Survival of the fittest: Dagenham (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

27 January 2009

Grimsby Town 1 Dagenham Duracell Batteries 1

Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour. Step right this way. Town lined up in the 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Clarke, Bennett, Atkinson, Widdowson, Jarman, Kalalalalala, Sinclair, Elliott the Headbandage, Proudlock and Mr Peter Bore (mark IV). The substitutes were Monty, Llewellyn, Boshell, Heywood and Heggggarty. Bore's like a Ford Cortina: relaunched so often he has a vinyl roof and leather effect trousers. Ah, but what's going in inside his head; if there's no silicon chip it can't flip to overload.

Bore off the bench, Ak-Ak in an anorak. Not a birthday treat for anyone.

Dagenham turned up in yellow, because red and blue clashes horribly with black and white. They had tiny, tiny players and big, big players and spent a lot of time hugging each other. They probably love their mums too, though maybe not apple pie. And they had more players than fans.

It started to rain.

First half
Town kicked off towards the Pontoon with the standard issue kick into touch. The Daggers took it quickly, flipped and flopped Town down the right and chased, chased and chased again as a dink was donked towards the corner flag. The ball was scraped along the bye-line. Town left it; Benson didn't and mild panic ensued. A corner was punched away by Barnes; a long throw was clopped away and Town relaxed for 0.231 seconds. The Daggermen lobbed it back. Lobbed it back. Lobbed it long. Lobbed it longer. Lobbed it high. Lobbed it higher. Chase me, chase me, ooh, they could crush a grape.

Two Daggerfans skipped down the aisles and found a seat. Ah, the second coach has arrived then.

Ah, that's better. Halley's football returned to Earth every 86 seconds; Town passed it once, twice and Proudlock swooshed infield to scribble a dribbler to the near post. Roberts scooped and wellied long. Repeat throughout the game. Into the corners, they chased it. They chased it. They chased it.

Elliott swingled a pass down the left and Bore sprinted behind the humungous centre backs, shrugged the mountain aside and advanced upon the wide-boy keeper. Bore poked past Roberts and the ball rolled across, slowly, slowly, towards the bottom right corner and... ooh, an inch wide.

Boom-bang-a bang everyone now knows what they are. Surely they can't keep it up all game?

Whoops. Clarke slipped and tiny-tiny Ritchie slipped by, caressing a pass behind all to the penalty spot. Taiwo carefully sliced the ball a millimetre past Barnes' left post. Eyebrows raised, then lowered. On Earth they did indeed call that missing.

After about 20 minutes Town pounded down the right, revved up like a deuce, Bore a runner in the night. The ball was ticked back to Clarke who superbly shinned a first-tine cross over the top of the Police Box for a throw-in. The Cock-er-nees piffled and piddled between themselves from the throw-in and Sinclair mugged a member of the corps de ballet in the middle of their half, setting off towards the unshaven, unprotected Roberts. Sinclair swayed left and oozed past the sprawling spiv. Just as he was about to roll the ball into the empty net Elliott appeared from behind his shoulder to steal his thunder. Sinclair looked thunderous as the shrieking southerners berated the linesman. Offside? Pfft. If you play Rollerball you can't expect the rules of football to be applied.

They pressed on and on with their cruise missiles on automatic pilot, pre-programmed to land behind the full-backs. Rotten to watch, but effective. Bennett threw himself at Okuonghae as the ball ran loose. A corner. Big Bertha booming, Town cleared. Big Bertha boomed again; Town retreated to the trenches and waited for them to run out of shells.

For a microsecond the ball was on the floor and a Town player wasn't being molested. Proudlock was away, Proudlock was still away, Proudlock was through and away. Roberts crept forward and pounced as Proudlock chose to shoot. The chance was gone. The moment, unlike Proudlock, had passed.

We had 15 minutes of human pinball. To keep us amused the Mighty Mariner crept along the back of the net and stole Mr Roberts's leaky Lucozade. The kelp-munching keeper turned, scowled and stepped further away from his goal: he'd been spooked by the foaming funster. Town had a free kick and the whole Dagenham team lined up on the edge of the penalty area. When it was kicked they all sprinted upfield, befuddling Town. Roberts caught the ball and launched it: suddenly it was eight versus two. That, my friend, sums up their attitude: attack is the only form of defence.

And suddenly it wasn't so funny. Jarman tried a sneaky pass on the halfway line. A sneaky pass to them, that is, as no Town player was near. Within a wink of your eye the yellow perils had smacked the ball over to their right, Nurse advanced behind Elliott and shimmered dangerously. He cut infield and, from about 25 yards, levered a zooming low shot through a defender's legs towards the bottom left corner. Barnes slowly slumped and 44 pearly kings had a knees-up; you'll find them all doing the Dagenham walk down the steps of the Osmond stand. Oi!

A minute later, or maybe a minute earlier, Barnes embarrassed himself, his family, and his pet Chihuahuas by fluffing a fly-kick against Benson. The ball rolled goalwards with Barnes flapping and flailing behind the energetic Essexer. Rolling, rolling towards goal... towards the net... into the side netting. Shall we laugh or shall we cry? Let's pretend it never happened; it's best for all concerned. Let's brick this moment into the cellar of terror, a dark family secret that need never be retold.

Your thoughts shall turn to spring and Curtis' French Fancies for tea. It was mugball for ten minutes.

And as the half drew to its terminal end the ball fell to Sinclair, centrally, just outside the penalty area. He swung his boots, the ball swung in the air and Roberts, rather splendidly, assessed the reverse swing and parried aside. Proudlock followed up, was offside and we all went "ahhh". It's... time, for Pipkins.

And Town had a goal disallowed. But why wallow in pity? Bennett headed in a corner after Bore had blocked Roberts The referee had blown his whistle before Bennett's bonce bonked the ball in from an inch out.

Thank goodness that's over with. It was awful, but weirdly mesmerising: a fitness regime on the theme of football. How do you think they do it? What makes them so good at it? Perhaps they play by sense of smell as we sure ain't seen nothing like them in our amusement hall.

Perhaps they'll get tired and we can see some football.

Second half
No changes were made by either team at half time.

An utterly terrible thing to observe, it was a grim slog watching Town take a physical beating and be simply worn down by the Duracell Dagenhammers. All Town could do was repel the mutant Ninja Turtles for there was no time, no space, no chance of doing anything but temporarily divert danger.

Taiwo plonked a shot towards Barnes who rather lazily tipped over when he could have caught it. Cue minutes of needless pressure. Barnes flapped and flopped a punch away from Benson's head a few yards to the right of goal, leaving it gaping and inviting. Fortunately the Daggerman sliced high. Another sliced wide, another sliced wide, another sliced high and wide. They sliced and they diced us.

Crosses slipping and dipping, clipping and skipping through over and under. Town? On the ropes, covering the body and head, taking the shots and hanging on in hope. It was brutally basic and these uninvited guests never, ever stopped. They never slackened the pace or intensity. They drank all our beer, all our wine, ate all the peanuts, baked a cake, defrosted the freezer and heated up all its contents for supper. They changed the colour scheme, moved the furniture around, knocked the bottom floor into one giant open-plan space and invited all their mates in. Then they claimed squatters' rights. We were powerless, please call the police someone, this can't be right.

Taiwo coiled a free kick towards the top right corner, which Barnes clawed away. Repeat every nightmare, put on your gas masks too. Bennett blocked, Widdowson slid, Atkinson poked and Sinclair cleaned up the hallway with his magic mop. And Town 's batteries started to fade...

Southam sliced over, then someone else did, then another. Get the drift? Then it ended.


I've never seen anything like it; I've never seen anything like it in my life. Dagenham were incredibly efficient and energetic. They knew what to do, where to punt it and never gave up at any point. It was like playing football against a giant mechanised turbo-charged clam. Town did marvellously to avoid defeat and to have eleven men standing at the end.

Virtually nothing happened in the second half, except a huge rolling maul, like those strange Olde Englishe games played by two sides of a village with a dead rabbit in a sock. After eleven hours they called it a draw as the sock disintegrated.

It wasn't pretty to watch, but it was a point gained. And we all survived Dagenham's high pressure hose treatment.