One slip: Notts County (h)

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

6 February 2010

So finally we get to meet Sven's new girlfriend, his candyfloss confection, a castle built on clouds of doubt.

A day as clear as the County ownership in the land of milk and alcohol, with over a thousand of the credulous and cynical chomping and stomping in the Osmond End. It's about time the opposition brought as many to us as we take to them: there's a balance of payments deficit here Mr Fentycon that won't be solved through fashionable Nudge Theory.

Town clich├ęd up in a 4-4-2 formation, as follows: Captain Colgan, Bore, Lankyshire, Linwood, Widdowson, Coulson, Sinclair, Peacock, Sweeney, Wright and Fletcher. The substitutes were Overton, Wood, Atkinson, Hudson, Leary, The Jarmster and our plastic man, PCH. Ah, just the six changes from the last home game, with yet another re-launch of Grimsby Town (version 23.4). Featherlite Feathercut has taken his baggy trousers herm to H-h-h-h-h-hull, while Monsieur Ak-Ak is seemingly consigned the to dreadlock dustbin. Where is that Austin Powers this week? But Peacock lives up to his name, with massive plumage fluttering on his head. When we said we needed someone spiky in midfield, we didn't think it would be taken literally.

Who's that gawky geek walking with Peter Furneaux? His trousers are too tight and too short. Did the stain say hot, but the label say not? The credulous County Trust should have taken that as their watchword when the trembling dissemblers arrived.

We all know what they are off the pitch, but what about on it? Ah, step this way sir...

First Half - Let The Right One In
Town kicked off towards the Osmond Stand. They played in blue, we played in black and white. They tackled. We tackled. They pushed. We pushed. They shot and Colgan saved. No fuss, no thrill, a Ravenhill bumbler stumbled into his waiting arms.

We clogged. They clogged. Rabid Ravenhill sliced through Peacock underneath the arched eyebrows of the referee and wondered why a yellow card up high on a banana tree was being waved. Hawley kicked someone else and a yellow card was contemplated.

They tackled. We tackled. Hughes nudged, pushed and shoved but no fouls were given. Bore spurtled forward and his shot was blocked. No fuss, no thrill.

Would the Russians have invaded Afghanistan if Rrrricky Ravenhill had been presiding in the centre midfield of Kabul Athletic? I bet you haven't asked yourself that question for a long time.

Hey, have I told you about the Town corners? You don't know what you're missing. Nowhere, man; they went nowhere.

Oof! Pfft! Ouch! Bang bang: Town shot them down. Bang bang: they hit the ground. Bang bang: Lancashire glanced wide from a corner.

These prima donnas don't half moan. Wright was booked for some horizontal full frontal colliding with Bishop. It was no better, no worse than R-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-rricky Ravenhill's cucumber slice on the Jumping Rooster. Widdowson slamdunked Westcarr into the Police Box, or perhaps in the Police Box, and they moaned again.

This is the footballing equivalent of Oliver Reed and Alan Bates in front of the roaring fire. Who has the biggest beard?

Fletcher ran feistily, Fletcher was blocked fierily. Linwood side-footed wide from corner. These were the moments; in between there were flights of fancy, hints at persuading us that the world had not ended. Wright dummied and Sinclair was blocked. Fletcher nicked and Coulson was knocked off balance. A bit here, a bit there, harrying, hassling and occasionally passing; this was all about endeavouring to persevere.

County had breakaways, County had shots, Colgan picked them both up and no one was bothered by anything happening in front of the Pontoon. Two evenly matched sides, with one having friskier strikers, that's all.

And Ravenhill pulled Fletcher back on the halfway line and was not booked again. The referee started to reach for his thigh, but saw the consequences, so brushed some mud away instead, and lectured the naughty boy on ethics. Don't go there, it's full of wide boys and even wider girls.

That was the attrition that was: a game of midfield mudwrestling where nothing happened, but a lot occurred. Good things occurred. Town stood toe to toe with the ageing champ and were ahead on points. Only a mistake would be likely to separate these two teams, by us, by them or by the officials. But by someone, somewhere.

Second Half - Let The Old Things Fade
No changes were made by either team at half time.

Town started a bit sluggishly, like arthritic binmen on a wet Wednesday in Wolverhampton, and Edwards dipped a looper over the bar from a free kick.

We tickled, they tackled; they slid, we slod.

Bore bored his way through four tackles and Coulson crossed against the outside of the near post. We'll count that as a shot on target for statistical purposes. We don't want to turn our recession into a depression.

Thud, thid, thod, swoosh: the earth rattled as tackles increased in magnitude. It's past four o'clock so it's time to join Kent Walton at Blundell Park.

In a wink of Sinclair's eye Fletcher bristled beyond Edwards, into the penalty area with only Schmeichel the Michelin Man between him and the Pontoon. Oh dear, he stumbled and horribly sliced wider from a dozen yards out. That was the chance. The only proper real and unimagineered chance so far.

Town pressed but got no closer than crosses blocked for a corner or two. Linwood yawned and Schmeichel plucked his lute and his eyebrows awaiting the ball's arrival. In the context of this game, phwoar, that was close!

Ravenhill wallied over the bar. He always did.

And suddenly Town loosened their own grip and that was that. Town played keep-ball along the back four until Widdowson, the unnervingly tepid dilly-dallying daydreamer, underhit a pass back towards Colgan. Hughes vroomed forward and Colgan managed to slide and block danger away. They had throw-ins, they had possession, they had a corner on their left glanced away to the opposite corner of the penalty area, straight to Bishop who larrikinned a sweeping volley through the detritus. A Town foot glanced away the heartache, and Colgan's fingertips glanced away the tears a the ball bob-bob-bobbed-along the line.

Don't forget the tackling. It's a man's world. Edwards walked around Wright and stood in the way as the Scottish salmon leapt for a high ball. Edwards plunged and the Countyites demanded action. The referee made an exceedingly clever and brave decision: he gave them a free kick only, for it was an unintended collision. Edwards had walked out from behind the bus and in front of the car doing 26mph. A minute later Fletcher caught Edwards as they challenged for a bouncing ball. Again the Countyites bayed but the referee was staunchly rational: no card, just a free kick.

Fletcher was bazooka'd in the next tackle, and was replaced by Jarman. A minute later Schmeichel walloped a long punt straight down the middle. Linwood stretched and missed, Hughes ran on and walloped a low shot in at the near post. One mistake, one goal. Twenty minutes to endure.

Almost immediately PCH replaced the irrepressibly bouncy Coulson, who had been repressed by one clout too many. PCH is a twig.

A couple of minutes after that Hudson (who did not do anything to make anyone sneer) replaced Wright, who was clearly one tackle away from a red card. At this Peacock moved to centre forward, Sweeney to the centre and Jarman stayed up front so Town played a sort of hint of a 4-3-3 formation. Or maybe everyone was dishevelled and tired and I'm Imagineering logic and cohesion.

And in all this time what happened? We tackled, they tackled. We kicked them, they kicked us. Bore shimmied through the ghosts of their past and chucked a throw in towards the near post, Cleared, returned to Jarman who, a dozen yards out at the near post, flipped the ball up, flung his shoulders back and cried to the world Yes! I am a woman.. Which in footballing terms is a spectacular overhead kick which fizzed in to the ground and spangled towards the left corner of the goal. Schmeichel watched it exceedingly carefully and, with supreme care and efficiency, flung himself low to parry-punched away. This was his only save, and he did it competently. Others in this division wouldn't have.

Davies had a shot that went near, and one their subs dipped a volley way over the bar from way out, which was the equivalent of sititing on the veranda sipping wine whilst the ducks waddled by.

Four minutes were added. Nothing happened. The game had been over for twenty minutes - Town's wax had waned and they made one single mistake. That was the story.

It was strangely enjoyable given that nothing really happened and Town lost. Town competed ferociously, the new players look worthy additions, and Town still didn't create anything but moments of danger here and there.

Town aren't embarrassing or shambolic - they look perfectly capable of matching anyone in this division. But they are a "not quite" team. Not quite strong enough, not quite fast enough, not quite reaching that through ball, not quite lucky enough. "Not quite" teams get relegated.

Still, if you believe you will fail then you will. This division is all about the triumph of the will. It is still possible.