Hairy panic

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

21 February 2016

Halifax Town 4 Grimsby Town 2

Half a league, half a league, half a league between us as into the valley of dearth walked the seventeen hundred Town fans on a day of mizzling rainsheets. Rows of houses that are all the same, and no-one seems to care enough to fill the stands. Oh what a beautiful noise coming up from the streets. It's got a beautiful sound and a beautiful beat and it's the Town fans' feet.

What a magnificent sight it must be, to see a sea of monochrome bouncing. How inspiring for the players.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Tait, Gowling, Nsiala, Robertson, Jennings, Clay, Nolan, Monkhouse, Amond and Bogle. The substitutes were Horwood, Pearson, Straker, Pittman and Arnold. Jennings is small and transparent. Every minute Town stay in this room, they get weaker.

Nathan Arnold's hair. Oh deary deary me, he's not going back to his roots.

Halifax? Five defenders, four midfielders and plenty of blue-clad brawn in their pork pies.

I don't want to spoil the party so I'll go straight on. Let's hope it isn't a disappointing show. Town never let down a big crowd.

First half: Hang 'em high

Town kicked off towards the distant Faxmen as drizzlesheets descended on to the sodden scrubland. One thing's for sure: you can either surf or you can fight. I saw a snail crawl across a razor's edge. Oh sorry, that's Monkhouse.

A shot from afar, wafting straight at McKeown. Well, these things happen now and again. It isn't as though Town concede goals. Why should we worry about piffling occasional visits from distant relatives? We can fix-grin our way through the pleasantries. A cup of tea and a pilchard sandwich will be enough after some nostalgic reminiscences about second cousin Dave the ice cream seller and grumpy old uncle Paul Futcher the road sweeper.

A higgle of piggleness in the middle of nowhere and a dinky diagonal drooped over the retreating receding Monkyman to a roaming raider. By the by, they were on the bye-line and the old beard turned slowly, turned his back and turned away from the blueboy. Remember there are no fractions in space as the Faxers flooded forward, the cross skipped off the divots, off Monkhouse's bottom and into the path of Whitehouse, who calmly placed his shot under the sprawling McKeown from near the penalty spot.

Was there a man dismay'd? Not tho' the supporters knew. Someone had blunder'd.

A fine fellow fouled and a free kick wafted, Johnson flipped and flapped and the ball fell into Gowling's lap. The hairbear hunched down, adjusted his socks and carefully passed the ball through the emerging humanity. A blue bloke wellied away from base camp. Not so much slow motion as motion capture animation. It looked real if you were prepared to suspend disbelief.

Ooh, that's passing, isn't it. And movement! Three players! Nolan tickled, Robertson overlapped and looped over a swinging cross. Amond arose beyond the far post and carefully nodded down and across Johnson. The keeper slipped and slapped down to plunge upon the ball on the line. How annoying, a save of exceptional adequacy.

Bogle was boggled mudwards and the ball rolled to the unmarked Amond, within the 'D'. As he prepared to shoot the referee applied the non-advantage rule. Much mithering in the mud. Omar piffled terribly into the lower wall and Jennings set off on a mildly diverting meander through the hamlets of Halifax before swinging a shot way, way, way, way, way, way, way away for a throw-in.

Has a chicken been so headless? Has gravy been so lumpy? The fury tumbled down from the terracing

Town crosses, Town shots, blue blocks and a big blue bloke crumpled to the turf after handballing with his head. One we rolled, another shot blocked and, before Clay swiped goalwards and into the net, the referee blew. For a drop-ball, which was wellied back towards McKeown, who wellied back upfield and off they broke. A header, drumping driftily onto the roof of the net.

They broke away, Robertson blocked. A corner. The corner coiled inwards, those static caravaners stayed inside watching an old episode of Heartbeat as Bolton ducked around and under Monkhouse and Robertson to head in from six yards out.

Has a chicken been so headless? Has gravy been so lumpy? The fury tumbled down from the terracing as those with long coats and long memories chose to remember the Beggar's Litany: "From Hull, from Halifax, from Hell, 'tis thus. From all these three, Good Lord deliver us."

Beggars can't be choosers, but someone chose to play those players.

Hanging on to the promises in songs of yesterday, we're wasting more time as here we go again… Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense and James flew away into the vacancy on Town's right. Toto tutted and James barely stuttered on his way into the penalty area. McKeown approached and the bearded ponytail calmly passed into the centre of the penalty area, devoid of stripes. Oh no-no-no, yet more woe as Wroe tapped into the open goal. Here's the fact: the Faxmen walked the ball in.

Who's in charge here?

…Ain't you?

The unmarked offside Monkhouse scrubbed an ugly swipe towards Burnley, via the International Space Station. A couple of crosses were crossed and everyone was mighty, mighty cross as the travelling Townites were in tumult and turmoil. Insurrection was in the air everywhere you looked around.

As the players slunk off a consensus emerged: it was generally observed that we were not being spoiled today.

Oh my fellow Grimbarians, 'twas the best of the times and 'twas the worst of times. If you look in a Yorkshire tourist guide you will find the Shambles is in York. If you look in a Grimsby football guide, it is located at the Shay. Haven't we been here before?

Second half: Unforgiven

Monkhouse and Bogle were replaced by Arnold and Pittman.

Some things happened now and again. Robertson swished a loving cross into the six-yard area. Chappell airily wafted his foot near the ball at the far post Oh, hang on, Chappell… that was last year's forgotten son of a gun borrowed right winger. Jennings, that's it, Jennings. Only the names change in Hurst's permanent revolution, his rolling five-year plan to do exactly the same thing at the same time in the same places. We're still waiting for the great leap forward.

It would have helped if Jennings had leapt forward just a little bit.

My thoughts all seem to stray, to places far away. I need a change of scenery. Is that a metaphor? Is that a coded signal? Think for yourself, for the future could still look good. There's still time to rectify all the things that Hurst should.

Did you know that in November 1938, in an incident of mass hysteria, many residents of Halifax believed a serial killer – the Halifax Slasher – was on the loose. Scotland Yard concluded there were no attacks after several locals admitted they had inflicted wounds on themselves.

Some Townites concluded that there were no Halifax attacks, Town had simply inflicted wounds on themselves. One thing was for sure: there was mass hysteria on the terraces, the whole club given a verbal pasting. What a double-edged sword it is having supporters. If there'd only been 38 of us the present management wouldn't have heard the wincing words of wit and wisdom.

They were no match for our unnamed terrace twits.

Halifax? They didn't have to do anything but stand in the way. They kept thems shape as Townites tumbled, stumbled, fumbled and, well, perhaps we've been rumbled.

What a double-edged sword it is having supporters. If there'd only been 38 of us the present management wouldn't have heard the wincing words of wit and wisdom

I have the word 'flapping' in my head. A flock of seagulls? Their keeper? It's not the way you have your hair Nathan, it's what your feet do. A volley, into the valley. Ahoy, ahoy, land sea and sky.

Clay. Ahoy, ahoy, boy, man and tea-lady beware, another wafted into the valley.

I suppose you want to know some facts. Straker replaced Jennings. Arnold moved to right wing, probably. Who was bothered? Halifax made substitutions too. Fascinating. It meant more washing. And ironing.

Rail replacement blueboy Burrow cross-shot wide after no Town player stood near any Halifaxer for several years. Gowling made a tackle after the striped sea parted again. Treasure that moment. A tackle was made. That was the one.

Johnson flapped and someone kicked the ball towards the goal. One of several bluemen kicked the ball away from near the line. Arnold walloped high into the dwindling Town support. The gaps in the terraces were almost as wide as those in Town's midfield and defence. Almost, but not quite.

With five minutes left. A Town corner was dropped and Amond hooked in. Gowling stretched and a blue man fell. A free kick, 25 yards out on the centre-left. Hibbs coiled over the wall, under the bar and into the centre-right of McKeown's goal.

C'mon, c'mon, hurry up and blow the whistle, there's a train at 17:05. Town attacked, Town crossed, Johnson flapped again, probably, and Nolan swept a careful crack into the bottom left corner. All that was left of them, left of six hundred, could but shrug as four minutes were added. And finally we were released into the open, to scuttle home and cry into our muffins, attempting to avoid eye contact and avert travelling mockery. Or worse: sympathy from a stray Tahger.

As the players approached they were applauded; as Hurst approached he was booed. As Toto approached, a knot of angry men bubbled and burbled, and Toto went ballistic. That was the view from afar.

Well, there we were on a hapless valley Saturday, there in career burning land. The kids just don't understand. That's how life is.

This club is being run by a bunch of four-star clowns who are gonna end up giving the whole circus away. The players were devoid of character, fight, intelligence and competence, collectively and individually. They were picked apart by pickpockets and made to look like fools.

The post-Christmas dwindle is morphing rapidly into an implosion. We're looking down a black and white hole, all hope being sucked into its dark heart.

Where is the heart? Where is the soul?