Odds and sods: Darlington (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

21 February 2009

Darlington 1 Grimsby Town 0

Another year, another two-way stretch to the criminal's folly, the home of the cabbage patch Darls. Times are hard and an out-of-town multifunctional stadium must generate new income streams for the core business: the pitch is doubling as a turnip field. So that's what they mean by growing the business.

Town lined up in a red mist 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Clarke, Bennett, Atkinson, Widdowson, Jarman, Kalalalalala, Sinclair, Elliott, Proudlock, F-f-f-f-f-orbes. The substitutes were Monty, Llewellyn, Bore, Newey and Boshell. Newey. Let's hang on that thought for a little while longer. Newey... he's back. C'mon, c'mon, let's shrug together.

It's a lovely clear day, but where did that wind come from? There wasn't one outside the bowl of gloop, but the unconvincing fringes and biodegradable wigs were a-blowing in the invisible inside wind.

He may be daft, but he ain't stupid: Russ Abbott would never hold a party here. Darlington's the home of hubris and heartache. Why don't they hold hands with Bradford and skip off somewhere a long way from us? I'm thinking Demis Roussos, I'm thinking forever and ever and ever and ever.

Four ball-boys sat forlornly in the tundra to our right. A whole side of the stadium had no-one in it. Silence shouts. Before the coffin is lowered please stand and sing. "We can see you sneaking in!"

This is purgatory, and we haven't even started.

First half
Town kicked off away from the 400 or so Town fans belligerently bellowing below the radar. This was purgatory and we had started.

Darlo avoided the 'pitch', pump-action shotguns blasting pellets towards the heads of Hatch and Carlton, a right pair of ugly flickers. Hatch, 'orrible 'Atch - all elbows and knees knocking and crocking. Ooh, Kalalala shrugged a hooperman aside and discoed from the halfway line into the area. One, two, three, make your body talk: he whistled wide. Gerken in a jerkin strummed a ukulele with his little stick of northern rock.

Sinclair ticked, Forbes flicked, Proudlock spun and thwackeld a dipping, dripping curler from 30 yards which lightly oiled the top of the net. What a good five minutes; Town were relatively perky. Maybe we're not in limbo-land today, but climbing the ladder of indifference towards the tree house of boredom.

No, forget it. Get yer wellies on - we're trampling tractor trails and planting vegetables. No-one can pass, no-one can control, no-one can do anything. This isn't even rugby, it's Aussie rules without the hair. 'Orrible 'Atch barged into Atkinson, dived over Atkinson and won a free kick for fouling Atkinson when Widdowson was clearing a nothing nowhere near anything.


Town cleared; the shoddy ref gave them another free kick for Clarke, erm, laughing in the wrong place when the pastel poltroon told a joke. Carlton punched the ball wide and a goal kick was given. The linesman affected a limp and the referee put his hands on his hips and pretended he was a teapot.

Sinclair slid manfully into a full-frontal tackle with Foster and remained on the valley of bobbles. He got up eventually, hobbled around, and carried on. Then smacked into another old-fashioned clash of cultures 30 seconds later. It's called commitment, Tom.

They'd done nothing, we'd done less, the ref was doing more crazy things in this wild and wacky family adventure for children of all ages. Warning: this next section contains scenes of mild peril and cartoon danger that may disturb those sensitive to light.

The idiot ref gave them a free kick for one of a thousand things he dreamt up when under the influence of his pre-match Babycham. Half cleared, quarter cleared, not cleared - R-r-r-r-r-r-ricky Ravenhill bedraggled a shot from a dozen yards or so on the right side of the area. The ball scuttled and bumbled and bibbled and bobbled and was going wide. Barnes sighed and pushed the shot aside, but not out of play. The Burgermeister twisted from a narrow angle and clipped a hedge under Barnes and against the retreating Clarke's legs on the line.

Ah, so they have done something now.

More free kicks, more half pressure, more headers from Bennett, and punches from Barnes. Widdowson was booked for being the smallest boy on the pitch. It was all terrible.

Woah, did you see that? Forbes shot from exactly the same position that Proudlock had all those years ago. Gerkin caught it, kicked it and another ten minutes of human existence was wasted.

"They're here, they're there, they're evverrrywhere: empty seats."

You know those bits in between, the scenes on the cutting room floor? Men kicked the ball high and others wrestled as it fell, all in the middle of a muddy field. There are no hidden gems for the director's cut. The audio commentary will be a man slowly suffocating through terminal ennui. Is that normal for Radio Compost FM?

The referee was the catalyst, only his madness forced things to happen. Clarke slid to intercept the ball as it trickled towards the penalty area. The Burgermeister ignored it and comically jumped onto Clarke, very slowly, like a seven-year-old pretending to be a wilting flower. The referee gave them a free kick, right on the edge of the area.

Just a bunch of stuff happened variously and the ball eventually tumbled towards the bye-line, well to the left of goal. Barnes half advanced and Kennedy hooked his foot around Atkinson and looped a shotty-cross onto the crossbar.

Good grief, a Town attack. A Town pass. Three, count them, one, two, three passes. Sinclair loopled from right to left, Elliott controlled, jinked and dinked a droopy cross beyond the far post. Proudlock lurked upon the last defender's shoulder with Jarman creeping in behind. Hey, this is just like the goal at Wycombe! Ah, it wasn't just like the Wycombe goal. Proudlock stepped back, controlled the ball and softly poked a yard wide.

After Proudlock's poker there was Gerkin's choker, swishing wildly at a hopeless Town punt and smoogling the ball over the stands and far, far away. If we're lucky they won't have any more balls left and we can go home. We weren't lucky, for they have balls in Darlington.

The half ended with scrambles and blocks as Town never cleared until Bennett steered the ball away for a corner. Then it ended. Peace at last You have been told absolutely everything. You have to go through some of the pain too.

It was awful. It was 0-0. We'd be happy with that.

Second half
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Within 30 seconds Kennedy dived over a Mariners mirage and they got a free kick on the edge of the area. Someone hit it straight at Barnes and White tripped up Pheromone Phil and was booked. Beware. This is a highlight.

There's an internet rumour that Town had an attack. WARNING - DO NOT OPEN ANY E-MAIL THAT CLAIMS TOWN AATTCKED - it is a virus.

Barnes dithered when a long punt bombled through. Bennett waited for Barnes, Barnes didn't come. Then did, then dropped the ball. Then what? Pfft. The clock ticked on and seagulls perched on the roof expired in sympathy with the 3,000 souls beneath. A paper bag waltzed along the touchline but didn't land on the linesman's head.

The clock ticked on.

The Darlypeople broke, the Darlypeople crossed and the Burgermeister, very pleasantly, leaned back and volleyed in to the far corner of the stand with a few people in it. It hit a large man on the bounce and on the bonce. What are the chances of that, eh? One in a million in that ground. Never antagonise an old man with no teeth and a cravat. They snap like a chihuahua.

The clock ticked on.

They had free kicks, they kept kicking it over and over and over. Or perhaps it was all a dream, and the same moment keeps looping around and around. They had free kicks, they kept kicking it over and over and over. Or perhaps it was all a dream, and the same moment keeps looping around and around.

The clock ticked on.

The Darlypeople broke, the Darlypeople crossed and Kennedy, very pleasantly, leaned back and poked a few inches wide of the right post. Don't park near the trees in Newark station car park.

Argh, I opened that e-mail. It was just too tempting, claiming Jarman hooked a free kick back across goal, then Elliott hooked it back again. Forbes' shot was blocked. Was that it!

Forbes was fouled and Forbes was off, and so were Proudlock and Elliott, replaced by Straight Peter Bore, Lulu and Tom Newey. Twenty minutes left. These are the facts, they may also be the fiction.

Kalalala had a hissy fit after 'orrible 'Atch practised the Heimlich manoeuvre without seeking prior permission. Bennett strode across and instilled some captainly discipline. Two minutes were eaten up with this frippery. Time, time, time, slowly drifting on. Never buy a sandwich in Switzerland.

Yeah, yeah, another ridiculous free kick, and another miss. Foster free and heading well over from well near. Well, this has 0-0 written all over it. What has Jarman's backside got written all over it? The ball maker's name? Jarman was booked for blocking a clearance with his backside. This still counts as a highlight.

Widdowson ran and ran up and up the wing, with Bore waiting to be released behind the defence. Widdowson smashed a three-yard pass five yards wide and ten yards too hard and out for a goal kick. Now that's what I call Town's attack #3.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Not quite. The Darlypeople broke, the Darlypeople crossed and Carlton, very pleasantly, leaned back six yards out and steered the ball wide of the open goal. Always stir your hot chocolate vigorously using a knife; otherwise you get blobby bits floating.

With about four minutes left Sinclair dillied in attack and was disrobed. The Quackers wellied the ball down their right and probably, somewhere along that line, they got a throw-in. Let's assume they did for the purpose of propelling this sad, sad story towards its inevitably tragic denouement. The grim laddies threw themselves off the cliffs. Darlo piddled around and Town stood off. When I say Town I mean Tom Newey, who'd been occupying a defensive left midfield role for quarter of an hour without incident. We hadn't had his 15 minutes of fail for a while, had we.

Newey stood aside and allowed R-r-r-r-r-r-ricky R-r-r-r-ravenhill to gently float a cross in to the middle of the area. Atkinson was slightly too far forward and the ball drifted over him, grazed the head of little substitute Main, bumbled and plopped into the bottom right corner as Barnes watched. Oh yes, now we can hear the empty seats sing.

One single man railed against the dying of the light left-back. Yon Tom, we're so inured to you we expect your failure.

There were three minutes of added bobble during which Bennett bobbled a cross off his shin into the crowd and Town's bobble had burst. It was everything you'd known and feared: this lot of Town players is now playing like Town.

Elliott can head the ball, Forbes runs around like a cross-eyed puppy, Proudlock posed, and Kalalala was ruffled out of his haughty stride far too easily. Town never passed, partly through Darlington's pressing, partly through the atrocious pitch and partly through an unwillingness to do so. Town didn't even seem to try to keep the ball below head height or away from the corner flags. There was nothing.

It was awful, it was 1-0, we weren't happy with that.