An unplayable lie

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Tony Butcher

19 April 2017

The Robbing Hoods 2 Grey Men of Grimsby 1

A blandly clear day in the shadow of the Cotswolds with about 400 frankly bored Townites polishing their nails and sharpening their smiles, amusing themselves watching games go by. Other people go to the beach for Easter, we Town few go to... the beach. Tons of sand gave the veneer of bland smoothness to a rotten cabbage patch of molehills and sink holes.

Have you brought your bucket and spade, Mr Slade?

Town lined up in that dismal grey kit in a 4-4-2 formation as follows: McKeown, Mills, Pearson, Collins, Andrew, Davies, Gunning. Clements, Osborne, S Jones and Dyson. The substitutes were D Jones, Boyce, Disley, Berrett, Bolawinra, Vose and Vernon. Davies played wide right and everyone else was theoretically where you’d guess they might be.

Cheltenham? They were born in the wagon of a travellin' show. Something rotten lies beneath the regency façade and the sparkly sparkling spa waters of Cheltenham near Gloucester. We still have no answer to the perennial question: why is Harry Pell alive, and getting paid as well? How can you take a club seriously in that kit? Stripes and quarters, it's like a rugby shirt. What should we expect: Gloucestershire is a rugby county, it never has had a professional football club.

And the sprinklers sprinkled more water onto this arable patch, this untamed, untendered allotment.

1st Half – cuckolds in the Cotswolds

Woah, false start, Holman hunting for the light at the end of the world far too early. Get back, get back to where you once belonged.

Town kicked off away from the unlucky ticket holders with a hoof and Dyson duck. A free kick, rightish, just outside the area. Bodies await afar but Andrew sneaked a near post shank. Brown skipped across the beach and parried away from the top left corner for a corner and, well, that's it for this half. 50 seconds is all you'll get, and thirty of them were taken up by men standing around arguing.

No, that's it, it really is. There are no more Town tales to tell. Not good ones, any way.

Hoof, hoof, wrestle, hoik, welly-welly-wallop. Waters scuttled, Townites trembled in retreat, McKeown flew right and flinger-flipped for a corner.

Hoiks and hoofs, hoofs and hoiks. Never let the ball touch the bog or the beach. It’s like a computer game made out of real humans. And Pell and Wright.

Pell fell, Pell slapped wide, slapped high, whacked at McKeown. Dithering dreadfulness from a grey goose and a free kick, dead centre. Pell piffled through the chiffon curtain, the ball boombled off a molehill and Jamie Mack superbly shovelled aside and over from the bottom right corner. The referee peeped as Pearson and Boyle pawed at each other. The latter ran around the blob and Pearson collided with Wright. Ah-ha, so that's their tipple of choice. They tried the uncomedic routine again. We're not laughing: Pearson failed again and Boyle arose at the near post to flick across McKeown.

Shots and stuff, big booming balls and wrestling. Townites timidly tip-toeing through the tulips, Andrew parallel parking while Pell was joyriding around the ring road. Mills underhit tips, Davies barely hit taps through the quicksands.

Rolling, rolling, rolling and Collins swept a low-rider into the bog. The ball died and Andrew spin-flipped vaguely into the middle of the pitch as the pack mauled forward. Townites retreated and allowed the despicable Pell to wander and waft a loft around the sprawling McKeown and into the toppish right corner.

Town timidity: players scared, letting bullies bully. Andrew feigned to tackle but choreographed a parallel parking manoeuvre. Davies disappeared. Clements spun himself in slow circles and Gunning, well, Gunning was seen circling in the sand, going round and round.

Town didn't hitch a stitch together in the Cheltenham half after the first five seconds.

What a hideous parody of football: the club, the ground, the pitch, those grey men.

2nd Half – circles in the sand

Vernon and Berrett replaced Osborne and S Jones at half time. Any one of the outfielders could have come off and things couldn't have got any worse.

Immediately a thing. Two passes, one movement and Davies was freed. Alas the man at the end of his career dithered and delayed. Not long now Ben, you really should beware the curse of Peter Beagrie. Retain your dignity.

Bargeballing and subterranean snideyness. Pell fell and Wright headed the free kick over. Snideballing and overland barging, but Town found their backbone under the sandpit.

You see Town, all you had to do was stand up to them: they are hollow men. A corner on the left after Berrett and Vernonian persistence. Collins headed high and Brown finger-flipped over. Andrew coiled the corner and Brown clutched the ball on the line, staggering back and getting stuck in the mud. O lucky man.

Vernon plunged under aerial attack, dead centre of the "D". The wall dissolved as Clements biffed through straight at Brown's nose. The keeper parry-flapped the ball back into the middle of the sandpit as the local kids got out their spades to dig for victory.

See Town: a bit of organised oomph and these Robins rock.

Berrett walloped away as Cheltenham Big Berthaed. Vernon cushioned and crinkled to Davies out right. Vernon ambled to the dug outs, spun, teased and pleased with a delightful diagonal dink to the farthest corner of the penalty area. A defender sank into the sand as Berrett chested past the stumbler and swept sweetly around Brown into bottom left corner.

Andrew crossed and Dyson stretchy-poked on the edge of penalty area. The ball slowly shuffled lowly, hit a sand dune and this off-break became a googly. Brown panicked downwards to excellently flip away from the foot of the left post.

Now when did Davies sit on the ball on the penalty spot? Shall we say... now? Davies sat on the ball on the penalty spot and a drop-ball was called. The ball was dropped. Yeah, that's it. We few, we unhappy few who travelled from afar consider that a highlight. You had to be there, or perhaps you were lucky not to be there. Let your imagination fly, could Town still do this? It's just an illusion.

Town attacked and attacked and banged their heads against a big rubbish-shirted wall. Them. Breaks and that. A substitute wibbled one wide, another one hit the dust.

With 10 minutes left, with Cheltenham visibly suffering from vertigo, a hoik was hoofed. Gunning awaited, arose and headed back upfield. Wright collapsed and the pantomime began. Pell, the Widow Twankey of lower league football, led the Greek chorus of disapproval. Out came a red card.

Gunning out for the season, Wright belted and actually hurt? Result!

And when the bell tolled, it tolled for Chris Clements, as The Dizzer trotted on.

Pressure, all from Town, with McKeown playing as libero, sweeper, midfielder maestro and big target man. And when Town hoiks were hoofed back the thieves and vagabonds broke. Wright steered wide. McKeown slapped down some insolent pup's slap-shot. Cheltenham brought on Downes for a midfielder and brought out all their old tricks of sneakyness and snideyness.

Wright barged into and trampled on the prostrate Pearson. Out came a yellow card for both, of course. Victim and villain treated equally in the eyes of the law.

Dyson wasted a cross. Andrew wasted a free kick and Town had wasted a chance to stick one up this pig of a team from Gloucester.

Let's be positive. Vernon and Berrett, simply through being experienced professionals, enlivened the moribund Mariners into being considerably less worse in the second half.

This match would have been livened up by a hydrofoil chase through the Everglades. But then, what wouldn't?