Humming the Rock Ferry Blues: Tranmere (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

12 August 2008

Grimsby Town 2 Tranmere Rovers 0

Is it five years since we last met? Like old friends estranged by circumstance, the welcome was warily cordial, with a festering feud simmering beneath those still estuary waters.

Town lined up in the same penguin suit as Saturday, a slimline 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Stickdale, Heywood, Hope, Newey, Till, Hunt, Heslop, Lulullewellyn, Butler, Taylor. The substitutes were Monty, Bennett, Heggggarty, Bore, Clarke and North. We counted them all out, and we counted them all in: we had six substitutes, they only had five.

They had Achterberg but we hadn't brought back the Livvosaurus to shiver his timbers. Memories, like the queue at the turnstiles, all alone on the pavement. The Coyneless Merseybeats wore blue and were just wishin' and hopin'.

Didn't Zola play for the Trannies? Zed-ell-oh-ay Zola? He was never the world's most physical guy, but did they have to replace him with Ian Moore, who just moogles and droogles?

After a storm there must be a calm. Sound the alarm!

First half
Tranmere kicked off three minutes early towards the Pontoon and away from 144 Merseysitters. After a flittering flutter Town were unflustered. A shot by any other name would still not spell the capital of Indonesia. And just what is the letter of the law?

Town clamped madly and Tranmere were stroking, stoking their fires with flicks and snicks. Son-of-his-father rolled, Sonko bowled googlies, but Sticky snapped his twigs. Was that passing from Town? It was, with movement too. Lulu and Newey combined, Taylor flicked and Hunt's shot was blocked. Nice.

Till trembled, Butler flicked a drooper and Achterberg flipped the ball off the crossbar. Hmm, danger! Corners! Crosses! Exclamation marks! Till walloped a cleared corner over the roof of the Main Stand. Butler drifted wide and slapped a deliberate shot across Achterberg's bows. Have the Trannies done anything yet, except run around in pretty circles, prettily?

What was that? Their Andy Taylor weaved and spun a jumper out on their left, curling a shot around and through several boys in blue. The ball bombled along, arcing sniffily past Barnes and on to the outside of the far post; a gentle reminder of their presence on our earth.

Let's go surfing. Heywood dinked and Till sprung into life to collect a Taylor lay off. A first-time cross bazoomed over to Butler, a dozen yards out at the far post, who throttled a header down to the keeper's right. Achterberg plunged low and the ball bounded up and back in to the centre of goalmouth. Hunt swayed and nodded and the ball gently looped into the right side of the untended allotment. Now there's something.

They came, they saw, they conkered. The Trannies dinked into the penalty as Butler ducked and allowed safe passage through the mountain pass. Barnes came out to shepherd the goal-kick, but Moor swiped the ball away. A second later Kay wallooned a swirling, dipping thwacker from 20 yards out. Barnes slumped in frozen awe and the ball kaboomed off the crossbar, back in to the centre. Men wrestled with their consciences and a flag fluttered, beckoning peace and an offside decision.

Newey! Ah, Newey indeed. Dinking delightfully down the left, Taylor yapped away and Butler steered a smooth swirler around a defender. Achterberg spectacularly parried away. Town exploded into space, like a true nature child. Isn't this nice.

Are we worried? A push unseen, the ball dropped to a trio of Tranmerites a dozen yards out. A leg swished and Barnes leapt to tip a volley over the bar. We need not worry about corners - Heywood is a walking eclipse. Heslop and Hunt continued to slap parking tickets on the day trippers. Have you noticed how Heslop's passes ping, not droop and drift?

Tranmere found a weak spot: they dropped passes and flicks over Newey's head and finally burst out from the cage. Some little Tranny broke free behind the staggering Newey and clipped a cross onto the boot of the unmarked Sonko, eight yards out in the centre. He leant back and attempted to destroy the strip-lights at the back of the Pontoon. He failed in every respect and on every level.

What else, oh mysterious reader? Taylor had a couple of efforts. They didn't go in, but they were near, not far. Town had tricks, they had method, they had movements, they had some space and they used it. Tranmere just had some glorious near misses and little else.

Town were inventive in attack and attentive in defence, what more could you wish for? A flying aardvark in a mini-skirt? You're having a laugh, or you've been dining with Tony Gallimore again.

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

Town started with a rush. Till raced away from the halfway line, za-zipping through three tackles and levering a wobbling shot across Achterberg towards the bottom right corner. The ball passed the post and a corner was given: that goes down as a fine save indeed. The corner clipped in to the near post, where an army of Tranmen circled the mighty Heywood, our knight in black and white satin. Half cleared, a shot returned, slathering off a blue man and a couple of feet wide as Heywood and Hunt poked extremities at the passing satellite.

The Town mouse roared again, with Taylor pursuing elephants and Llewellyn rising above the mediocrity to sneakily glance on punts and grunts. And then Tranmere broke. Newey was out of position and a cross was cranked into the centre of the penalty area. Little Curran stoop-headed straight at Barnes from no yards out. The big orange hands wiped a speck of dust off a stained glass window.

This way and that, the game was a tug of love over a string of sausages. Who had the biggest frying pan?

After something or other Llewellyn was set free by somebody or other, way inside the Town half. With Butler and Taylor performing a delicate manoeuvre involving a baton twirl and a fixed grin, Lulu curled a pass down the touchline and set off in support. Taylor lurked and linked, winking a pass into the cavernous spaces behind the defence near the burger bar. Llewellyn flashed a first-time cross through the centre of the penalty area. Butler waited beyond the far post and two tremulous Tranmerians started to tremble as the ball bounced into their path and they approached the glimmering, shimmering woodwork. Like an over-eager dad at a kiddies' kickaabout, Kay pushed his chum out of the way, huffled his shoulders, winked at his family and beautifully volleyed into the open goal. 'Ave it! That's the way to do it. Marvellous.

Town ran and ran and ran and hurled and hurled and hurled. O'Callaghan, Tranmere's languid stroller, strolled languidly through the Town defence. As he prepared to shoot Hope threw himself under the train, then threw himself at the plane as the rebound ricocheted back to the erstwhile shootist.

Town were forced back as Tranmere had shots galore from beyond the valley of the drolls, always from outside the area. Their shots got further and further wide, slower and slower still. The Transhots, like their army, were bedraggled in the evening balm. Moore, Sonko, Sonko and Moore fleetingly freed, always flawed.

Town became ragged-trousered philanthropists, gifting possession with tired half-clearances. The passes became punts and Tranmere camped out inside the Town half. Still the shots rained in on the advertising boards. Town had moments: Butler almost freed, Taylor on the brink of a nervous breakfast, Llewellyn hassling for a cup of tea. It was left to Till to do some modern art. With his back to goal, right on the touchline, Till flipped the ball through his own legs and a defender's, then slalomed through two brutes. A third Tranmerian held on to his underpants but couldn't stop Till crossing from the bye-line. Achterberg stretched and stretched, fingertipping the ball up and behind himself before plucking it on the line as Butler hung hopefully.

As if trapped in a permanent loop, Tranmere carried on kicking the football wide of the goalposts. The Grimsby Town goalkeeper was not required to touch the football, and remained upright at all relevant times. Barnes had nothing to do but watch the ball go by. Town had moments of nearly somethingness. Heslop duffed a slow shot at Achterberg after some criss-cross quizzing and Clarke had a shot deflected after some more tip-tap-toeing. Clarke? Where did he come from? As Town tired, substitutions were made in the last quarter of an hour: Clarke replaced Heslop, North replaced Taylor and, in added time, Bore replaced Butler. That's where Clarke came from: the substitutes' bench.

Do you really want to know about more Tranmere shots from outside the penalty area that went wide? They had twelvty-dozen of 'em, all the same. The most dangerous moment for Town was when a sliding, whipping clearance ricocheted off a Tranmere shin and squirtled across the face of goal. Barnes's ears grew and he chomped on a carrot as Moore did his infamous penalty area impression of Shaggy, being chased by the caretaker disguised as a scary football. "Yoiks!"

What a fine evening. Town had some fortune, but held their nerve and Barnes held the crosses. That defence is mighty manly, doing what it says on its tin hat - defence. Tranmere didn't clog or clamp and the resulting space allowed Town to flow. Town's crosses were all hit first time and were all the better for it. Essentially that's why we scored two goals - the excellence of the crossing.

Everyone was beautiful, in their own way. Town had fortitude, we few fans had fun. So exactly how many swallows do make a summer?