Renewal, or I like Mike: Wycombe (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

11 October 2008

Grimsby Town 1 Wycombe Wanderers 1

Just when you thought you were out they pull you back in...

Another week, another manager, another 800 on the gate. Is this where the merry-go-round ends? Finally, Don Fenty had met Newell and the new era began: we have a stone in our shoe. Michael, you can remove it.

The new Newell Town lined up in a short-back-and-sides, no-nonsense, tuck your shirt in, comb your hair and stand up straight 4-4-2 formation as follows: Barnes, Clarke, Bennett, Heywood, Newey, Till, Trotter, Hunt, Hegggggarty, Jarman, who suddenly bumped into a guy, on seeing who it was he gave a cry... "flippin' 'eck it's Peter Bore!" The substitutes were Monty, Bagpuss Stockdale, Mr Heslop, Tay-lor and Los Malvinos Kamara. Peter Bore, eh, straight outta Waltham. Is this his thirteenth final chance to bother a bit?

Newell wore a sensible jacket with a sensible V-neck jumper; with his school tie and crest gleaming in the sunlight, will he be dancing in the moonlight? What chance have Wycombe got against a tie and a crest?

First half
The hairless Chairboys kicked off towards the Pontoon and Jarman peskily oiked in cheekily from the side and ran off with the ball as they stroked their egos and fluffy white cats. The referee made them start again as their big beasts lurked under the fabulously full Frozen Beer Stand. The little Baldricks had a cunning plan - they chipped it down the other side. And straight out of play. Ho ho ho, green giant.

Newey hurled, the ball twirled and curled up the left touchline. Jarman waited next to an old oak chair and bumped the Wycombite aside with a cool sneer and flick of his pelvis. Welllllll, that's alright mama, anything will do, as he spun and veered goalwards. Hegggarty va-voomed up the touchline and the Jarmster waited... waited... waited and subtly caressed a pass inside the full-back. Heggggggarty cut in, cut out, bumbled, stumbled and jumbled through a challenge or two before poking a shot low towards the bottom right corner. Shearer flopped and failed to stop the ball as it squelched and squirmed underneath him and rolled slowly, slowly, slowly along the line. A defender slid, but Straight Peter Bore was sliddier and rumbled the ball in from seven inches out.

It only takes 40 seconds to score a goal.

We live in strange times: bankers want to be nationalised and Grimsby Town score goals at Blundell Park. Our three-cornered hat was on the side of our three-cornered heads, with joy unbound as grown men wept, grown women slept and growing children asked their parents: what is this thing called kissing? All the while Mr Michael Newell stood leaning on the dug-out with a serious stare: this is management by scowl and it works.

Mmm, we have another 90 minutes though. Hang on Grimsby, Grimsby hang on. Now Grimsby play in a bad part of Town, and everybody else tries to put our Grimsby down. But the crowd don't care because they've remembered to love you. Hang on Grimsby, Grimsby hang on. Can we survive 'til quarter to five?

Ah-oh, chango. They're any good, they are, that Wycombe. Harrold turned Heywood with a duck and swerve as a high ball dropped. Harrold towered over Bennett to flick on and on and on. Grant played chase-the-lady with Clarke and Newey fell asleep. Trotter trotted as a cross fell to him a dozen yards out facing Barnes; he poked away for a corner. The lid was placed on Town's pot as Wycombe's midfield turned the gas up to medium heat and our pork bellies were slowly broiled. Holt threw in some carrots; Doherty added a cinnamon stick as they approached Barnes with the swaggering air of a millionaire.

There they go again. Zebroski shimmied down the centre with Heywood defenestrated in no man's land. The ball skipped towards the penalty area as Bennett oozed across to hinder Zebroski and Barnes slid out to crunch a block tackle and then thwack away. Harrold turned Heywood and was free inside the area; Barnes waited, but Bennett tiller-girled the shot away, without the need to put on a feather boa or sequins. Newey ambled as Grant chased a dink. Newey stopped as Grant controlled the dink and passed inside to Zebroski, just six yards out at the near post. Barnes flung himself forward as a hook shot pinged off his chin and back out to Grant, who crossed back; Zebroski headed over.

Wycombe had added half a pound of potatoes and a pinch of salt.

Zebroski swirled in from their left and coiled a dropping shot around Clarke, around Bennett and towards the bottom left corner. Barnes magnificently shuttled across his line, plunged and pawed the ball aside. Wycombe camped by the river for the afternoon, lighting their camper stove and getting out the ukuleles and kazoos. Newell took off his jacket and scowled a little more as Williamson headed a corner towards the left corner of the goal. Heggggarty stood beside the post and ensured that there was no leather/wood interface situation - if in doubt get it out; there was no doubt, no more.

Sound like it was all them? It was, but Town had moments on the counter-attack. Bore even worked quite hard, but none ran and ran and ran as much as Nathan Jarman. Any half moment of almostmness for Town followed a Jarman interception, a Jarman tackle, a Jarman bump and grind, or Jarman flick and trick. Hegggarty and Newey almost crossed dangerously, Hunt almost had a shot, Till crossed above and Hegggarty crossed behind attackers. Holt shinned a free kick towards the top right corner, but sourpuss Shearer, the killjoy keeper, easily extinguished hope of more comedy. Bore harried and hassled with Shearer slicing a fly kick out for a corner. Hurrah! Nothing happened. Jarman beautifully cushioned a dropping punt and flickled Hegggarty free, in almost a carbon copy of the goal. Hegggggarty bundled into the area towards the six-yard box but, as he prepared to shoot, a blue boot snickled a clearance.

Ooh look, we've had 15 minutes without them shooting; they had the ball, but could not penetrate Newell's old boys. The castle walls were being pounded by a fusillade of fire, but remained upright, intact and firm. In the last minute of added time Hunt rather sillily touched Holt as Bennett intercepted. The Wycombites performed a delicate dance involving seven veils and a tutu or two, but Town were staunch and Bore headed clear. Yes, Bore. You read that name correctly.

With relief the half ended. Town were terrifically committed, with the pace high, the passion higher and everyone running and running and running and running. The defence was alert and not averse to throwing themselves in the way of passing blue meanies. Till was an invisible forward force but was providing solid support for Clarke, who was against a tricky cove and coping admirably in the circumstances. Ah, the central midfield, there's a curious egg indeed, for Town's midfielders do what exactly it says on their tin: Trotter trots, Hunt hunts. Let's sign up Kenny Killer and Simon Scorer.

Can't complain, won't complain. No-one complained. It was just too pleasing see so much organised effort. Let's hope the battery doesn't run out on our new pocket torch.

Second half
Wycombe replaced Holt with McGleish at half time. Thus they had four strikers on the pitch. Fasten your seatbelts, this second half is going to be a bumpy ride.

And the second half started like the first. Town broke down the right and Jarman, a dozen yards out, leaping, stretching and prodding an inch beyond the far post with Shearer calmly strolling and waving as the ball passed by. Bore chased a doppling chip, finally passing to Till, who caressed a dropping cross to the far post. Hegggarty headed loopiliy and softly to Shearer.

And then they had the ball. Come back in fifteen minutes - Town may have it back.

Zebroski crossed, McGleish glanced down and across Barnes, who sighed to his left and caught the squiggling nuisance as Harold's boots approached. Grant crossed, Heywood headed away. Zebroski crossed, Bennett headed clear. Mousinho barged forward, Newey fell and Zebroski crossed again, beyond Clarke to the unmarked Harrold, ten yards out. The old loansome dove controlled with his thigh and, as his boot smashed towards the ball, Bennett swished across to block brilliantly.

Cross, cross, cross, corner, corner, corner. Clarke swiped a bounding ball away from near the line, Bennett blocked again. Newey slid and no-one hid as the Town goal was under permanent siege. Every clearance fell back to a blue boy and they patiently pulled at Town's old jumper. Another cross from their left zoomed into the centre, with several Wycombites standing in front of Barnes. The ball bounced, Mousinho noodled a header and Barnes somehow clawed the ball away from all danger. A shot, a shot, wide and high off a bottom, high and wide off a boot. The pressure was incessant, time was frozen.

On the hour Bore and Till were replaced by Heslop and Kamara, as Town moved a 4-5-1 formation with Heslop the principal supporting runner for Jarman. For about five minutes Town wrenched the levers of power from the unfettered market stall holders from Buckinghamshire. Heslop burst forward and tickled to Jarman who, from the right edge of their penalty area, curled a first-time shot towards the bottom left corner of their penalty area. Kamara jinked through a tackle on the touchline and swept a delicate pass down the touchline for Jarman. Hunt bundled up and stepped inside his marker as he received the pass, feinted and swung left then right, before dragging a low shot across the face of goal. As Jarman lurked at the far post Shearer swept across the turf to scoop the ball into his arms.

Another minute, another Jarman masterclass. A high, high, high wallop dropped down on the left. Jarman waited underneath and, in one movement, cushioned and clipped a perfect pass to Hegggarty, who ran in from the touchline. Little Nick surged onwards, swept back to his left foot and, from 20 yards out, curled a wobbling shot towards the bottom right corner. At the last second Shearer's fingertips waved and pushed the ball aside.

I will not mention Kamara again; there is no point. He is less than Marvellous Malvin: he is either not bothered or unfit.

Jarman was smothered with two-tone blue love; Heslop dawdled and Town petered out, submerged by the waves of blue rolling towards the 80 Wycombe supporters in the Osmond stand. Let's get into a trance: pass, pass, pass, cross, clearance, pass, pass, cross, clearance, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass. Town were befuddled by movement, the centre was holding, but the edges were fraying. A header headed, a shot shotted and Town had spasmodic breaks, moments of hope which drifted into cul-de-sacs of ennui. Trotter surged and surged again but held on to the ball too long. Heslop ditto.

Town players drooped with 20 minutes left, seemingly without energy. Any small chink of light was extinguished through poor application of basic footballing principle. Poor little Nick swiped a couple of terrible crosses out of play when unmarked and the penalty area loaded with monochrome. Wycombe turned the tourniquet, patiently passing and waiting for someone, somewhere to sleep.

Zebroski headed, Barnes saved. How? I do not know. There were bodies swaying and the Pontoon was praying as the ball arced across goal, but did not go in. The clock ticked ever slower as the Wycombists metronomically persisted.

With about five minutes to go Hunt stole the ball away from Doherty, who slid aggressively across, just clipping Hunt's toes. The crow bayed, just for fun, and out came the red card, just for fun. Doherty was displeased and everyone else a little surprised. Ah well, that's that then, let's while away the minutes on a rocking chair.

Jarman and Heggarty played keep-ball in the corner 'twixt Pontoon and Frozen Beer Stand as the click ticked on. And on. And on. The scoreboard showed time was up; we awaited news of added time as Wycombe wallied desperately upfield. Harrold, near the right corner of the Town area, jumped with Bennett and stumbled. The referee eagerly pointed south and we all knew what was about to happen. They sent up all their tall players: the penalty area was flooded with six footery. Woodman chipped into the centre and several blue bodies barundled and leapt. Remember that your enemies always get strong on what you leave behind. Town left a small space behind the back line and into that space Johnson and several other young Bucks leapt.


Barnes was on the floor, blue boys hugging. Johnson had scored.

Total and utter silence.

There were about three minutes of added time announced and the crowd roared Town on. Listen lads, we can still do this. We didn't. In the very last of those minutes Hegggarty snooked free and whipped a fierce dripping cross at head height about six yards out, Shearer swayed and prayed, Jarman didn't grow two foot, Kamara slumped and that was that.

This was a game of two repeating halves, with slight twists. Town scored in the first minute of the first half, and nearly scored in the first minute of the second half. Wycombe pressed Town with a free kick in the final minute of the first half, and scored after a free kick in the final minute of the second half. In between everything they dominated, save for a couple of five-minute spells.

What was new under Newell? The players tried a lot harder, the crowd allowed errors to go ungroaned. Town played an excellent team and nearly coped. Just a week ago Wycombe's performance would have been rewarded with a stonking tonking of Town. But things are different now: there is some hope where previously there was only despair.

Just when you thought you were out they pull you back in...