Heat and dust: Hereford (a)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

10 April 2010

Hereford Bullworkers 0 Grimsby 1

Overhead an old gull hung motionless upon the air and deep beneath the rusting roofs in this façade of a football ground 300 Townites swung on some terracing opposite a conservatory. Is there anybody out there? Ciderpeople, are you there?

Ah, what a lovely day. The sun is up, the sky is blue there's not a lot for you to do in Hereford: Mappa Mundi or marriage; all echoes of distant time. Hereford is full of pubs and bridal shops, and Townites were full of hope. Rochdale couldn't fail in the English Riviera.

Town lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: Colgan, Bore, Lancashire, Atkinson, Widdowson, Devitt, Hudson, Sinclair, Coulson, Wright and Ak-Ak. The substitutes were Wood, Leary, Sweeney, Stirling, Linwood, Forbes and Proudlock. The return of everyone's favourite scapegoat was at least not booed, and everyone noted the bench was keeperless again. Let's curl our toenails and trust in the referee then. Tattoo Tommy, the wrong Wright, snarled and tossed his cabers.

Hereford lined up with a Kanu-a-like and someone who looked like Mr T up front; Jake the Peg and man-sized Manset to you. We didn't expect subtlety, though we did expect tomato ketchup. They can't allow away fans the condiment of the gods because it is too greasy and might cause crowd pandemonium that the police can't control. I prefer ketchup on my sausages sir, it's a basic human right.

Slap on the factor 15, strap on your shades, loll back and catch the last rays of hope in our last days.

First Half: Street Fighting Men

Hereford kicked off and Blue Town attacked. Ak-Ak swung his Gallic boxer shorts and Tommy Wrong grazed a header out for a goal kick. Hereford wellied upfield and Town attacked, Wright nuzzling his holdall to Ak-Ak who slither-slathered a dipping volley yards wide of Bartlett's deckchair. Two minutes, two efforts, too good to last.

Ah, told yer, I knew it was too good to last. They had a corner…and nothing happened.

Pass, pass, crossfield pass to the left. Devitt flicked, Ak-Ak nicked and the Irish roamer sluiced a swingeing drive across the face of goal and inches past the far post. That's neat, that's neat, that's neat, that's really neat. We all love his Tiger feet. Hey Jamie, you can flash your warnings lights just as long as you like.

Bore crossed, Town got a corner. Bore crossed, Town got a corner. Bore crossed too high, their funny Valentine scooped away. A retired pear picker was snoozing in the conservatory and was awoken by the ball crashing onto his roof and getting stuck in the guttering. No you can't have your flippin' ball back, ruddy ‘ooligans. Coulson crossed, a defender floppily-doppily dropped the ball into the Severn.

Bore hurled a long, long chucker down the right and Ak-Ak cheekily back-heel volleyed a cross to the edge of the area. Lumbering Wrong lurched and two Bullies crazily combined to drivel the ball straight to the lurking Devitt. Yer man Devitt stepped inside and showed us all the way with a sumptuous Dalgieshian coil into the top left corner. The film-set stand wobbled as the massed mariners pogo-ed and slapped their collective thighs. Listen lads, we can still do this...

At this Hereford awoke. They opened their eyes and to their surprise they were losing…time for another siesta. Jake the Peg stumbled woefully wide in his dreams and Colgan was flattened by Jervis's mid-air mugging. Colgan was motionless, clutching his leg. Eyes and thoughts turned to the substitutes' bench and…ah, no keeper! Panic in the terraces of Hereford, Dundee and Radio Humberside. He did rise and the sun did shine.

Town this, Town that, pass and move, criss and cross, slap and dash, and all that jazz. Bullmen dived to divert a stirring string of crosses from underneath the arched eyebrows of Bartlett. Ak-Ak shot somewhere that wasn't near and there was a scramblette of unfeasible vagueness that almost resulted in something to remember you by.

And Town crossed again, like they did last summer; oh let's cross our fingers again like we did last year. Nick-nack, Sinclair bustled through the right and slingshot low to the far post. Bartlett sprung superbly to parry away.

More Town. It was all Town. Hereford hadn't even had a cross for 20 minutes, which was making their fan(s) cross. We could hear them growl, or maybe two people-carriers had a slight bump at the traffic lights. Coulson volley-crossed sagely into the near post where Ak-Ak's shins waited to hoist the ball into the crowd, but a defender did it for him. How kind, they're even doing our misses for us now. What lovely hosts, we can't wait for the sherry trifle.

Stirred by the minor traffic accident on the inner ring road, Hereford suddenly found their mojo - whack it and hope. They crossed a few times and Town were forced to do something bothersome. They were bothered today, which was lucky. And in all this excitement I kinda lost count…was that five balls crossed out of play or six? The sum total of Hereford's attacking was a cross that Colgan caught, then dropped, then caught, then dropped when no-one was looking. Then caught again.

There were four minutes of added time which just flew by like wind inside a pipedream. Four minutes of which there was warning, but no eggs were boiled by either team.

It couldn't have been easier and Town could have been breathing easier if it wasn't for Bartlett and some accidental West Country beef drippings near their own goal. This game wasn't about football but about the scoreboard, the lonely scoreboard in one of the bull pens showing digital disasters elsewhere. The red lights were like Town's league blood dripping away, as every stiletto plunged into our backs was tauntingly flashed up.

This game was easy.

Second Half: Noises Off

Hereford replaced the wonderfully ephemeral Young with the soon to be splendidly invisible Done. Replacing like with like, and something we liked.

And here we go. Manset handled the ball. Free kick. Manset handled again. Free kick. Manset handled again. Oh how we laughed, as did the referee.

Ah, some fouls, some laughs, some songs, some jokes old and new as The Bullymen bonked and bumped and barged and Manset missed his punch to head very high and exceedingly wide. In the context of this match that was a chance for them: it stayed inside the ground.

Bla-di-bla-di-bla. They crossed, we cleared; they crossed, we cleared; they crossed, we cleared. We crossed, they cleared; we crossed, they cleared. We crossed, Tommy Wrong rubbed the ‘keeper's eyebrows and the ball dropped six yards out. The goal was empty, Coulson spun and sliced heartily against the Digital Dream Destroyer, as if trying to eradicate reality. How can we change this history to our history? We need a chemical biologist to give Torquay acid grass, so they can't fulfil their fixtures and get thrown out the league. Or can't someone just hack into the Football League computer and invert the table? Help us Obi-Wan, you're our only hope. Help us Obi-Wan, you're our only hope.

And the game dripped on like a leaky pipe. They wellied, Town defended with defenders defending defindingly. How tediously pleasant in a satisfyingly poor way. What could possibly happen?

With a quarter of an hour left the referee decided to let things get a bit fruity by showing his bananas. A beautiful ripe bunch of bananas hiding three deadly black tarantula. He booked us, he booked them for persistent mis-selling of footballing services. The Bullymen lobbed and loped and lumped and dumped a rotten game of chasey-chasey rugby. Huddle, muddle, toil and trouble. The ball bumbled about, here, there and everywhere, but nowhere baby. Colgan chased the lady as one of their bigger bigmen rumbled after the ball as it chuntered away from goal towards the corner flag. Old Nick reached around the bollard to flip the ball and a huge whimper roared out from the Hereford massive. The ref awarded a free kick for handball outside of the area and we waited for standard issue sending off. Out came banana yellow and not the red, so the Hereford choirboys raspberried a chorus of disapproval. Nothing happened.

Mansett shinned wide after three, count them, one-two-three passes from Hereford players to Hereford players to Hereford players. Nothing happened mind.

With ten minutes left Tommy Wrong was replaced by Jude Stirling. Yes, a straight swap as Peter Bore would say, Stirling "played" upfront. Wrong was booked for walking off too slowly. Oh the irony as (insert own variation on joke here). Even the Tommyknockers would have to admit, he wasn't as bad as he has been. He's growing into his role as the new Tony Daws, or a cut price Willie Falconer. He'll only score one goal for Town, on his last appearance, when nothing really matters anymore.

And Town had a bit of a do between Hereford's attempts at space travel, pushing and pulling the cidermen left and right as scrambles became corners. Ak-Ak spun and dreamed wide, Ak-Ak spun and creamed a cake. Bartlett flew out horizontally to punch away from Coulson's knees. Mr Stirling gathered much moss as he moved towards Wales like a Meccano man powered by an old 12v battery and the solar wind. It used to be called nuisance value when Mark Lever was a boy, not a postman.

Yes, we know the scores elsewhere, stop flashing them up.

There were four minutes of added time. And this is when things happened. Sinclair swept, Ak-Ak accelerated, Stirling sloped and Devitt crinkled a low shot towards the bottom right corner. Bartlett was awoken from his cryogenic slumbers to fingertip aside for a corner. Town had a lot of corners. Ak-Ak spent seconds on end wasting time in the corner flag before Hereford were give a free kick for, I dunno, the moon being in Capricorn's ascendant or something. Ooh, Sinclair shad a shot. Oh, Sinclair shinkled drivellingly wide.

Town won a corner and wasted four seconds. Town won a corner ad wasted six seconds. Town won a corner and before it was even taken everyone prepared for the free kick to Hereford. They smershed it long. They kept falling over, kept getting free kicks. Pressure, pressure, bodies in the box, gotta get bodies in the box. Hit it high, fight, fight, jump, wrestle hug, mug, carry on, carry on. Five minutes gone. Lump it, jump it. Six minutes gone. One last dive, one last free kick, one last chance saloon for the bar-room bawlers. Chipped, hipped, with the goalmouth full of caravans, headed goalwards. Colgan waiting, Colgan bodychecked, the ball dropping, a white boot flailing on the line, two white boots descending on the opened gaol, the bouncing ball, the horror, the horror, the end of league life... an orange arm poked and prodded away. The game ended.

And what of it?

Town were determined and deserving victors. This team is fine, but it's too late the heroes. At least we're going with dignity now.

The dull ache continues.