies in the jungle for the lions to eat?
The game drifting Barnesward, Town were unfailingly absent on the flanks. Speed and power versus dogged determination and Northern grit: Town holding on.
On the hour Lord Lumpaldinho replaced the now invisible Till. At last, Town moved forward with persistence and calmness, methodically retaining possession and hypnotising with the old Grimsby rope trick. Ah, but it's just one flash of light - there is no smoking pistol. A cross repelled, Lumpy dishevelled and the spell was broken.
It's frou-frou and frottage inside the Town area: a corner cleared and cleared again. Bodies were thrown on the fire and the fire alarm don't work. Wave your arms, jump up and down, somebody may see and call the fire brigade. The ball curled around Barnes and off the inside of his left post, bouncing achingly across the face of goal. Newey dived and diverted danger, but the ball rolled into the centre. The goal was open and Barnes was by the far post. The end of everything was nigh. No! Enter stage left our hero with tights and a dashing moustache. It's a miracle! What wonders can he perform in the field of medicine simply by laying his hands upon the ball? Flipped aside, with bodies strewn like discarded confetti inside the six-yard box. Up went the linesman's flag as Hegggarty rolled and ducked. The referee blew his whistle, walking slowly through the penalty area. Eh? A penalty! Why?
Bolland ran after the ref, Hunt to the linesman, Newey ran after both at the same time. Pandemonium and pantomime frowns, Town players apoplectic and outlook apocalyptic. Barnes danced on his line to a selection of disco hits of yesteryear, diving right as the ball went left and Olivia Newton-John heard his body talk.
Who will be the saviour of honest footballing endeavour? Monty? No. Ryan the telephone operator? No. Toner the mild mannered janitor? Could be. Toner leapt into a filing cabinet and onto the pitch to replace Hunt, his stripey cat, who never gets any of the credit. Town moved to a 3-4-3 formation, with Hegggarty joining Lump and Bore as the three-pronged crown.
They needn't have bothered.
Fenton sliding, the ball winding out as the anaconda hugged Town to death. The corner pinged into the middle of the penalty area, Atkinson stumbled and the ball hit a head, then an arm, and slid past Barnes into the middle of the goal.
The Town fans sat glumly staring at the roof, the grass, and the empty row of seats around the centre. Some defiantly rose to call the nation to arms, but there was nothing. The more there are, the less there is. The stadium was silent except for the low hubbub of chatter and crisps, like a background hiss.
Is there any point in going on? Barnes saved again and again, Toner bustled into the penalty area and Lumpaldinho slid in at the far post resulting in a corner. Toner wafted wide from 25 yards out, and Bore bedraggled wide from 23 yards. We're just wasting time, we've got some traffic to jam in Hertfordshire. Let's go! We're gone! Bye-bye.
Town had mostly coped, mainly through the greatness of Barnes. Without pace, without width and without enough bulk, Town were just waiting for Godot. The limitations of the midfielders were exposed by the vast acres of green, so that their best moments were occasional tackles. North was not fit enough and Till cannot sustain the film on his own, for he's just a cameo player, whilst Bore in red boots was more Moira, than Alan, Shearer. Do you think he'll jump off the balcony in an unexpected display of self awareness?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: it was a tale of two penalties. Town won the mascot penalty shoot out at half time. Oh the irony.