Cod Almighty | Match Report
by Tony Butcher
11 December 2016
Grimsby Town 0 Portsmouth 1
Doh, I'm wearing the wrong shoes.
The rusted chains of bankrupt shops aren't flattered by the sun. Walk down Grimsby Road and your horizons change. The game hasn't yet begun but, listen, Marcus has butterflies. Just wait for the multi-coloured moods of your average Town fan before you starting cooing like the pet pigeons roosting in the Pontoon.
Town lined up in what a pot pourri of cod psychologists and social historians are increasingly describing as a squelchy 4-2-3-1 formation as follows: McKeown, Mills, Collins, Gowling, Andrew, Comley and Summerfield, Chambers, Berrett, Jackson, Bogle. The substitutes were Henderson, Pearson, Boyce, Disley, Bolarinwa, Venney and Vernon. Oh, come on, you know where everyone stands by now, don't you? Imagine Berrett floating freely like a paper bag outside the old Rammy's, swirling and curling in the eddy of currents, round and round and round.
Well, it's wonderful for you to be here, it's certainly a thrill to see a crowd. Way, way down south just 1,110 Pompeyites paradiddled in the Osmond. What a poor show on a darkening December day – couldn't one more of them turn up for a quadruple Nelson? Or didn't they all want to stand on one leg all afternoon while rubbing their bellies? Superstition ain't the way.
After their Fratton Park fight club, Bruiser Burgess and Popeye Doyle were all seasonal goodwill and bonhomie, but Burgess has a ponytail. The bass-player-from-a-pub-band look has been going in and out of style, and it's always guaranteed to raise a smile, but there's no excuse for that sort of thing any more. No wonder he was knuckle dancing with his captain.
What more local colour do you need? The officials held court in crimson today, for they were matchingly clad in deepest burgundy.
Let us take a minute before we start.
Paul Futcher: indestructible, indefatigable, unbeatable, in memoriam.
First half: Benny the Bouncer and Savage Sid
Town kicked off towards the teeming, seething, heaving Osmond and were overrun by a heaving, teeming tide of blue.
Gowling interjected, Collins intercepted and McKeown marvellously finger-clawed a Bennett jink and dink from the toppish leftish cornerish.
Marcus was not happy to see his team of clampers clamped by the big boys. Popeye Doyle and Broadway Danny Rose brought some Hollywood style to the art of the matter of the midfield squeezebox. They snapped, they crackled and they made Town go pop. Berrett was bereft of use; Summerfield was pickled in the pockets of space he believed existed near his feet. There was panic on the midfield streets of ex-Humberside.
Groovin' with Carl Baker, boppin' with Carl Baker, coooooooooooool burnin' with Carl Baker. At the end of most of these military moves was a shot by Ca-ca-ca-Carl Baker. Straight at McKeown, then wide and high, or high and wide; maybe both, maybe neither. It was a blur of blue with the meanest cat in old Port-y-smouth town giving Town a chance to whack a goal kick onto Burgess's bun.
Town befuddled, Town betwiddled into toshery by the blue tourniquet. Berrett permanently disrobed, walking naked into the front room and embarrassing his children. Poor lad, he was totally terrible, unable to perform the most basic of footballing functions. Sometimes you reach a point where you just cannae hack it. He couldn't even hack the ball accurately.
Comley wrenched and wrapped himself around any blue stockings within ear and eyeshot, doing the work of two and half men. But still the icy waters flowed. A punt into the burger bar corner where Mills wasn't. McKeown stuttered and stalled, Gowling stalled and stuttered, expecting Mr Orange to carry out his lookout duties. Luck was out as Bennett scuttled into the void. Luck was in as Bennett's cross was hustle-shinned away by Gowling at the near post as Coroner Collins convened an impromptu inquest.
Omar fell, Omar biffled the free kick over the bar. That was Town. That really was Town. Really.
Hustling, hassling, harried and hoovering, the intensity of the Pompers curdled Town into inertia. Static caravans blown away by a typhoon, passing out of play, passing out of style, passing the parcel of blame. Another blue invasion and Jamie Mack plunged low and left to parry-flip to a Townite stood on the penalty spot as danger lurked beyond and behind. Ah Town, as soft and gentle as a sigh.
The Pontoon piper played his tune, the choir loudly sang a lullaby in the Grimsby tongue. "Foul throw!" For a throw most foul it was, and a pampered Pompeyite was guilty in the court of the crimson king. We must take our victories, however small, and cherish them in dark times.
One minute was added. One minute was played.
Let's put a damper on the clampers and do some tackling. That's all we ask.
Second half: The dance of the puppets
Neither team made any changes at half time.
That's better: Town visibly upped their tempo and intensity, flying forward and flying into every tackle.
That's worse: Pompey visibly upped their tempo and intensity, flying faster into every tackle.
Burgess barrelled forward and released Smith from invisible shackles. The perpetual motion machine marauded down the right and walloped lowly, straight at McKeown's midriff. Biff, bang, uppercut, body punch, mud-wrestling and the old one-two. Have we ever seen a game played at such intensity and pace? As the play got quicker, time moved slower and slower. Town wrestled ascendancy and roamed. Or is this just a temporal illusion?
Off trotted… Comley. Marcus took off the midfield and went for broke. Well, if the midfield is broke, don't fix it – just go for it
A raid here, a cross there and Pompey were pushed back into the front rows of the Pontoon. Bring out the towels! Mills rubbed and rocketed a parabolic plonker into the near post. Fists and heads waved and the ball bounded out to the corner of the penalty area. Chambers looked up, saw the emptiness and beautifully lob-volleyed towards the top right corner. The ball arced over ponytails and shining bonces, dipping and dropping under the bar and… up flicked the fingers of Forde to paw spectacularly aside.
Town corners, Forde plucks. Elevation, Summerfield – you know the routine. Summerfield elevated, a blue head nodded and off they za-zoomed into the darkness, into the void. Andrew fiddle-di-deed and Ca-ca-ca-Carl Baker's shot bounced off McKeown.
Back upfield, back downfield, yin and yang, them and us, us and them, sparring and jarring clatters in midfield. Trading punches, trading bunches of flowers in gentlemanly conflict. Breaks and flakes as a blue fizzer swished through the six-yard area. Breathless, but scoreless.
On the hour Tombola replaced Chambers. Pompey had not seen anything like this before. A blue corner cleared and Tombola turbocharged upfield. Blue moths fluttered and, way out, Tombola steered a low crawler around several southern socks. The ball bibbled and bubbled towards the bottom right corner but Forde's flipping fingers flew out to flick an inch around the post.
Summerfield's corners are rubbish.
Back they launched, burning rubber and burning with a sense of injustice as Mills hauled a flyer down on the very edge of the penalty area. Yellow card and yellow bird up high in banana tree. One of the smaller Pompeyites wimpled across and over the angle of post and bar.
Big booming balls! McKeown frozen, Gowling ailing in dead man's gulch, and Smith pestering and picking at the festering fault line. Big balls, big bounces and a lot of flouncing oddness leading nowhere. A header or a hook? Something from Smith, it didn't go in, it didn't go near enough to cause fear.
With 20 minutes left another substitution as we reached the Vernon Vortex. Off trotted… Comley. Marcus took off the midfield and went for broke. Well, if the midfield is broke, don't fix it – just go for it.
Energised by his reprieve, Summerfield chased down a nothingness near the singing ringing tree section of the Pontoon and won a corner. Things happened and Jackson wafted. Things happened and off Pompey hared. Things happened and McKeown dropped a corner. Gowling blocked and scrambled away the eggs. Things happened and Tombola tantalised with another turbocharged tango. A Blueman was turned green and saw yellow as he hoiked down the Sutton Flyer in full flow. The free kick ping-ponged in a treble recobound of ribochets. Omar brawled with Popeye and the crimson peeper sensibly wagged a couple of fingers as hands were shaken manfully.
With five minutes left Tombola waffled a crossfield pass way behind Andrew, way out of play. Chucked daintily into the centre, Berrett was spindled into a candyfloss confection. Jackson hurled himself in to save the day but simply hauled and mauled 25 or so yards out, centreish. Naismith stuttered and stroked a curler into McKeown's perennial blind spot, the top left corner.
The balloon deflated before our very eyes.
A small flurry and a bundle of stuff. The last froth in the cold cappuccino as the café closed. Vernon twisted and burned through blue socks, dead centre, straight at Forde. The ball spun out of Forde's fingers and Bogle was bundled aside as the keeper retrieved. The waitress wiped the table, the chairs were being stacked as the last dregs were consumed.
There were five minutes of added time. Mills glanced a free kick way wide from the edge of the penalty area. Nothing else happened. The lights went out. We went home.
It's about them, not about us. Pompey were a cut above, for when Town were shaken out of the cultural cringe Portsmouth simply played even better, played even faster, were even stronger. This game told us nothing new: the weak players were weak in the ways we know, and now Marcus Bignot knows too.
It's infuriating to lose to a poor side, it's annoying to lose to an average side, but there is no disgrace in losing to a good side playing well. These things happen.