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Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

14 March 2009

Chester 1 Grimsby Town 1

Welcome to near Wales. There's something rotten in the state of Deva: sniff it, whiff it, it's caught on the wind. It's a nasal metaphor - they've been muck spreading in the cow fields behind the ground.

Some wide-eyed, some legless, 1,100 Townites bloated the crowd and bloated Chester's bank account, or should that be reduced their overdraft slightly? Look around you, all you see are unsympathetic eyes; stroll around the ground until you feel at home. We've been here before but this time it feels like the end.

Town lined up in the 3-5-2 formation as follows: Henderson, Atkinson, Bennett, Newey, Clarke, Boshell, Hunt, Heggggarty, Widdowson, Proudlock, Ak Ak. The substitutes were Monty, Llewellyn, 'Nigel' Jarman, F-f-f-f-f-orbes and Sticky Robdale. The three musketeers are no more and the replacement killers Boshell, Hunt and Hegggarty strike fear only into the local operatic society. Nobody does the Fallen Fairies any more.

Now's the chance and we must take it: a case of do-or-die. Town played in red.

First half
Town kicked off into the wind and towards the meringue of devoted Deviants gurgling together in the distance. Round and round and round and round and round and round and round and round with you. Up, down, up, down, up, down too. The ground was hard, the match was tarred and feathered by a billowing, blustery wind blowing punts backwards.

Newey flaked a crossfield pass to Clarke. Urgh. Danby dabbled in antiques as a hobby, plucking an old ball from a junkyard and passing it off as a golden relic from football's mighty past. Ak-Ak spun and spurted on the left, twisting and twizzling a shot that crept a foot inside the far corner flag with Danby well beaten. Hunt tickled Heggarty free inside the penalty area; the shot bumbled off a blue bottom and into the side netting. This isn't football: it's a beach party.

In the chilly hours and minutes of uncertainty Ellison slapped into the side netting. Someone should slap him.

The wind blew, the ball zoomed off to Crewe. Town were incapable of kicking it along the ground. This isn't football, it's banana-ball. Hey Mr Ellison, head me banana; daylight come and me wanna go home. Where have we hid the deadly black and white tarantula? Yes, where is it hidden? Did someone tread on it last summer?

Ouch! Ah, there it is.

Boshell floated a free kick in to the breeze and out it came again. Widdowson wibbled and wafted a dinky little chip behind their flustered right-back. Hegggggggarty tiptoed through the tulips, waited for the penny to drop and dabbled a low volley into the bottom right corner.

They do Nick Hegggarty dolls now? I may want one.

Suddenly there was noise as half the ground awoke from their golden slumbers to fill their crying eyes. Smiles await you when you rise, Mr Henderson. The Anti-Barnes shook under a curling Lowe free kick, clutching it on his line as it veered south-south-easterly in a gust. We weren't aghast in a gust. And it's March, so no more iced puns please, we're British. Remember, it's time for British puns for British people.

Ah, the Cestrian traders wheeled and dealed, importing oomph and exporting angst. It was all very taxing. I do hope they pay their taxes like we do. Well, they're a one-man band, nobody knows nor understands how they manage to survive. Ellison stoop-headed a corner well over, then volleyed into the cow field after Bennett headed a cross to him, just eight yards out. Bad things come in threes - Ellison raced after a wind-assisted rocket, but Newey magnificently shuffled and slid danger into the Dee.

At some point Ellison was booked for a deliberately accidental collision with Henderson with elbows and knees jagging.

Chester thrumped, the wind grumped and Linwood headed a corner into side netting beyond the far post, beyond Henderson's breakdancing, beyond Xanadu. All they did was thwack it forward and Town couldnae hack it clear. Yes, we have no bananas. It was like watching six-year-olds playing uphill. No-one had enough puff.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear - Kalalalalalaless, now Boshless, this is hopeless. Llewellyn replaced a hobbling Boshell with about ten minutes left of the half. The appearance of Lulu normally presages an implosion. Does an imploding implosion create anti-matter? Does it matter? These two raggle-taggle collections of snivelling orphans and flea-ridden dogs are the underclass of football. No-one cares about the poor, deserving or not. Off to the workhouse!

And just as the Chester thirst for a milkshake had been quenched by a mint imperial from Hunt, a corner coiled in from their right. Henderson staggered backwards as the breeze blew back his hair, arced his back and stumbled behind the line, desperately prodding the ball away from his crumbling clifftop, in a reprise of Paul Reece's comedy keeping for Notts County way, way back when we were kings. Alas, Anti-Barnes fell behind the line, flicking the ball away as Ellison stomped towards him. The referee blew and pointed towards Wales. A free kick to Town: for being embarrassing?

And give or take a scrambled egg or two involving Ak-Ak, and a mysterious free kick awarded to Chester that was twicely taken and twicely saved, the end of the half was nigh. And the end of the world is nigh too.

Awful wind, awful game, awfully nice scoreline.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time and the wicked wind form the west dropped slightly.

Oh-oh, chango. Hendo flapping again.

Crosses hinged and hung, with Henderson scuttling and shuffling to no effect. His arms rotated, occasionally diverting the ball away, often not. A cross, a corner, half cleared, and wellied back. Hunt volleyed off the line, a Chesterman volleyed over. Town got a volley of invective from the support. Someone probably headed near, another probably stretched near. We could almost hear the Chester sing. We couldn't hear the Town fans sing.

Town? No, nothing. The wind it blew, the ball it flew and fingernails did chew. The concrete and clay beneath our feet began to shake with nerves. C'mon Town, don't show your fear. Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes, put it in your pantry with your cupcakes.

About ten minutes in those pesky kids found the keys to the pantry and had themselves a Scooby snack. Hunt, halfway inside their half, was penalised after Lowe sneakily inserted his shirt into the hand of cod. Danby walloped it straight down the middle, where the ball bounced once, hung up and spooned around as Bennett waited for it to drop. Lowe rolled himself into a rug to shield and spin. Three Townites converged as he laid the ball back for some other Deviant to shoot, The shot deflected off a white sock and googlied straight into the path of Lowe, who stepped inside Atkinson's last lunge and carefully raised the ball over Henderson into the left side of the goal.

A dozen Town fans tried to rouse the beast; the rest were silent. The defiance lasted 30 seconds. These are the last breaths of the once mighty Mariners. Was Lincoln merely remission, the last dying of the light?

Here we go again, groan on if you must. Henderson missed a corner and Ellison missed a header. A unmarked little Chesterman stooped and headed nowhere after another corner sailed malignly beyond the far post. Ooooo - Ak-Ak za-zoomed past the lignite Linwood and almost, almost reached a welly, but the ball rolled on the wind and Danby plucked millimetres from happiness. Ooooo - Ak-Ak headed at Danby after a Clarke flat-ironed cross to the penalty spot.

Proudlock? Haven't mentioned him. Have now. He was replaced by the headless Forbes.

Five minutes later Widdowson was replaced by 'Nigel' Jarman, with Heggggarty moving to left wing-back. What's that you say, Joltin' Joe has left and gone away. I surely did. It's a shame he can't get free from the chains. Now what did they do, these two substitutes? 'Nigel' is not outspoken, but he likes to speak, and he loves to be spoken to. 'Nigel' got booked and Forbes did one single thing of thingness. Town played a minuet for a minute, with passes and passion, which is rarely the fashion. Hegggarty probed and pumped a seeping cross to the far post. Forbes waited and carefully headed back across Danby from a narrow angle. The ball hit the keeper's hands, reared up, struck a defender near his arm and was hacked away from the line. Form the corner Bennett stretched inside the six-yard box and Ellison volley-poked the ball over his own crossbar as the goal gaped.

They had crosses and corners. Henderson variably waved as the ball passed invariably by. It was all nothing of consequence.

Don't worry, it's nearly over.

In the last five or so minutes Town mounted what neutral observers would charitably describe as a late offensive, though it may be offensive to charity to call it that. Bennett hurled long throws and half had a half shot. Hegggarty crept into the area and steered a stretching volley wide of Danby, wide of the post. Ak-Ak headed wide, Hegggarty slashed into the cowpats and Ellison scythed down Newey with a sliding block which started during the Christmas sales. Ellison was told off rather than sent off. O lucky man.

Anything more? I hear your call. Ak-Ak was beaten by wind to a flick-on and, deep, deep, deep into time added on for sheer devilment, one of their full-backs steamed into a huge gaping hole after a cross was knocked down and headed very badly high from about six yards out. And then everyone left to get in a traffic jam.

Neither team were capable of being capable. Town played dumb, fearful football, with very little method except hitting it high and often in the hope that something might happen. If we're going to play long ball then sign players who are suited to it. There was a whole lotta shrugging going on with no cohesion between different parts of the team, and a lot of standing around feeling sorry for themselves.

Why waste any more time dissecting this frog? It was what it was, and all you feared it would be. The two worst teams in professional football met on a windy afternoon in a cow field. It stank, but we ain't sunk yet.

This is Grimsby: the gods will not help you.