Merrily we dance

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

9 January 2017

Hartlepool United 0 Grimsby Town 1

Hartlepool in January! Let us squint against the grandeur. Haunted by unspoken suspicions, the locals responded with a mirthless chuckle.

A dead day of stillness in Deadlypools as a thousand marching Mariners milled around a gap in the fence by the loos. This ground ain't big enough for the both of us. One can't help but feel they don't expect anybody to visit them. They shouldn't hide their lights too far under the bushels of bantering – it's a very good non-League ground. Perhaps this is what chairmen mean when they talk of a vision and a mission?

Town lined up in a 3-5-2 formation as follows: Henderson, Boyce, Collins, Pearson, Davies, Mills, Comley, Disley, Andrew, Bogle and Yussuf. The substitutes were McKeown, Jones, Venney Vose, Vernon, Bolawinra and Jackson. Under the winking West Midlander we are heading out to sea and, however it will be, it ain't gonna be the same as those years of playing safely under the Short One. Hurst will be spinning in his Shropshire blue grave with Town having so many defenders, so many full-backs, and no crowdsourced complaints. Personality goes a long way.

The Hartlepootlers had just the three ex-Mariners on show today: St Pádraig of the Immaculate Finish, and two long-lost loanees who lingered in no-one's memory. Featherstone and Oates, dear. You know, it's where you made your will.

OK, why don't we dispense with the mirthless chuckling? A game is afoot.

First half: Pools rush in

Town kicked off in red away from the unpopular end, where the homesters stood and stared as long as sheep and cows. Yes sir, that means Town boogied towards the happy travellers, singing their certain songs.

A minuet of tipping and tapping, a Bogle bundle and no-one appealed for a penalty. Yussuf yodelling and bogling with graceful glides and… let us return in half an hour to see how things develop.

Town ground to halt as the Heartypuddlers cut off the supply routes. Featherstone and Woods were pesky interceptors as balls were rolled and the sneaky bluesmen forced Town to play the ball to Boyce.

Balls were plopped.

Drip, drip, drip. A slow water torture pulling Townite threads, exposing the de-manned flankery on the right. A tantalising, teasing little wheezer of a cross rolled millilitres from the stretching pants of Paynterman. A deeply dippy dripper from their right dunked through the penalty area. Town were stopping, not starting, a kickabout kabaddi.

A momentary lapse of reason by the bluemen let a Hendo-roll through to Mills. Zak! twisted by the Pools and za-zoomed off on a long hazily, mazily straight run and thrumble from afar. The bee-bumbler somehow stung the palms of the Bartlett, who parried puffily aside. Comley dunked and Omar grazed softly into the grateful fingers of Bartlett.

Resume the Puddlemen blues, all twanging grace notes and a plodding four-four beat of pretty predictability.

Back and forth, out and in, down and out in Seaton Carew. A corner cleared and uncleared back into the nether regions of the Town area. Omar baulked his cushions and played a little basketball. Ooh look, I see a ship in the harbour. We've no time for these blue moans on a Saturday as the referee saw no slips. Marvellous officiating. As the locals growled the Puddlers continued to purr and pass and squeeze Town's box. Townites hung out together and the flanks were exposed. A cross, an Amond swipe and Pearson popped up to noddle up, up and away and onto the roof of the net.

Corners. Loads of them. Hendo-plucking happiness.

Wot? Another bit of Bogle basketball? Come off it, grandad.

Yussuf calmly glided into the void, calmly shrugged aside a bluesman and calmly passed the ball across Bartlett into the bottom right corner. And calmly faced the crowd in adoration of his magic

And for all their dandified deliberations all it took was an up 'n' under. A big boom and Collins nodded. The ball boinged back off Amond‘s bonce and he was fortuitously free down the centre. The ball bounced beautifully, perfectly for the Irish Rover, whose bouncing volley was spectacularly Hendo-parried away. Two Town touches and Omar burned free from the halfway line, espied the Tanzanian Devil beginning to spin and crinkled to the left. Yussuf created mild pandemonium in Poolish minds with a roam raid and cross to the redless near post. A corner. Insufficient elevation to cause elation, but the flow of fun was now all towards the bouncy castle.

Town found alternative routes, for all roads ceased to lead to Boyce. Yes, we'd built a by-pass while the locals were nithering about nothing. Comley became the fulcrum, stopping them, starting Town's bus. A spin and pass, a tackle and toss, a pass left and right, a spin and reverse crinkle through the two puddles of wisdom. The ball rolled on, Bogle was bundled and the ball flicked off his big toe, rolling into the penalty area. Yussuf calmly glided into the void, calmly shrugged aside a bluesman and calmly passed the ball across Bartlett into the bottom right corner. And calmly faced the crowd in adoration of his magic.

It's in the hips and the lips and the eyes and the thighs.

Town revved up to rev on. Swarming and warming to the theme of pass and move. A Yussuf turn with such graceful beauty: watch his feet and how they dance. Omar cracked some eggs and made an omelette out of the Deadpool defence. Off several shins and a corner flowed. The Dizzer arose and glanced at the near post. The ball hit Bartlett and a blue sock swung as Bogle stalked. Half cleared and half cleared again, the ball boombled around the box. Davies imposed his personality, chested and swung a shot through a shrubbery of rubbery defenders. Bartlett dived right and clutched left as the ball spangled off some man-made fibres. Ooh, matron.

That'll do eh?

A minute was added and Townites sunk back waiting for the end. The Hartlepuddlers settled into their rhythm, tapping out a back-beat. Up the left, into the centre, down their left again, Town slowly unravelled. With a dink and a wink Paynterman slicey-welly-volleyed just over the bar with Hendo-posing below.

Heh, that'll do.

Second half: These Poolish things

Neither team made any changes at half time.

Pressure, blocks, corners and stuff. Their tips were tapped, their passes snapped, the Town fans clapped as red legs appeared, as if by magic. Stuff, corners, blocks and pressure. Collins thighed, a Pearson slide, Boyce barundled a bluesman into the night. Corners were caught.

A shot, a block, a corner and clearance. The ball retrieved, the ball returned, coiled highly, coiled beyond the Hendo-fingers, zipping towards the top right corner. Davies assumed control of destiny, shuffling back and snuffling away with a stretchy glance off the line with Amond lurking behind. Town squirtled and squished by a full court press, forcing long whacks or a tap to Boyce. Back and back and back came the ball, blue waves crashing against giant, immovable rocks. A free kick from their right, drooped and dripped in front of Amond and into the hands of Hendo-zen.

Town. An attack, Omar spun like a wheel inside a wheel and greedily grizzled lowly into the side netting. Another Town attack? Be patient. Like an elephant's heartbeats, there are only so many possible in one lifetime.

The Deadpoolers brought on Rhys Oates. And? Exactly

Back they come again and again and again, banging their hearts against some mad mugger's wall. Hendo-catching, Hendo-plucking, Hendo-fluffing a welly. No worries, a mega Hendo-catch swept away any creeping menace.

Pearson, Collins, Boyce, Davies. The Hartlepool Wall. You could hear them bawling down in the boondocks.

Comley used his charm and legged up an intruder. The free kick sailed towards Sunderland on a pea-green boat. A moment of danger, a moment of Daviesian magnificence. A dangerous moment, a Pearson lunge expunged the mischief. Big balls, small balls, loose balls and Mills threw a shape and slid across the dancefloor, missing ball and man.

Balls. Blocks. Balls blocked by red socks.

Vose replaced Yussuf with about ten minutes to go. Vose had a shot. He wiggled in from the left and waggled wide. You know, the usual Vosian things. Do you really need to know more?

Them, themming, themmily. Town, Towning, Townily. The Deadpoolers brought on Rhys Oates.



Balls. Blocks. Balls blocked by red socks.

Hendo-plucking, Hendo-slapping, Hendo-clapping as we reached the final curtain – three minutes were added. Hendo-plucked, Hendo-plunged, Hendo-slow-slow-slow and now you can go back home with three points in your pocket.

In this life, one thing counts, in the points bank, large amounts, so you've got to pick a pocket or two on the way to safety. Town expertly whipped away the wallet while the complacent old gent was strolling down the road twirling his tatty top hat and cane. This was all about the base. Town never looked like losing without ever looking like anything at all in attack. Town had an aura and Hartlepool shrivelled before it.

Hartlepool hardly had any half-chances; how kind of you to let us come.