Only connect

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

6 February 2017

Grimsby Town 1 Luton Town 1

A brightly still day of suspicious winds around the suspicious street corners with near five hundred Sad Hatters squatting in the Osmond. There's a sale in the club shop. Hurst's summer signings going two for a tenner. No, listen, I'm givin' them away, darling. Almost new, hardly used at all, some are even still in the wrapper. You'd be paying much more on eBay for your ephemeral wingers with potential. I'll even throw in a couple of antiques. What do you mean second-hand? They are pre-loved.

So another week, another new Town, after last week's new town blues. How quickly we churn, how quickly we turn our backs on long-serving legends like Luke Summerfield. And what about Ian McCaskill. Ooh hang on, isn't he called McAllister, or was he the old keeper before yesterday's hero Deano? Who's that? Who's next? Who are you, who-who, who-who?

This week's Guess Whos were lined up in an off-the-shoulder 3-5-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Collins, Gunning, Pearson, Davies, Osborne, Comley, Clements, Andrew, Yussuf and Tyson Dyson. The substitutes were Mills, Boyce, Disley, Sam Jones, Vose, Vernon and Asante. Dyson has range in his long limbs, Jones a tracksuit over his limbs. Both have hair.

And as James McKeown approached, the stands arose to welcome him back into the warm embrace of his friends and foster family. Forget the fiends on the ether, Jamie – human contact, human emotion is what counts. Only connect.

Luton and all that. Orange shirts, white shorts, some big blokes here and there. A couple of tiny scuttlers out on the periphery of life. Luton is and Luton be, forever autumn.

B-b-b-b-baby you ain't seen nothin' yet now Bignot's reboot is about to load up. Let's see action, let's see people, let's see freedom, let's see who cares.

First half: Ambling man

The Orangemen kicked off towards the Pontoon with a chip placed carefully onto Davies' head. Nothing to worry about. Move along.

Falling, falling, gonna drop like a stone. Balls from the sky, men to Earth. From boys to men as Dyson flicked around the corner and Yussuf was scrunched away by Cuthbert, not Dibble, nor Grub. A moment of possibilities dunked in a cup of tea.

The big boys played British bulldogs and tiggy-hospital, some girls played with a skipping rope in the corner of the playground and the dinner lady told off Davies for legging up a winger. Now Ben, you're old enough to know you can't do that sort of thing. He may get hurt. That's not nice, is it. Now don't do it again or you'll be sent to stare at the headmaster's wall all playtime. And I'll tell your mum too.

A flick and nick and high-kicking Hylton schmaltzed around Gunning under the Police Box. Collins stretched and squinched as a cross was about to cross. A corner flicked on at the near post and Gunning wrenched as Cuthbert prodded from four yards out. The ball arose and strained to crawl over bar and onto the roof of the net. A corner given. Heads headed and Town headed off towards the bar.

Osborne poked, Yussuf invoked article 3 of schedule 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998, claiming his inalienable right to stand upright now and again. Hey, we'll lose this when we leave the EU, you know. Way, way out on the centre-right Davies and Andrew hilariously hid their conversation behind their hands, like minor mobsters in Miami. We'll do that thing, you know, that thing we talked about earlier with that guy and that thing. Andrew shaped to slip a slinger but slapped a dripper towards the near post, aiming for 118 years of pre-season loaming. The ball bumped up off the loamsome ridge and Moore panic-slapped away for an already forgotten corner.

Gunning suddenly advanced down the centre, bumping off muggers, swivelling hips and spinning some plates in an eccentric wobble, a crazy slalom on the edge of a razor

You know, Andrew's short long throws are getting shorter, a little shorter every time (can't get no worse).

Gunning suddenly advanced down the centre, bumping off muggers, swivelling hips and spinning some plates in an eccentric wobble, a crazy slalom on the edge of a razor. Well, it livened things up a bit.

Them. Flibbling around with stuff. Pearson diddled by a dummy and divot. A momentary moment of mild panic. What about the orange? No-one has ever found out the answer to that mystery. Them passing the time among themselves. A casual caress to the left-back and what a wonderful air-shot he is. Davies hovered, Davies blocked, Davies crossed and Dyson arose almost alone on the six-yard box to a-head over. Persistence and pressure, Osborne omnipresencing and Dyson causing a corner after much dithering in the distance. Pumping dippers in and out and in and Moore air-flapped. Davies drove in with his manly chest and drove woefully wide with his left foot.

Luton Hoo?

Andrew madly walked across a potato field and passed the parcel to an imagined friend inside the Town penalty area. A Lutonite whaled way over, as his chums ailed at his wastefulness. There were more moments of midland marauding, of course there were. Nothing much happened, just the sturm und drang of ebb and flow.

And finally after all the nits were allowed to be unpicked, the referee finally, at last, booked someone for something. Don't worry, it wasn't Davies for leg-ups, or Tyson Dyson for late high stepping.

Ooh, look at that. Osborne widdling and diddling with a long-range fizzer. A minute was added and Dyson saw footsteps slowly walking in the Luton defence and in the Luton support walking towards the bar. He wafted and lofted and the half ended.

Parity without hilarity. Hints and accusations of footballing were heard and seen. There were moments. That's more than we're used to.

Second half: The hero's return

Neither team made any changes at half time.

Mm, everyone's running around more, running around quicker. This isn't amateur kabaddi any more – this is Judoball. He's off again. Gunning with a harem-scarem super giant slalom, shoving off the cowpats like Desperate Dan.

Slackness and slapdashery with clearances not cleared. Hylton tickled his way across the face of the Earth and levered lowly through legs and across McKeown from the right. Through two and three legs the ball scudded. Jamie Mack plunged lowly and finger-flipped aside. The ball tantalised across the face of the open goal and Comley simply walked away without a care in the world.

Much wrestling in the mud, with moments of indecision and precision arbitrarily scattered like the divots and pockmarks on the pitch. Can you fathom that behind our sarcasm desperate memories lie?

Slackness and slapdashery on the right. Gunning gurned as Vassell burned off the falling fellow. There was no time to whine and mope about, the hero returned: McKeown slithered out to smother superbly.

Suddenly the crowd found voice as tackles flew, and no causes were lost at sea. Dyson hassled Cuthbert into a wild hack back to Town. Andrew cracked a cross, Davies retrieved to dink back beyond the far post. The invisible Clements arose to nod back, back, back behind Dyson on the penalty spot. He swished, he missed. Osborne's wallop recobounded back out to Davies, whose volley squirtled off an orange back. And back to Davies. There were no soggy chips from Davies, just a dry dink into the humanless distance. Clements levitated above a Lutonite and headed back across goal into the left-hand side as an orange wave crashed left onto the seashore.

At this, Luton made a double substitution. A couple of days later it was realised that one of them was Oliver Palmer. He's made an error of biblical proportions. His locks are shorn, his power withered. He is just an ordinary man.

Triangles under the Police Box and an exquisite Osborne dink-chip set Davies momentarily free. The corner crooned and the choir arose as corner followed corner, and Moore flapped. Pearson chased into the corner twixt Pontoon and Findus, shielded, swivelled, and sashayed past his marker with an outrageous stepover. A block, a corner, a clearance and Collins decided to mechanically process a flying Lutonite under the Frozen Horsemeat Stand. Yellow card, danger diverted in no-man's land; a professional cynic, whose heart is still in it.

Oh dear, did we have to wake them up. The nearer the end, the faster they got. Rolling waves of orange, with Town sinking, sinking, sinking back to Jamie Mack. Pelly-Ruddock tickled to Hylton. Eeek! Uneek thyself. Have faith. McKeown slivvered out to smother. Yussuf was mugged and Pelly-Ruddock meandered up their right through ghostly tacklers and the hulk was hauled down, just outside the penalty area. Coiling and arcing, dripping and dropping in the space between McK-fingers, post and Lutonite heads, there was hope where there could have been despair.

The dilithium crystals were holding out, cap'n.

Dilatory ditherings in the middle of nowhere and an orange throw-in, somewhere. Shall we say under the Frozen Horsemeat Stand? A cross way, way overhit, way, way beyond the many fringes. Davies chased the ball into the corner as Pelly-Ruddock menaced. The ball trickled, failing to do its duty and roll out of play. Davies danced and dived head first, seeking salvation in a free kick. Hey, those are always given, aren't they? Nope. Hulk turned around, ran along the bye-line and crossed to the near post. Hylton ducked and missed, the ball flew on and Vassell headed down into the centre as McKeown grasped and Collins flailed forlornly in a carbon-dated copy of Town's goal. Now, that is something we didn't want to see.

The magnificent two, McKeown and Pearson, caught the bullet in their teeth and spat it out without blinking

Finally, with about ten minutes left Town made a triple substitution: Vernon, Asante and Jones for Dyson, Yussuf and Clement. This made no difference.

The sniff of a wounded animal has these docile pets reverting to a long-suppressed natural state. Pumping balls, dumping balls, lunging tackles, big blocks and chocks. An orange moment smothered by the amazing flying Comley. A slap-shot wibbled around and through two Townites. McKeown slapped away from his face straight back to the same Orangemen, eight yards out. He pulled the trigger, but the magnificent two, McKeown and Pearson, caught the bullet in their teeth and spat it out without blinking.

Corner, corners, corners. Crosses and corners, ooh, aah, wince into the distance. Five minutes were added. Home legs, home thighs, home sideburns and sideboards and we'll keep the home fires burning as the doodlebugs dropped. We can see what's coming, we're waiting for the end.

Four minutes left. Corners, an opening, a closing, a clearance and here they come again.

Three minutes. Stay down, eat the dirt if you have to, Marriott dancing, Collins hates Marriott dancing. Too many bells and beards.

Two minutes. In on the left, out on the right, Town out for the count. Count the crosses, count the blocks. Counting down.

One minute. Yes. C'mon, almost… ah…

Luton wheezed Town left then right. A cross flashed through monochromers into the centre. Gunning stretched as an orang-Luton span. The ball flipped up and around Gunning, who left his arm outstretched to parry aside.

A last-minute penalty. This is the end, out with a whimper, out for the count.

Hylton stood straight and ran straight, scriggling low and right. Jamie Mack flew low and right, blocking the ball up and back into the other side of the goal. Down went the Luton fans, up went Town's. The ground in tumult, the excitement, the confusion, the disorientated hubbub bubbling around all four stands. We're safe! We're doomed! Two orange shirts leapt above Collins and the ball slowly, slowly dribbled back into the bottom right corner. Up went the Luton fans, down went the Town fans. Down went the Luton fans, up went the Town fans: the referee disallowed their goal for the sake of auld lang syne.

And then it ended.

Well, what a way to not lose.

It wasn't the best of games, but was far from being the worst of games seen for a long time this season. The second half was cracking in terms of growing atmosphere and the intensity of the game. It was a giant scrap of a match and Town got into 'em. There were even tantalising glimpses of connectivity between players.

Unlike last week, they looked like a team at the end, not a bunch of blokes. Smells like team spirit again.