The man with icy eyes

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

20 December 2015

Grimsby Town 1 Dover Athletic 0

Winding their way down Neville Street, light in their head and dead on their feet after the long trek north, a near century of Doverites draped themselves across the Osmond stand at the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year in this hap-happiest season of all. With summer almost over some even wore colour-co-ordinated cardigans.

Town lined up in that new-fangled fancy 4-4-2 formation that confuses the UEFA badgers, as follows: McKeown, Tait, Gowling, Nsiala, Townsend, Arnold, Clay, Disley, Monkhouse, Bogle and Amond. The substitutes were Robertson, Pearson, Henderson, Marshall and Big Unit James Alabi. If you have to be told who stood where, you really haven't been paying attention, have you.

Baron Munchausen and the increasingly barren Bogle were ridiculously begloved in the warm-up, for which much ridicule awaited should that nonsense persist. And while we're talking about persistent nonsense, Ricky Modeste's hair is currently subject to an outstanding complaint to the Health and Safety Executive. One would have thought that in this risk-sensitive and litigious world the FA would suspend his hair until that investigation was complete. For God's sake, think of the children.

Or perhaps Nathan's crimping shears will cramp his lack of style.

OK ramblers, let's get rambling.

First half: Pinball lizards

Dover kicked off towards the Pontoon. Arnold and Thomas exchanged hairstyles as Gowling was a-toppled by Kentish men of Kent, arising with more than a whiff of a Dickie Davies quiff. I don't think we are ever going to faint at the beauty of Doverball as they roam the field: all channel balls and chips with everything.

Bogle turned with a slipshod slip-shot which slopped into Rafferty's bucket. You won't find the hole in Rafferty's bucket with that, Omar. We'd had a good minute.

Chris Kinnear's team is made up of bits and pieces that he's picked up here and there, and with a gallon of stout in the petrol tank it does 90 miles an hour. Harem scarem bargeball, knocking the sophisticated hosts out of their haughty stride and into frantic swipes and whacks. No time, no space and the midfield simply a trampoline, where aerial kabaddi collided with blind volleyball. They hustled and bustled and shot over once, then twice. The tumbling dice won free kicks twice in exactly the same spot. It's almost as if they train to win free kicks 30 yards out in the centre-left so they can inswing down the middle and have a scrum atop the keeper. And then see what happens.

Some long chucks, some mild pandemonium, something of nothing. What a grind of hi-vis, high-intensity ASBOballing.

There were occasional moments of football between the arguments over the hedge. Arnold swung his pants and swayed a cross lowly, just in front of Amond. Townsend hook-tackled the mobile hairstyle under the Police Box, surged through the fun boy three and drooped a perfect pass into the path of the unmarked Amond. Alas the bounce, alas 'twas a moment lost.

It's exhausting to watch Dover's perpetual motion destructo-ball. They ain't got no distractions, there ain't no buzzers and bells, they just play by sense of smell

Count Orlu was strong and fast, overpowering and outpacing Amond, who spent almost the entire half sprinting back towards Jamie Mack to chase clearances and hacks. Their plan was clear and working – this destructive chaos in midfield, with pacy pests at both ends. Town planning required.

Moments. Moments.

Clay exchanged glances with the Baron and passed lowly through the uninhabited middle. Omar shuffled by the covered corner and a blue head grazed away from the awaiting Tait. Clay glanced way wide from Arnold's return.

It's exhausting to watch Dover's perpetual motion destructo-ball. They ain't got no distractions, there ain't no buzzers and bells, they just play by sense of smell. As the half ended one thing finally happened. A shot, on target.

Their little ponytail plunged to earth on their pre-arranged, pre-ordained, pre-cooked free kick spot. Up they all trundled and Townites sank back as the ball dinked and dropped. Raggett noddled on and the pink plunger instinctively parried back, straight into the melée of madness and sadness. The ball was kneed up rather than knocked in by Raggett and scrumbled away. You could say someone had lost their Raggett, but half time stopped someone losing their rag at losing Raggett.

What a tortuous way to end a half of fascinating torture. One thing is for sure: the better team is drawing.

Second half: Smash the mirror

Neither team made any changes at half time.

Dover carried on carrying on regardless of Town's fiendish plans to combat their combatitiveness. They kept running hard, running fast, and ruining a perfectly lovely afternoon with their trying and stuff.

Blink and you missed the dink. Chipped in from their left suddenly, the flying ponytail was free between Gowling and Townsend, right in the centre, seven yards out. Modeste soared and steered the header back towards the near post. McKeown shifted his weight from left to right, swayed the upper part of his body and magnificently stuck out his right hand and flipped the ball away. Miller's face at first went pale and then turned a whiter shade of pale as he scruffled wide in the confusion.

Slowly the game turned as Town began to wear down the dour destroyers with some counter-destructive deconstruction of their own. Town turned another page and we had the Omar rampage now, under the Frozen Horsemeat Stand. Bogle levied a cross which achingly boombled into the void between Amond and Rafferty. The keeper came out and jumped at goal-machine, rather than the ball, which sauntered on and on as Nathan stood on the edge of the area, watching the world go by. Count Orlu plucked his eyebrows on the way as he walked the ball away on the mild side.

Bogle boggle-bounced and Clay volley-swept into the path of Amond, under the Police Box. A hustle here and a hustle there; Little Amond never gave it away but did roll a little teaser into the void between Rafferty and Omar. Into the void, and out for a corner as some blue-clad chap swiped away from Arnold.

A long blue punt was eaten by various stripes, and off Arnold surged, down the middle, through the middle to the left, as Amond and Bogle drifted into the unmanned right. Arnold only had eyes for goal and swizzled over from the edge of the area. Townsend raided into a cul-de-sac, felt a dumb hand on his shoulder and declined the opportunity to remain standing. The free kick vroomed into the near post and slapped off Bogle and Thomas, rolling, rolling, rolling inches wide. The corner wasn't given. Omar sighed.

What injury could this be? A late case of Grimsbyitis or perhaps finally succumbing to that bruised ego Aswad Thomas has been nursing for the last year?

Aswad Thomas crumpled to the turf and, clutching his reputation. Off he went, very slowly, like an amateur drama queen. What injury could this be? A late case of Grimsbyitis or perhaps finally succumbing to that bruised ego he's been nursing for the last year. I wouldn't like to bet on which one, would you?

A kaleidoscope of ricochets and rebounds as the Doverites accidentally advanced on a counterattack. Townsend slipped and Ajala, Aswad's replacement, fizzled a cross seven, six, five, four, three, two yards past the far post.

Town turned the tourniquet. Tait tickled Amond behind the blue wall, but… but… but Bogle was replaced by Big Unit. Arnold surged: he dragged himself wide and buffled into a wall of blue. Monkhouse tried to tie the knot: he dragged wide, buffled into a wall of blue and dragged himself off the pitch to be replaced by the Mercurial One, Marcus Marshall, as time drifted. Five minutes left.

McKeown punted long and high deep, deep into the Dover half. The ball bounced over Orlu and Amond cutely sneaked himself around and stroked a pass into a huge empty space, around 20 yards out. Ah, the feet of Clay. With time to boil an egg, Clay klutzed over. Two minutes left.

One minute left.

As the fourth official pressed buttons on his light sabre, Town chased the ball around as it swirled and hung and flew in the weird warm wind from the west. Townsend tickled the ball away from a stray leg, cut infield and exchanged passes with Arnold near the 'D'. Townsend tiptoed into the outer reaches of the penalty area and tumbled over a big bloke's approaching menace. The referee pondered and pointed for a penalty.

Without Omar on the pitch, we do not have a designated penalty misser. What a conundrum. Alabi provided some comic relief by suggesting to Amond that he should take it. This approach was given the shrift it deserved, and we all laughed happily ever after as Amond rolled low and left and Rafferty went down Baker Street.

Four minutes were added. Somewhere within that four minutes Dover took two minutes to waste a free kick, dead centre, 20 yards out, as Pearson replaced Arnold. Payne's painful slap was smothered by a comforting monochrome duvet.

Now wasn't that a suitable ending.