The red and the slack

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

17 August 2016

Colchester United 3 Grimsby Town 2

Down a dusty dirt track on the edge of a town the Town three hundred abandoned all vehicles and abandoned all hope as they entered a version of Fenty's vision: a soulless, expensive futurama. Traveler, heed my words: turn left, not right or you'll never get in and be trapped forever on a roundabout in Essex, the floodlights tauntingly twinkling but half a mile on.

Town lined up in red in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Davies, Gowling, Boyce, Andrew, Chambers, Berrett, Summerfield, Bolarinwa, Jackson and Bogle. The substitutes were Warrington, Jones, Pearson, Disley, Vernon, Vose and Browne. If you can't work out who stood where then you must be Andrew Boyce, or Andrew and Boyce.

McKeown's socks still do not match his shorts. This is a scandal. These things matter, you know. It sends a subliminal signal to the opposition that Town don't pay attention to detail; they don't prepare. If they can't be bothered to get matching kit then they won't work on defending set pieces.

Colchester were utterly anonymous humans, similarly sized, similarly hairstyled, similarly similar in every way. They even wore the same clothes. Typical youth, fiercely expressing their individuality by looking the same as their mates.

Let the unique matchday experience begin.

First half: You're an embarrassment

Town kicked off away from the empty stand, away from the tightly packed Townites scrunched into the corner and away with the fairies. A minute of muttering meanders and a Town corner flimbled into the near post. Summerfield slivered around his marker and slicked a header into the bottom corner as the keeper stood and stared. Up went the Town three hundred as the ball rolled around the back of the net and the players trotted back to the halfway line.

Err, why aren't they celebrating?

Oh, ahem, carry on, don't mind us, we were just being postmodern in this post-factual world. Oh, look, a cloud.

Striped jinking and dinking, red clowns lumbering and slumbering. A stripey dived pathetically near Chambers, right under the Town three hundred. The linesman flagged pathetically and McKeown flapped pathetically underneath the chip. Prosser arose alone beyond the far post to head towards the open goal and against the face of the crossbar.

Scrambles and scrapes, you should have brought your cape. We're being showered with rhubarb.

Small men smalling and menning about, twisting and Town listing. A corner coiled beyond the far post. Red statues. A free header nodded back and a free header nodded down. Dickenson on the penalty spot, blubbed into the ground and the ball bubbled over McKeown into the leftish side of the goal.

We can see where this is going already. Into the Town goal. Frequently.

More chips and chivvies down the left. Guthrie gutted Gowling and strolled a roll back behind the dead red trees. Dickenson, with goal a-gaping, passed against the post. And again, sometime around now, or it could have been later. Waves of stripes, pressing the deadheads back, Boyce falling and fouling, Gowling yowling in frustration. Holes, space, a vision of the future in the present. Town's defence a present to the hosts.

The referee took one look and realised that the greatest punishment he could mete out for Town was to let Boyce stay on the pitch

Ah, I see a straw. Please hold on to this tightly or you may drown in sorrow. A few bits of passing and Davies hoisted a roistering dripper into the unmanned far post. Chambers and Andrew lurked and the latter splattered a mis-mumbled bumble into Walker's waiting arms. A few bits of passing and Jackson swivelled and swerved to drimble a wedge around blue ankles and around the bottom of Walker's left post.

Ah, I see a straw that broke the donkey's back. Boyce flailed and railed, trying to be clever, but succeeding in dumbing down a striped one. A booking for persistent failing. Another minute, another Boyce banana. A little man hauled down and a red card awaited. The referee took one look and realised that the greatest punishment he could mete out for Town was to let Boyce stay on the pitch.

In coiled the free kick, up went a glove to punch away for a throw-in, right under the island of irate and impendingly incandescent Mariners. Chucked shortly and Gowling was gabbled by Guthrie. The ball bumbled onwards and Boyce advanced, pulled back his right boot and pulled out of the alleged challenge. Guthrie swivelled and lashed into the top near corner.

Boyce was taken off before he was sent off. On came Pearson. Pearson should never have been off in the first place.

Re-mem-mem-re-mem-mem-member when they hit the post? Yeah, that, but this time Dickenson scored. That's all. Nice and simple. Pass and move.

Three goals, all emerging from the Town left. All Colchester's chances emerged from the Town left. All. The clues are there.

Oh look, another free kick, another header glanced wide. From the Town left.

To get to Colchester you have to go via Braintree. That just means that on the return you have to go to Braintree. Unless the sat nav gets an emergency upgrade, we're already on the return journey.

Second half: Oh the futility

Disley replaced Tombola at half time, with Berrett moving to the right a bit. Not much, just a bit.

What a difference an old stager makes as Town grabbed hold of the game. No, not Town, Disley. The Dizzer was back pointing the way.

Pressure, presence, persistence and a Town free kick, half punched away. Chambers retrieved, jinked and winked a crossed from the left. Disley arrived near the penalty spot to relaunch himself at the ball and League football and be-donk a header into the right side of the goal. Game less not on!

Possession, pressure, presence, persistence and Davies dinked to Disley, who arced a header back across the face of goal. Omar awaited a couple of yards out from the empty net and a big blue bloke bumped him out of the way in mid-air. Penalty not given, with much praise for the referee's refusal to buckle to facts.

Penalty not given, with much praise for the referee's refusal to buckle to facts

Possession, pressure, presence, persistence and passing. Andrew stroked, Omar flicked and Jackson hared away down the left stroking lowly and the keeper kicked away at his near post.

Colchester? Dormant. Ah, they've undormanted to torment. Sleek switchbacks and sweeps and Jamie Mack spectacularly flip-flapped aside after Porter nudged a nurdle. The corner returned and McKeown back-flipped away from under the top far corner. Pearson did his duty, using his charm to leg up a striper. The free kick arced and dipped onto the roofage of the nettage as Townites stood aside and watched a big dipper cross to the far post. Andrew admired as an Essex-based professional footballer flew in from Stansted to steer lowly. McKeown marvellously plunged and parried from the bottom right corner.

Possession, pressure, presence, persistence, passing permutations and Summerfield surged to dink delightfully over the bluesmen. Jackson sneaked behind to steer wide with Walker waving. Jackson was in action again, slaloming to slurp lowly. The Dizzer arrived to slidey-poke at the near post. Blue boots, blue toes, blue something averted the arrival of false hope.

With less than ten of your Earth minutes left Browne replaced Chambers and three minutes were added. Eh, what happened to the intervening seven minutes of our lives? I don't know, perhaps we were abducted by aliens. Or tax deducted by accountants.

As added time declined a big welly and wiggle-waggling wallop by Bogle was slapped into the side of the nettage by the woeful Walker. Listen lads, we can still… still… still thyself, excitable youth. They broke, they poked with a stick and Slater outstepped a curler against the outside of the post.

And then Town could go home to their tomatoes.

This result camouflages the creeping reality of three decreasingly acceptable performances in a row. The structural imperfections and individual incapabilities are being exposed by the minute. Town can't defend crosses. Town are hopeless at defending set pieces. Town were timid, reactive and simpering geeks waiting to be bullied.

You see, with camouflage things are never quite the way they seem.