From both sides now: Brentford (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

16 August 2008

Brentford 4 Grimsby Town 0

By the time we got to Brentford we were three hundred strong; everywhere there were songs and celebration. It's amazing what raisin' expectations will do after two clean sheets.

Town lined up in the regulation 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Bennett, Heywood, Hope, Newey, Till, Hunt, Heslop, Lulullewellyn, Butler, Taylor. The substitutes were Monty, Heggggarty, Bore, Clarke and North. With Ribby Stickdale sat at home rubbing his thighs, Bennett returned to right-back, adding, if nothing else, height. As it turned out that was all he added.

The players looked bored and so did the Town fans, split between standers and sitters. Not a good start to the day, but at least they had turned up. They had, hadn't they?

Brentford haven't scored this season, we haven't conceded. We know what's coming.

First half
The game started and the minutes passed by without incidents or accidents, just hints and allegations. Butler fell head over heels in love with himself and a free kick resulted. Heslop clipped, Butler dipped and the ball looped over the bar.

The ball was in the air; Heywood and Hope headed it back whence it came. The ball was in the air; Heywood and Hope headed it back whence it came. The ball was in the air, MacDonald headed nicely wide.

The ball was in the air, everywhere you look around. The ball was in the air; it was never on the ground.

Elder kept staring at his bootlaces and the referee kept giving free kicks. They kicked them over the wall, over the bar and over and over and over and over. The record's got a scratch, kick it, someone. Please.

Suddenly Newey tickled down the left, Taylor chased and Hamer raced off his line. With the keeper caught between two lovers Taylor poked the ball over Hamer and over the bar. Settle down for 10 minutes of planespotting. Will they down that Virgin 757? Town broke and Taylor failed to cross to the unmarked Butler. The afternoon drifted by with throw-ins and goal kicks. Barnes caught a corner, just for something to do.

Nothing was going on, nothing.

Bennett back-headed a clearance straight to Elder, but some big blue bottom smothered danger. That was something, almost.

Taylor tumbled and Town had a free kick, in the centre right, 20 yards out. Hamer crouched and the Town fans grouched as Newey waddled forward and arced a dipping thwacker around the wall towards the top right corner. Hamer soared and superbly flicked the ball aside for a corner. This is all very easy, a stroll in the park, as the Brennies just lobbed themselves onto the newly constructed Maginot line.

Newey fluffed a clearance up the touchline to the Brentford right-back, who started to wander upfield. Town players shuffled sideways when he went forward and forward when he went sideways, performing an intricate mating dance with this southern belle. Heslop and Hunt curtsied politely and Wilson poked a pass to the left corner of the area. MacDonald, with his back to goal, back-pedalled and scoop-flicked over and around Barnes with the outside of his right boot, the ball kissing the underside of the bar as it looped into the top right corner. A sublime finish at odds with the dross that preceded it, for Brentford had looked as dainty as a hippo on a pogo stick.

Their dander up, Brentford began to play expansive, flowing, one-touch hoofball. They couldn't breach Town's centre so they flew around the sides, with Newey and Bennett the yokels on a day trip being roughed up by the streetwise big city kids. A corner headed wide, another headed into the side netting, as Brentford were excited and Town derided for their impression of a cheap collapsible deck-chair. Bennett, oh Bennett, what have you done to our Bennett? One fantastic block is not enough. Terror followed error as Bennett followed Brentford's pylons.

From right to left, Brentford hoiked high balls into the centre, with Town half clearing, always fearing. Williams swung a huge, huge, high-flying cross way, way beyond the far post as Heathrow warned the incoming flights of a UFO. Barnes was transfixed by the flashing lights in the distance. What could it be, he must follow with his torch in to the woods beyond the six-yard box. The ball carried on and on... eight, nine, ten yards wide of goal as Barnes hung his arms out wide in rapture. Newey ducked and the ball bounced off Newton straight to Elder, near the penalty spot, who stumbled and scrumbled the ball in to the empty net. Mister, your eyes are full of hesitation. Sure makes me wonder, if you know what you're looking for: Phil Barnes stood in the middle of a crop circle near the Westway.

There was displeasure voiced from near and from far.

Brentford turned their dander up to eleven as Town's new castle turned out to be made of sand. Newton swept past Newey and Poole steered the cross to the near post where Barnes saved excellently. There was a bit of morris dancing inside the Town area and Newey blocked as the Brennies stood around the fringes waiting for a friend. The match was just a succession of punts and half clearances, with Town's midfield permanently watching sky.

Right on half time Brentford pinged and ponged a shot across the face of goal. MacDonald stretched his leg out and kneed it wide with Newey walloping the ball into the stand after it had crossed the line. The referee gave a corner, while the linesman signalled a goal kick. They pointed this way and that, and after some amateur semaphoring the linesman gave up, and a corner was given. Cleared, returned and embarrassed by ineptitude again. The ball was lofted behind Bennett, who turned and shielded the ball for the onrushing Barnes to collect. That's the invisible onrushing Barnes, who stood on his line and got down with da kids by doing some break-dancing as the urchin MacDonald artfully dodged around Bennett and poked the ball through static Phil's legs from about three yards out. Ah, the cost of dithering has never been higher. Any credit they had accumulated was crunched by fragile minds.

Hitler, like Brentford, realised that you only had to drive around the Maginot line.

Second half
Montgomery came out of the dressing room early holding his ears as Taylor was replaced by Heggggarty. Town moved to a 4-5-1-type formation, with Hegggarty floating somewhere behind Butler in the Kingsley Black hole.

Within four minutes Town had strung five passes together and Heslop had shot weakly at Hamer. And that was it for 15 minutes. We resumed our planespotting; nothing happened anywhere. The ball was in the air, in the shadow of the sun; the ball was in the air, this game was certainly done.

On the hour Elder rugged down their right, shrugging Hunt aside and leaping over a hackneyed hack from Hope. To the bye-line, to cross, to score. Poole, just inside the area, slashed a low drive into the bottom right corner. Who cares?

At this Llewellyn was replaced by North and Town went back to 4-4-2. Lulu had been anonymous alright, no worse than anyone else. Heggarty crossed into the stands after what could almost be described as a passing move. Till crossed in to the stands after what will definitely be called a passing move. Bennett chucked a long throw straight out of play for a goal kick and then curled a cross into the top tier of the emptying stand of seated seethers.

There's nothing here now, just Town's tent billowing in the breeze: the zip broken, the guy ropes loose. Let's pack up and go home, it's been a rotten holiday.

Heywood was booked for checking the label on Elder's shorts and MacDonald dragged a shot wide. Then someone else dragged another shot wide. Newey fiddled and piddled and finally passed back to them, but nothing happened. It's over, walk on by.

North nearly scored you know. A good move too. Till tricked and teased, Hegggarty flicked and North slapped a shot from a few yards wide of goal. Hamer's forearm fortuitously diverted the ball aside. So what.

They wanted a penalty, they didn't get it. Newey was the flipper in a pinball game, but the Brennies kept missing. What's the point?

Heggarty had a shot deflected wide, then another, then it was the end.

For 25 minutes it had been a pleasant afternoon in London, then Town had a mad hour, where all sense and sensibility were left on the bus. There was no collective heart, no collective brain. The H block had some tiles missing and a bit of dry rot round the edges.

One week gone: won one, lost one, drew one. You can see what you want to see, but someone shot the swallows and claimed it was winter.