Noises off

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

20 February 2017

Grimsby Town 3 The Mansfield Chav's Select XI 0

Isn't it lovely to have some fine old traditions revived. Today's the day when we can all go hunting the snark again. It's our very own version of an egg hunt; Steve Evans is our Easter Bunny, after all. The git that keeps on giving.

On a fine clear day of underlying crispness, twelve hundred excited Sherwood Foresters upgraded their day-tripping from Skeggy to Meggies, marvelling at the sophistication of a place where the B&Bs change their towels twice a week and the pubs sometimes have doors. It's always nice to treat yourself to luxury living now and again.

Town lined up in a... ah well now. What is it? Hey, listen, yeah-no-look, it's about the group having physicality in the building of options, John. A rigid application of a structure is so twentieth century. Where did that ever get us? There is no 4-4-2, no 3-5-2, no 5-4-3-2-1. Uh-huh, it's the Marcus and the new age. A new man, a new hope, with a new way of fluid flexible shapeshifting into the future. I can tell you the eleven who started though: McKeown, Mills, Collins, Pearson, Andrew, Gunning, Bolawinra, Osborne, S Jones, Clements and Dyson. And I can tell you the seven who didn’t. The substitutes were Davies, Boyce, Disley, Comley, Maxwell, Yussuf, Asante.

Now, where did they stand? Depends when you're asking.

Hello, I'm Basil Exposition. There was definitely a back four, which was occasionally joined by Gunning when periled by yellow. Dyson was alone atop the cake. The other four were sort of in the middle, with Jones prominently near Dyson and Tombola always, always, on the right. Only a loon would attempt to codify this in numbers, but generally Gunning walked between defence and the rest, while the middle four were sort of a collapsible diamond, with Jones the Steaming Stanniard at the pinnacle.

And what of our day-tripping friends? They have Lewis Collins among their subs, so at least there is one professional in Mansfield. Hey Marcus, believe us, it's always been a game of nutrition for the pantomime dame of lower league football, that laughably unlovable Mascara man. You'll see, just wait.

1st Half – the hunting of the snark

Town kicked off towards the Osmond, taking just three passes to bumble into the bobble zone in the ploughed shadows of the Frozen Horsebeer stand. Out of play, out of mind. Repeat inaction a minute later. Is it Tuesday? Is it safe?

Someone fell after something or other in exactly the same spot as that free kick against Luton when someone fell after something or other. Clements 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. Clements shaped to slip a slinger but slapped a dripper towards the near post, aiming for 118 years and two weeks of pre-season loaming. The ball bumped up off the loamsome ridge and Kean caught the ball. You see, not exactly the same.

You know, Andrew's short-long throws are getting shorter, a little shorter every time (can't get no worse). You see, exactly the same as last week and the week before and the week before the week before.

Yellow tipping, stripy slipping, a cross from their right and a soft Green header gently plopped, with McKeown posing with his plummet. Avocado went out of fashion in the 1980s. Yellow tapping, stripy slapping away a corner. Jones turned and Jones steamed up through the turnips and was ploughed by a combine harvester. On play twiddled with Tombola bowling along and being bowled over. The Jones slayer had hobbled off to seek protection from his mental mentor. The referee lost track of the carnage and wandered the earth like Caine, going from place to place, seeking the one-armed man armed only with his spiritual training and his skill in martial arts. Aha, there he is. With the walrus of loathing bellowing and snorting biliously beside him, White was booked. Or was it Evans?

Jones snapshotted a wallop. Town bundle-roamed down their right in a stag hunt. Jones and Osborne and Dyson and knocks and knees and a cross or shot and clearance whackled off yellow shins and bimble-bumbled across the face of goal. A corner cleared, then not cleared back again, head up, head down Tombola hoiking, yellow boots choking. Back out, back in, hey, back off boogaloo. Andrew fizzled a swipe that whistled inches past the ball boy's ears.

Breathe in, breathe out. There-there.

Wake up meathead, don't pretend that Town are dead. A load of this and that, pokes and scrapes and Jones marauding. Ooh, spatial awareness Staggerfans! A ripple of roars from the Osmond Stand as Green arose and softly-softly nurdled a noodle from a dozen yards. Jamie Mack is still waiting for the ball to arrive even when you read this in the year 2525, if the world is still alive.

What excellent Tombolaring. Mills swished gracefully, Tombola spun infield and stroked perfectly in to the path of Dyson, who swerved a scoop up on the roof. What excellent recurring Tombolaring. Scientists donned goggles and stopped their stopwatches. Look it up on Wikistuffia: Town, crosses, the grand unifying theory of. Tombola overhit them, Andrew underhit back.

And still Andrew's short-long throws and long-short throws lead directly to a hill of beans.

Town, Towning around, not clowning around. Welcome to a chaos culture. Osborne shot, Osborne blocked, Osborne shuffled and shook his hips, slapping lowly and Kean stumble-saving scoopily. Town, Towning around and shoved to the ground mid-right, mid-range inside their half.

Clements feigned and spun with a playground trick, chipping flatly, wellying the return way wide, way beyond the far post. Tombola hurtled and ducked to head back across goal. The ball snuck off a snarky head, across the face of goal into an inviting void. Clements arrived beyond the new far post to pokey-steer across the keeper, who pathetically parried one handed and the ball sighed into the middle of the goal. Clements hopped in front of formerly fickle fans, pointing vigorously at his back, at his name. Pointing in the name of... a lip reader later translated his conversation "Yeah c'mon, flipping heck, I won't do what you tell me".

Ah, seems like he doesn’t have fond memories of his Field Mill years then. No Amondian reverence to be seen, to be sure, to be sure.

Another one of their breaks that coulda, woulda, didna. It's the sort of thing that miserable one-eyed, ex-cons would say was a golden chance. Sentient humans would simply shrug their shoulders and laugh at him. It's the only way to treat these vainglorious egotists.

What more before the pickle and pies? Osborne plundering persistently, scraped out to Gunning, who swervelled a swiveller straight to the keeper.

Parity would have been acceptable and fair. But the concept of fairness is not applicable when within 200 miles of Steve Evans. For the sake of humanity. Just think of the children.

2nd Half – sounds of the 80s

Neither side many any changes at half time.

Yeah, they kicked off. Nothing happened, just men running around a bit quicker before they fell over.

Osborne chipped down a channel of earthly delights, under the Police Box. Jones roamed and hounded a yellow shirt. Kean stuttered out and swished, missing the ball as his chum curtsied in expectation. Jones pursued and, from a narrow angle, scraped low towards the emptied nettage. Alas the defender defended, throwing himself to the turf and the ball pin-balled between his shins and shankled aside for a corner.

There now follows five minutes of Mansfield football accompanied by a sing-song from their masses. Herman's Hermits? Really?

The Staggers were onto something good now they'd noticed that Town didn’t have anyone on the left in front of Andrew. Evans, the portly choirmaster of the Grumbly and District Choral Society, may even have believed something's happening when White walked by-ay-ay-ay-ay and chipped a dink into the very heart of the six-yard box. Coulthirst levitated and gently arced a flicker. Jamie Mack arose to his right and smoothly plucked with aplomb. More dilly-dally-ding-ding-dongs, another soft and gentle fairy liquid header nicely into the dishy hands of James McKeown.

On the hour Mansfield made a double substitution, with Green and Potter pootling off and on came other men given money by Steve Evans to wear yellow shirts.

Substitutions change games you know. Heh, yeah. They do.

A hubble of bubbling inside the Town half and Tomobla high-stepped out of a tackle and bounded down the middle. Dyson peeled away to the right and Tombola caressed a perfect low-roller into his path, right under the Police Box. Dyson roamed and riddled with a paradiddle around a defender, down line, cut in, cut across using Tombola as a human shield and precisely passed a low coiler around yellow socks, around grasping goalkeeper gloves and into the bottom right corner. Cor blimey, a goal right out of 1984; you could almost smell the tight shorts and perms with boys in brown anoraks bobbing up and down in the open corners.

Heh-heh, no milk today Mansfield. Some of the day trippers remembered that that they needed to top up the car park. Why else would any supporter try and leave the ground at 2-0.

Town started to project their lines rather than mumble from the side of the stage. Ah, but first some slapstick comedy for the masses. Gunning was finally booked for a series of sly slaps and elbows behind the ref's back, as one was finally seen. A minor fricassee in the Dentists Stand, and a hubbub became a rumble with Evans raging against the moon. The ref walked over and, finally, everyone was happy. It’s like when a band plays their biggest, most well-loved hit. Everyone has been waiting for it, it’s just a tease how long they hold it back.

Wahey! Let’s all join in with the song.

Off he flounced, flinging four letter words in all directions. Well, love is a four letter word, isn’t it? He was just asking a polite question, apparently. What could it be? "Red sauce, brown sauce, or no sauce at all?"

Where is he? Where's Wally? Ah, there he is, in the press box, waving at his friends below, who waved back. Old friends, reunited. Everyone was having an absolute hoot as Evans ran the gauntlet of dentists and retirees. Is it safe? Is it safe?

Hey, why spoil our party? They crossed, eggs and brains were scrambled and the ball snickled off a stray knee, bumbled up slowly and Jamie Mack flip-slapped away from the angle of post and bar. Nothing serious, just a bit of nicky-knacky-noooness.

And here we go again. A chip down the right and Tombola chased, chased and chased again, heading on and heading off towards the bye-line. A step for Tombola became a giant leap forward in Marcus's five-month plan. Tombola cut back from bye-line but was swept to sea by Bennett as a yellowman wept in the Press Box, eyeliner smudging. In the commotion and confusion many missed the further defenestration of Mansfield as White was sent off for muttering darkly into the ref's ear.

In the commotion and confusion many missed that Gunning picked up the ball and marched towards the penalty spot, but Dyson pulled rank.

Dyson calmly rolled left as Kean resigned to his right.

In the commotion and confusing many missed that Moany Mascaraman disappeared from the Press Box. He'd scarpered!

That's the way to deal with ridiculous bullies: don't punch, just hit 'em with a punchline. Their skins are so thin they shrivel like salted slugs at sarcasm and witty bon-mots. And mass laughing at them. That explains everything, why Evans is the gift that keeps on giving us so much joy and fun every season in the sun. Slugs shrivels in the sea air.

Yadi-blah-di-ho. We can have a good old sing-along as the Osmond emptied. I can see clearly now the Stags have gone. Tombola swished and sliced into the beating heart of the Pontoon. Maxwell and Comley replaced Osborne and Gunning. Yussuf came on for Bolawinra. The only thing left is the winner in the sweepstake: how many Staggers would be left in the Osmond?

There's a kind of hush down in the Osmond. No fans today, you've gone and lost away. All that's left is a place dark and lonely, a terraced house in a mean street back of town as Arquin piff-puffed straight at McKeown.

Four minutes were added, but these eggs had been boiled ages ago.

And in the end just 10 per cent of the massed of Mansfielders was left, as the blob of Staggerers congregated under the Frozen Horsebeer, then loitered outside the Imp and pretended it was 1984 all over again.

What more could we ask of one game of football? We can have our cake and eat it when Masacaraman is in Town. But Evans is a sideshow, a song and dance man we can all see through. Not even John Fenty would be persuaded by him to build a monorail. Look away from the stands, look on the pitch, for there were some good things to see from the new kids in Town. A sensible defensive structure and some forceful persistence goes a long way.