Nothing happens, nobody comes: Rotherham (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

12 April 2008

Holiday Boys 0 Rotherham United 1

This is the story of the indolent and the insolvent: a modern parable. It's what's made Britain great again.

A bright, windy day with 500 chuckle brothers spread like cheap marmalade across thinly sliced Osmond stand toast. Ah, that Wembley feelgood feeling, permeating every spore. Have you still got that Wembley feeling, shall Fenty's Pleasuredome rise on the inflation of deflation? Hey, where have all the Wembley wallflowers gone? We're back to the core three thousand. Back to life, back to reality.

Town lined up in the 5-3-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Bore, Bennett, Fenton, Newey, Heggggarty, Toner, Clarke, Boshell, Till, and Mr Butler. The substitutes were Montgomery, Sir Lumpsford, Taylor, Bird and Normington. Yes, you did read that right: Bore as a wing-back. Big Bird and Norm from Cheers were on the bench, reducing the average age of the squad to 13¾.

Rotherham wore a blinking bright high-visibility yellow kit, so at least we could see them; there'd be no sneaky merging with the empty seats of Main Stand fashionistas. They had a couple of strapping centre-backs and a 131-year-old goalkeeper. Born in 1876, it says here, and he doesn't look a day older. I bet he owns all his own teeth too.

If the third iron law of life is that policemen get younger then subsection (b)(iii) is that the mascots get older. Six-foot-six, he stood on the ground, he weighed two hundred and thirty-five pounds, but I saw that giant of a man brought down to his knees by missing a penalty against the Mighty Mariner. He could've been a contender.

They've got a Haggarty, we've got a Hegggarty, let's call the whole thing off. I wish we would. If we must let's move towards completing the fixture list. Oh, we must.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon and the rest of that gag writes itself. Are you gagging too at thoughts of Neweyan punts?

Pass me the telescope, Passepartout. I can see men, they are moving, there is a ball and they sometimes connect with it, rather than each other. The evidence before me is inconclusive, but I am led to believe that there is an association football match occurring. I also see gentlemen and their consorts observing this gathering, but they do not appear to be awake. Perhaps it is a local custom to have a post-prandial repose.

There weren't even any crisp packets blowing across the pitch like tumbleweeds to pass the time.

One of them hooked the ball across the face of goal from close in after Newey had, well, been Newey. Town got a throw-in. That was a high point; it was the only point. What's the point, will we get a point? How many points in a litre?

Newey and Toner made Heggggarty the piggy in the middle of their joyful pranks and larks. The Town left was bereft of competence.

After nine minutes there was a drop ball where Town kicked it back to Warrington from the halfway line. I think we should count that as a shot on goal. It certainly was the most clear-cut chance Town created. Poor finish that, way too soft a shot.

Rotherham did things, like move around a bit now and again. They at least looked bothered, which was nice for their fans. This game was the unable against the unstable. Town generally stood back and admired their shorts, with their Taylor a persistent low-level irritant. Like neighbours four doors away having an al fresco dinner party with one guest who has an annoying laugh: every now and again there is a burst of noise which interrupts your sleep.

At last, Till the tease swirling past three with trickery-dickery-dockery making a mockery down the right. He hit the bye-line and passed back into the centre. Hegggarty thrust himself forward, but Big Pablo bulked the ball away. Please hold on to that moment, that's all there is.

Anything we can do they can do slightly better. Green flew past Bore and pulled a cross back to the edge of the area. Some lad walloped a hooking shot around a thicket of Town legs. The ball swerved towards the bottom right corner, but Barnes shoo-shooed across his line and scuttled the shot aside. In the context of this game, that was Pele and Banks; it was the tops, it was the Chase-Manhattan. Context is all, and artex is on the walls of bungalows in Humberston.

Stuck in a rut? Caught in a trap and you can't look back? Stop, children, what's that sound? Everybody look what's goin' down! Scunny! Well if something ain't happening here we can always gain from other people's pain. We'll take our leisure in other people's displeasure. We're like a desperate sofa shop in Barnsley: everything is interest-free today.

Their Taylor, a million miles out on their left, swivelled and swanked a dripping volley just over the right angle of post and bar. It was a close encounter of the nerd kind.

And what tales of Town, I hear you ponder, yonder, as you eat your Golden Wonder listening to John Tondeur. Toner underhit a pass, Newey stopped and watched. Toner overhit a pass, Newey jogged and watched. Clarke dawdled, Boshell yodelled, Bore modelled and Town had moments where passes were made to each other and the ball was subsequently controlled by the recipient. Till, bored by the dreadfulness surrounding him, took charge on the left, za-zooming through three challenges and wafting a shot way, way, way, way, way, way over the bar, bar bar, bar from outside the area, area, area. Is there an echo-o-o-o in here-ere-ere?

After 31 minutes Hegggarty finally received a pass. He crossed first time, exquisitely, dangerously into the centre of the penalty area. Joseph, in his amazing fluorescent coloured dream coat, nodded and that was the end of all that excitement.

The afternoon was so boring a burger was bought. £3 for a burger and tea is not bad as a pricing structure. You know, Town really are missing a trick in the catering stakes. They want seven-day income streams? What better than a fish and chip shop filling the open corner between Frozen Beer and Osmond Stands? How about £20 to get in, including a free portion of fish and chips? Make visiting Town a heritage experience. Town need to think out of the box. Actually, thinking anywhere on the pitch will do; just do some, preferably this season.

With several minutes left before the burger queue got bigger, a Miller unsubtly mushed the ball way up field, high, high in the air beyond the back four. Bennett ran back, the ball bounced, Bennett jumped, the ball flounced apologetically towards, but not near Barnes. Ryan Taylor, on their centre-right about 15 yards out, snickled between these two planks to poke the ball in off the bottom left post. Some people tutted a bit.

Several minutes passed, unlike the professional footballers in front of us. What is it about fluorescent yellow that makes it invisible to the naked eye of a Grimsby Town footballer? They're not behind you, they're stood in front of you Straight Master Bore. Eventually the tannoy was allowed to play music at extremely low volume and arbitrarily inform us of scores in other games elsewhere that were of no relevance.

There were isolated moments of interest, when Town roused themselves from their torpor to string several slow passes together before slowly advancing, slowly, towards the slow Millers and slowly doing nothing. It was a pre-pre-season friendly. It's nice to see we're starting our preparation early. Once the players get fully fit we'll be unbeatable in June.

And you'll find this was the good half.

Second half
Rotherham came out early for a sunbathe, shades atop their heads and jumpers around their shoulders, and eventually the Town players wandered back in gurgling gaggles of threes and fours. It would have been more metaphorically apt if they'd walked out in sixes and sevens.

Ah, a change. Andy Taylor replaced Toner, thus increasing the quota of Town players to eleven. At this Town moved to a 4-4-2 formation, with Bore as right-back and Clarke and Boshell in the centre of midfield. Yes, you read that right: Bore as right-back. He stood around like a nervous child, hopping from foot to foot, glancing sideways and following Fenton's instructions like a game of pin the tail on the donkey.

As the game restarted a pigeon floated down, through the clouds, and settled on the right edge of the Town penalty area. It looked happy to have found a quiet place in the sun to nibble at the grass.

As everyone trundled up to the Millers' penalty area, Newey tapped a short free kick to Bore, who hurtled down the right and lapped a lovely cross in to the near post. Taylor sneaked in front of Man Mountain Mills to steer a shot safely, slowly into Warrington's waiting arms. This was not a portent but atypical of this poor event.

The pigeon walked towards the centre, dropping its wing, doing a Tillian turn, and creating space for itself to peck freely towards goal. Barnes was untroubled.

Elsewhere on the pitch Boshell was booked for scything down Harrison and bundling him into a straw bale. Harrison spent the next ten minutes seeking out the ankles of Bosh. After one two-footed lunge missed completely, Harrison succeeded with his next, earning a booking himself. The pigeon took advantage of this distraction to nibble in the D.

Rotherham did two things in the second half, and here is one of them. They ran down their right and crossed from the bye-line. Barnes easily slumped to his right and caught the ball. There was nothing more to it than that. Only in its wildest dreams would that be described as a mundane moment.

Taylor wiggled but his shot was blocked. Hegggarty waggled but his shot was blocked. The pigeon waddled and his path was not blocked. Typical Town defending. Rotherham almost attacked down their left and Bore smuggled the ball away from inside the area. The pigeon remained inside his comfort zone, unfussed by the humanity moving around him.

Exactly halfway through this training romp, Jones replaced Bore, and thus Town's deckchairs were rearranged again into what looked like a 3-4-3 formation. The triple alliance up front was just as effective as the duo of despair and the Man of La Mancha. Town had no width, no movement and, really, the word 'no' sums it all up.

At a point that can be fixed only by reference to a sextant, ancient seafaring maps, a pocket watch and the collected writings of George Kerr, an event occurred. With the pigeon temporarily absent Rotherham flung the ball up high. No-one tackled, no-one challenged, Town watched the Millers swing low, swing left and pass the ball to whoever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Suddenly two were unmarked on the edge of the penalty area. A soft, underhit and frankly rubbish shot barumbled towards the bottom left corner as Barnes flopped like a belly dancer. After an eternity the ball arrived and Barnes parried it back and Fenton swiped away for a throw-in, despite having several hours in which to cook his tea.

Slow motion failure is a thing of beauty that, in Town terms, lasts forever.

The pigeon came back. There was nothing to disturb it. Rotherham were content to stand around inside their own half. That's all it took to keep the hounds at bay.

Ah yes, two things that Town did. Jones flicked a header on, Butler swiped a long shot just over the angle of post and bar and we all "ooh"-ed. Minutes later Heggggarty wandered into the centre, Taylor peeled around to the right in a huge parabola and little Nick dinked a perfect pass behind the defence. Taylor ran on, beat his marker and crossed behind Jones. I know what you're thinking, but you had to be there.

With 12 minutes left Town had replaced Clarke with Big Bird, moving back to a 4-3-3 formation. Fenton and Bird were in the centre, with Bennett at right-back and a midfield of Heggarty, Boshell and Till. After six minutes of being on the pitch, during which he let the ball go past him to Barnes and headed the back of a Rotherham player's head, he finally touched it. He didn't do anything that would make us cry, or be unduly concerned. But then again, neither did Rotherham. It wasn't like he was in a competitive match.

As three minutes of added time were about to begin, Butler ruffled Joseph's beehive and they had a little bit of chest-beating, chin-rubbing nonsense. Then the whole nonsense ended and we all went home. The pigeon is still there though.

This was a game of no halves. It didn't need to happen, it didn't happen. Town had a split personality today: they were either rubbish or dreadful. There is nothing to analyse, just a malaise to report. All these fine words from the players are buttering nobody's parsnips. Half of them have switched off for the season; no wonder no-one can be bothered to come down to Blundell Park.

We've all lost our Mariners mojo.