In the mood: Rotherham (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

24 January 2009

Grimsby Town 3 Rotherham United 0

Sun is shinin' in the sky, there ain't a cloud in sight; it stopped rainin' and don't you know it's a beautiful Re-Newell day-ay-ay-ay. Still basking in the warm glow of the Wycombicide? Welcome to Town's new world order? Yes We Can!

Bolland and Ribby Stickdale sauntered across the pitch. Look at Town's old world order - No They Didn't!

Town lined up in the familiar 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Clarke, Bennett, Atkinson, Widdowson, Jarman, Kalalalalala, Sinclair, Elliott, Proudlock and Mr Ak-Ak. The substitutes were Monty, Llewellyn, The Even Straighter World of Peter Bore, Heywood and Heggggarty. It worked at Wycombe, so why wouldn't there be happiness at home? And at least the tannoy announcer can pronounce Akpa Akpro. Look at our king all dressed in red - Akpa-Akpro last week!

Rotherham turned up in yellow in the land of the yellowbelly with a surfeit of Taylors: hirsute James and crew cut R Dene, the ghost in their house. Oh, Jason and Ryan, such modern monikers for muddling MiIllers. Ah yes, Fenton. Eight parts apathy to three parts clapping and one part booing: that's as close as anyone will get to a benign return these days. We'll class that as a warm welcome, and that sound you hear is lips a-smacking at the thought of Fenton being defenestrated by Ak-Ak's bendybussing.

First half
Lay-deez and gen-tullll-mennnnnnnnn, let's get ready to r-r-r-r-r-r-r-rumb-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-le.

Town kicked off towards around 1,000 mirthless Millerpeople, immediately launching the ball into the Dentist Stand. Thirty seconds later Barnes befuddled a fly kick straight to Broughton, who stumbled it pathetically wide with the open goal yawning in derision.

Town were off beam, off piste, off-off Broadway as Robins' hoods bundled and nudged towards Barnes. Proudlock was slain under the Frozen Beer Stand and Nicholas had a finger wagged under his nose. Town were pickled by pepper-spray whacking, with Broughton bashing Bennett and Harrison heading firmly over the bar from the penalty spot. Out in the distance a small crowd of Yorkists raised their voices and their backsides. They'd seen a mirage shimmering in their desert of hope. We chuckled, then Rotherham buckled as Jarman was flipped free and flapped a pass back to Proudlock. Alas and alack, the good Sir Knight's lance snapped upon the shield of Sharps. He wobbled wide.

Jarman jinked past Nicholas and was sliced and diced; a yellow card was wafted. Less than ten minutes gone. An ugly, shapeless boxing match without space or time given to man or beast. The crowd was simmering in dissention with the green goon; Town's passing had gone to the moon. The penalty area was full of people, but there was no-one there. On yer toes! Keep moving, duck down dear Bennett, weave Widdowson, use your jab Jarman. Ding-ding-ding, end of round one: Rotherham just ahead on points.

Seconds out, round two.

Mmm, nice. A pass, a flick, Ak-Ak rubbing Fenton and Proudlock blunting Sharps. A corner, cleared, Jarman whistling a scrumptious volley from oodles out. Warrington tipped over for a corner and Atkinson bonked a free header down, down, down towards the bottom right through a thicket of Yorkists. The ball exited stage left via Warrington's knee. Or foot. Or hand. A good stop, well done old man.

Elliott and Sharps collided and they both went off to their corners to have some treatment from their cut-man. Thirty seconds later Kalalala was felled in a block tackle and remained prostrate. The referee allowed play to go and on and on until the kindly sporting Yorkists tapped the ball out.

It was 9 against 10.

Kalalalalala hobbled back. It was 9½ against 10.

Then Sharps came back. and the grappling could start again.

Seconds out, round three.

The two teams stood in the centre slugging it out with 20 minutes of body shots and mauls. Town, physically smaller and lighter, danced around these lumbering brutes, repelling with grace and appropriate spikiness. Bennett refused to be bullied by Mr Angry, Atkinson was affronted that someone had blonder hair than him. Don't worry Blondy: tarty Taylor's came out of a bottle. No-one fell down. Town stood toe-to-toe and survived. It was necessary, but lacking in entertainment, with virtually no football going on, Town were reduced to hacking clearances. The ball was simply returned higher and higher baby. It's a livin' thing in this division, and it's a terrible thing to lose to.

Kalalala screwed left, skewed right as Town almost linked and limped towards Warrington. Jarman clipped a deep cross and Proudlock blocked a defender's path; Elliott cut in and was cut out. It was almost something. Rotherham clobbered forward and almost nearly did something. A shot high, a shot wide, a header sneaking and bottle-blond Taylor taking a dive 'cos he can't halt the slide into mediocrity.

Enter the dragon breath. The fussy-pot green man penalised Jarman for rolling free and Atkinson for a brilliant sliding scoop tackle. Do you see no Yorkists stealing our knickers from the washing line? It takes two to know, why can't you see? Oh, we have to take the free kick from exactly the wrong spot do we? Are you insane? Frankly, I see no method at all.

The rock standing out in an ocean of doubt was the linesman under the Police Box, perhaps because he knew the CCTV was on him. Flagging often and early, he got nothing wrong. Well done that man. You know a match is entertaining when you notice the linesman being any good.

Is that all? Is that all there was to report of the slug-fest? Was there nothing that on earth you call kicking? Dear Town tourist, you should realise by now that one should always leave on a bang. Ak-Ak, in the centre right, gracefully grazed a flick header on; Proudlock spun, twisted and whipped a shot in one movement which fliggled and dipped across the bows of the old cruiser HMS Warrington. The old man diver plunged low to his right to fingertip the ball onto the post. And in one bound the ball was free and half time was upon us.

It was a hard grind to play in and to watch. Rotherham were doing unto Town what Town did unto Wycombe: refuse to allow footballers space and time to do their thing. Close quarters combat with cluster bombs exploding overhead. Keep your head down, have a cup of tea and eat some crisps: we won't know who's damaged most until the smoke clears.

Second half
Rotherham replaced Nicholas with Burchill, shuffling their strikers and adjusting their headguard. They took off Nicholas before the referee failed to send him off. Clever move. Or was it? Let's go on a voyage of discovery and find out, shall we?

The gloves were off. It's not boxing but competitive origami. Who has nothing to reveal but a flapping pigeon?

Rotherham's trouser-hitching opened the game up. They attacked. We attacked better. They attacked even better, so we attacked even betterer with a cherry on top and a sprinkling of chocolate. And some hundreds and thousands with a complimentary cream cake and chauffeur home after the game.

Here we go. Bang-bang, biff-biff, pass, move, touch and go. Harrison boomped a thumper at Barnes from 30 yards; Barnes leaned back and pushed it over. Their corner, our clearance and Town rolled away with Sinclair. Jarman flicked and Proudlock ticked the box marked genius. A half chance, a corner. Cleared. Clarke dipped a volley into Warrington's arms. Back and forth. This way and that. The game was end to end, eye to eye. Ooh, aah, a shot blocked, headers swapped and Sinclair broke forward. One, two, three flicks and Proudlock was free behind the defence on the left; Warrington advanced and brilliantly parried. Away they went, four against three, a man free, Bennett lunged and half blocked, then a marvellous plunge from Barnes diverted danger.

Hang o... hang on... wait...wait... There, that's better. Let's go again. The John Lewis Partnership - no dummy knowingly undersold.

Proudlock cocked a snook and Jarman winked Elliott free. He swayed east and west, and caroused a perfect little tinker of a cross into the centre. Ak-Ak, alone and ten yards out, carefully swiped with his left boot, dribbling straight at Warrington, who parry-blocked and scooped the rebound away from Sinclair's feet.

And while we miss chances you can almost hear time slipping away.

Roar on, roar on sweet Town chariot of acemerness. We may be a small town but we do not live in fear of the tree of a thousand pigeons. Rotherham half-baked a clearance, half starting an attack, but Elliott intercepted and carefully caressed a short pass around a yellow-man to the advancing Widdowson, who advanced and advanced under the Frozen Beer Stand, wiggling and wobbling, shaking his hips. The Pontoon's lips licked as he cut into the penalty area, drifting away from a tired and emotional last set of legs. Widdowson shook his hips a final time and, in one movement from a narrow angle, slid the ball across Warrington. The keeper stood transfixed as it floated by with Town players achingly near but not close as it drifted, drifted and drifted beyond them into the bottom left corner. Widdowson leapt up and down like a toddler, then joined Ak-Ak and Kalalala in an un-Town-like celebration of life.

Town, Town, Town, Town, Town. Sumptuous, occasionally contemptuous, they passed, they moved all in one go. Rotherham rocking, holding on literally and metaphorically. Too much to remember through the tears of delight. We have our Town back. Ak-Ak side-footed into the pole holding the net up. Bennett almost headed, Proudlock and Elliott teased with superior skills, finer minds. Things happened, it looked great.

One of their Taylors ran around waving his arms like Al Jolson, and his shorts kept falling down. He walked a million miles for an elasticated pair of shorts.

And then they took off tiny Green and brought on a full-back, Joseph, and his amazing technicolour long throw. We panicked slightly as Barnes dropped the ball and it rolled slowly past his near post. A corner cleared, a cross cleared. Bennett blocked, Atkinson stretched, Bennett threw himself on the fire and his team-mates patted him down. Rotherham flung the ball higher, jumped harder, raged into the Town machine. But it held firm, no weakness exposed, no chances created from open play. Rotherham were reduced to happenstance and hope rather than calculated expectation.

Bizarrely the referee gave Town a free kick after Elliott was clattered. Who'd have thought it, eh? Elliott was sent off the pitch to have his head stitched up again. And again. And again.

Never mind, it all turns out nicely in the end.

The free kick was dimpled goalwards. A few yards inside the penalty area Proudlock back-pedalled with his shirt billowing curiously in the windless afternoon sun, his arms akimbo, claiming a worldly injustice. The referee pointed downwards and awarded Town a free kick a yard outside the area. Mr Moonboots demurred, asserting that the offence was within the penalty area: something that the lovely competent linesman was in agreement with. Caught in a trap, he couldn't go back despite his suspicious mind, the referee pointed to the penalty spot. And the yellow men were not happy, in contrast to the massed anoraks and bobble hats in the Pontoon. With at least five players applying for the position of penalty taker Proudlock strode forward, plonked the ball on the spot and calmly rolled it to Warrington's right as the grey goalkeeper flew left.

At this the limping Jarman was replaced by SPB.

Is it over? Are we to have a saunter to victory, where rose petals are strewn along the patch of our fragrant heroes? Rotherham upped their pace, upped their whacking and upped the intensity to 11. Ak-Ak headed wide, Bennett swept a doppling free kick way, way over the crossbar and the Rotherhamites banged on and on. Town were turned and forced to give away throw-ins. In the Exocets flew and eggs were scrambled, poached and fried. The ball dropped, Taylor blasted, Barnes raised a fist and parried aside. Brilliant. They tickled Town on the right, they teased Town on the left as they prodded and probed. Hudson was teed up and Bennett skidded horizontally across the turf to superbly block. Then again, Atkinson's boot, Clarke's head, Widdowson's pace and playground slides all averted that moment of fear and loathing.

Whoosh, it went wide from way out. Swoosh, it dinked over from close by. Boing! Off Bennett's bonce. Twang! Off Sinclair's confident hair and Town broke the temporary spell.

Who passed to who, when and how? Seek out the video. It was a glorious reminder of past times. Bore broke, Ak-Ak swung and chipped, Sinclair retrieved, Elliott and Proudlock flicked, Sinclair whizzed around flailing yellowmen and rolled the ball carefully underneath the sprawling Warrington. Poetry and emotion, a crowning glory on the day the levées finally broke.

Oh look, there's only 83 Yorkists left in the Osmond stand. Where did they all go?

Let's play pictures at an exhibition. Lulu-Llewellyn replaced the hobbling Kalalala and Ak-Ak was rolled free on goal down the right. One touch, two touches and a shot against Warrington's legs. He does everything but score, that lad. Sit back, relax, this Town XI are a smooth and elegant Cadillac cruising down the sea front. Fish and chips for all!

Three minutes of added time were played out without fuss or favour. You had the events, now what about the flavour? Sweet and tasty, with a hint of mint and covered in cream: everything you need for a successful team. Power, pace, passion, passing and movement. They concentrated, they acted as a unit, they had collective and individual confidence. All for one and one for all from first to last. The full-backs were strong in tackle and supportive of their wingers. The wingers did likewise. The central spine was firm and the elegance returned to Blundell Park. The defence may get overlooked in the wallowing, which would be to ignore the foundations upon which the house of Re-Newell was built. Widdowson added defensive positioning to the attributes shown at Wycombe, and Clarke looked like a right-back. Bennett and Atkinson refused to be bullied and subdued difficult opponents, and Barnes did the saves he needed to do. And going forward in the second half Town were enthralling.

Town had to fight for the right to party, and this Town knows how to party.