All teams must pass: Darlington (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

26 September 2009

Grimsby Gadflies 1 Quivering Quakers 1

It was the spring of hope, or maybe the winter of despair. Such is life in northern towns.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Lillis, Master Bradley Wood, Atkinson, Linwood, Widdowson, Bore, Bennett, Clarke, Sweeney, North, Ak-Ak. The substitutes were Old Nick, Lairy-Leary, Normington, Jones, F-f-f-f-f-f-orbes, Proudlock and Beery Conlon. Oh, wozzallvataboutven? Is that a Belgian fruit-based chocolate bar or Ian Wrighty-Wright's fruit-based catchphrase?

Here we go, get out that multi-coloured pen and recycled paper and draw a Venn diagram. Wood was at right-back, even though he's rumoured to be a midfielder; Straight Peter Bore was on the right wing even though he's a man's man's man; Bennett was in central midfield, although he's a central defender; Clarke the jack of all trades was the king of ping in the middle; and Sweeney was at left wing even though he's handcrafted his own image as the Napoleon of the middle. Not so much a midfield as a debating society.

What! No Frodo Fuller amongst the subs? Don't wear the ring, Frodo.

A thin strip of hope stretched out in the Osmond stand in support of the yellow yankers from another place that is not in Yorkshire. No Dean Windybottom! That's one yanker less to worry about. Perhaps he's gone back "herm" to save the Tahgers from extinction; Brownian motion ain't working for them any more.

First half: It won't be long
Darlington kicked off distractedly towards the distracted Pontoon. No-one was distracted by the football. The Darlyboys moved sideways like baby crabsticks; Town moved up and down like spiders on a Mars bar. Too much sugar, not enough sweep.

Sweeney nicked and flicked, Clarke hoiked high, Bore nodded, Ak-Ak prodded but North miscontrolled to Hoult. Oh Darlings, please believe me, Town'll never do you no harm.

They had a shot as Bore dozed; Smith trembled into the area and passed to the yoghurt-reading Guardian eaters in the middle rows of the Pontoon. The Quackers passed to each other, busily shuffling left and right, spinning and pinning Town back onto the edge of their own penalty area. And?

And nothing.

Moments of idle gossip and speculation passed among the tray drippers - I mean day trippers from Darlo as they awaited something, anything to happen somewhere, anywhere. They must be bored of etch-a-sketch football by now. Once these kids have finished with their song and dance routine we can get on with the show.

And Town scored.

Ak-Ak spindled free and his cross was blocked. Sweeney coiled the corner into the nearish post and an unmarked Atkinson casually skipped and mixed a mustard header into the top left corner. A-B-C, it's as easy as 1-2-3. One corner, one goal.

Two corners, should have been two goals; three corners, should have been three goals; four corners could have been four goals. Every minute on the minute Town got a corner and there's a silent "unmarked" before every Town player's name. Atkinson's graze was sluiced away from the line, Ak-AK headed over, Ak-Ak slabbered straight at Hoult, Bennett's stooped header crawled over the bar and Linwood flailed as the Darlo sitting ducks clucked in panic. They had no idea how, nor height, to defend corners. Mmm, on second thoughts, they had no idea how to defend.

A little blond Darlo smacked a long shot into the far reaches of the Pontoon. They had a few crosses, they had a few moments, but little Bradley Wood was always there. Happily, there's now something there to remind us. Oh how can we forget you, Macca.

Ak-Ak glanced wide, North looped softly wide and then the half died. There's something in the air for Town, but the revolution still ain't here.

Darlo noughts and Town crosses. Flip that coin: heads we win. Chasing our tail always fails.

Second half: I should have known better
Neither team made any changes at half time.

Darlington hustled and bustled, Town muscled them away. North charged down a Hoult fly-kick to invite a microsecond of activity. Oh dear, Town started to show off.

Bore bore down on goal down the left, hitting the bye-line and passing weakly to a defender. North bore down on goal on the left hitting the bye-line and passing weakly to a defender. Bore bore down on goal on the right and was tripped on the edge of the penalty area. Bennett noodle-headed the free kick way over the bar.

Town were starting to stand and stare at their opponents, whistling Sweet Georgia Brown as they dribbled between their legs and spun on their index finger. Ak-Ak stretchy poked wide from a narrow angle. What has happened to his hair?

Just past the hour Forbes and Proudlock replaced Ak-Ak, who was beyond physical movement by then, and Bore. North remained on the pitch to do what exactly? He had been wrapped warmly inside their centre-back's manbag for half an hour.

And still Town swaggered. Sweeney meandered past the appalling full-back; North swished airily, hitting the offside Proudlock in the face. A minute later Proudlock spun and slapped a foot high and wide. It was all too easy.

Finally Cyril, Lillis had to do something, creeping low to his right to divert from Devitt, the pesky blue-booted, borrowed Hullite.

With quarter of an hour left one of Darlington's little blond bombshells scampered down the middle. North fondled Chandler's shirt, who promptly clipped naughty Dannyboy around the ear. Red card spells anger from his manager.

Ah. Fifteen minutes to be famous! Town got out the Ali Bongo book of magic tricks and tried to play spot the ball armed only with polycotton sheets and some supple wrists. Proudlock spun and splattered an inch wide as Hoult affected nonchalance. It's all too easy.

Widdowson snuck between the sheets and carefully rolled a pass to the unmarked North, who swished and missed. Quick Quaker breakers jumped over the lazy dogs. Devitt leapt over three legs as Town eschewed low emission smart fouls in the middle of the pitch. Yoikes! A little man had filled mighty Joe's space, crossed and Main, unmarked three yards out, nodded down. He'd come in through Town's bathroom window, Lillis protected only by a silver spoon.

On came Conlon for... Sweeney, with North sent out to the left. Sure, sure, Bennett headed at Hoult, who comfortably spectacularly swayed to save Atkinson's bonk, and Conlon almost snuckled onto a crazy mixed-up boobilycom, but they were figs in a leaf of laxness. Town held on grimly as the Darlings outmanoeuvred and outnumbered Town. Legs stuck out and Quaker heads dropped as shots bombled. Foster managed to head over from five yards out, Gall slid and missed a mishit cross shot by inches and Wood magnificently ducked and weaved a bouncing cross away.

And Town held on through three minutes of added time for an historic non-defeat to those dreaded Darlo dreadnoughts.

Ugh. Victory tossed away with gadfly insouciance. Darlington were without threat in attack, nor gumption in the full-back positions. They played nice five-a-side football in the middle of the pitch. They were there for a thumping and Town recognised this, but decided to party too early.

First half easy as peasy; second half queasy as Quakers quacked to smack with barely disguised cheek.

In a word: grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!